New blue lines touted to streamline force

San Francisco could put more police officers on the street by cutting the number of police stations in The City by half, according to a study released Tuesday.

There are 10 district stations in The City covering areas as small as the Tenderloin and as large as the 9-square-mile area of Bayview-Hunters Point, each with its own captain and reporting officers. Restructuring the districts into five larger areas would increase efficiency and be more “fiscally responsible” in the long run, according to the report.

“The community wants more police presence in the neighborhoods, more patrol, more people in cars and doing foot beats,” said City Services Auditor Peg Stevenson. “The way you get that is by having fewer stations rather than more stations, because with more stations you duplicate positions such as desk work and administrative positions.”

The Board of Supervisors commissioned this latest study, along with a recent report on foot patrols, through a contract with the Police Safety Strategy Group. Both studies cost The City about $332,000. The Police Commission and the Board of Supervisors Public Safety Committee will meet Monday to discuss the report.

“I don’t believe the current system is working well, and I think we’re poised for change,” said Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi, who chairs the board’s public safety committee. “When I first read the report, I thought, whoa, this goes in the opposite direction. Then I asked a lot of questions, and I think there are some thoughtful ideas here.”

Mayoral spokesman Nathan Ballard called the proposal an “intriguing idea,” with “some good thingsabout it,” but said it would require further study and public input before any changes would come about.

Many residents are happy to have a nearby police station, Police Union President Gary Delagnes said. The City could have significant trouble making the changes, he said.

“Whether or not there’s going to be a redistribution of manpower is up in the air,” Delagnes said. “The price tag would be incredible — a new station would cost at least $20 million. Then there’s the added issue of people losing their neighborhood stations. Nothing gets done in this town. It’s political gridlock.”

The study, conducted by a Massachusetts-based law enforcement consulting group, also found dire deficiencies in the structural integrity of stations and the ability of officers to do their jobs.

Officers rarely have a place to concentrate when writing reports and the department lacks a “modern Records Management System.” In addition, nine of the 10 district stations lack a private interview room. The report also found that e-mail and Internet access was practically nonexistent.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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