Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, up for reelection in November without the support of the deputies union, cannot understand why the San Francisco Police Department won’t back his plan to expand the patrol duties of his deputies.
Rather than continue to serve in a limited capacity as the denizens of the courts, jails and San Francisco General Hospital, Mirkarimi sees a future in which deputies are on patrol duties, including street events, parks and Muni buses.
But his critics won’t have it.
In this month’s San Francisco Police Officers Association newsletter, the union head called out the potential illegality of deputies on street beats, based on the City Charter.
Chief Greg Suhr has said “patrol, by charter, is the duty of the SFPD.”
Flanked by Undersheriff Frederico Rocha and assistant legal counsel Mark Nicco in his fourth-floor office at City Hall, Mirkarimi on Wednesday fired back at critics of his plan.
Mirkarimi and Nicco believe the police department’s reasoning on the issue is out of “self-preservation.”
“There’s nothing that prohibits us from complementing the San Francisco Police Department,” Mirkarimi said. “The Sheriff’s Department is in a position to help.”
The City Charter, claimed by the heads of the police union and department to designate the responsibilities of patrol duty to San Francisco police, does not disallow deputies from patrol, Mirkarimi argues.
Last month, the Sheriff’s Department became Peace Officer Standards and Training certified to train deputies to take on regular patrol duties like San Francisco police officers.
Patrol duties can include interviewing witnesses and victims for crime reports, knowing proper radio procedures and securing crime scenes, Rocha said.
The Sheriff’s Department already has its own investigative unit, created about a year-and-a-half ago. The unit has an assistant district attorney assigned to it for filing criminal charges, meaning the department can follow cases from beginning to end, Rocha said.
The Sheriff’s Department has already used SFGH as a practice ground for patrol, Mirkarimi said. “We baked the cake,” Mirkarimi said. “Whether the Police Department wants to eat it, and City Hall … that’s up to them.”
Although the POST certification has been achieved, and sheriff’s deputies can soon be patrol ready, the Police Department has declined Mirkarimi’s advances to place deputies side-by-side with officers.
Suhr said he’s asked the sheriff to have his deputies take on greater duties at SFGH that currently occupy officers who could otherwise be on patrol. “If the sheriff has found additional resources and personnel, we would love for him to have SFSD take over hospital watches,” Suhr said in an email. “Which would free up police officers back to patrol.”
But Mirkarimi has declined to have his deputies watch patients who are in custody during treatment, citing a lack of resources, Suhr said. Mirkarimi did acknowledge his department is short-staffed.
There are roughly 1,800 police officers on patrol, and about 800 sheriff’s deputies in total, SFPD spokesman Albie Esparza said.
Still, Mirkarimi said there’s potential for greater public safety by having deputies on patrol, saying it would be a more affordable option for street events where “mom-and-pop” businesses fork over overtime fees for officers on security. Deputies are paid less than officers.
Mirkirimi said he’d need the cooperation of the police — and City Hall — before moving forward with his plans. The Mayor’s Office declined to comment before press time.