Police Commission debates policy on foot patrols

Department’s orders for walking beats may end up mirroring pending legislation

As political and community pressure continues for the placement of more police officers on foot patrols in high-crime areas, the civilian body that oversees the San Francisco Police Department began working on establishing a new policy to address the issue.

Almost three years into continuous record-breaking homicide rates, to which community policing was identified as a possible solution, the San Francisco Police Commission discussed Wednesday a first draft of a general order outlining a new department policy specifically emphasizing foot beat patrols.

The draft of the order calls for the increased use of foot patrols, and defines the duties of officers and supervisors involved in those patrols.

The draft identifies foot beats as “the heart of community policing,” commission secretary Louise Renne said during the commission’s meeting. It identifies 18 officers who will become available between October and December to take on extra foot patrols, and calls for increased use of foot patrols in high-crime areas.

The City’s homicide rate has risen dramatically in recent years, with 88 homicides recorded in 2004 and 96 in 2005 — a 10-year high. This year, 70 homicides have taken place. At this time last year, 60 had been recorded.

The issue of mandated foot beats has been making waves in City Hall since Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi introduced legislation last spring that would mandate staffing of foot patrols in his district. District Five, which Mirkarimi represents, has seen an increase in gun violence and homicides over two years.

Since introduction of that bill, six police stations have been added to the original two.

The latest inception of Mirkarimi’s legislation calls for at least one officer staffing two of three foot beats per day at Park, Northern, Tenderloin, Mission, Ingleside, Taraval, Southern and Bayview stations. Since safety concerns prohibit officers patrolling alone on foot, that means the ordinance would require staffing 32 shifts per day.

According to the drafted police department order, the department has identified 40 foot beats currently in existence in police districts citywide, but there is no mandate for how often they are staffed.

Chief Heather Fong has said that while she supports foot patrols, the mandated staffing in the proposed legislation would hinder response times to emergency calls because officers would have to be pulled from patrol cars to staff foot beats.

At the meeting, Deputy Chief David Shinn re-iterated those concerns to the commission, but faced opposition. “We are in favor of foot patrols, but not at the expense of response time,” Shinn said.

But Commissioner David Campos pointed out that, if the foot patrols are as effective as lawmakers hope, there may be fewer calls for service in the first place.

“It seems to me that this is going to happen one way or another,” Commissioner Teresa Sparks said. “We need to be talking about how we’re going to do this.”

Bay Area NewsLocal

Just Posted

A felled tree in Sydney G. Walton Square blocks part of a lane on Front Street following Sunday’s storm on Monday, Oct. 25, 2021. (Kevin N. Hume/The Examiner)
After the rain: What San Francisco learned from a monster storm

Widespread damage underscored The City’s susceptibility to heavy wind and rain

Plan Bay Area 2050 is an expansive plan guiding the region’s growth and development over the next three decades. The regional plan addresses progressive policy priorities like a universal basic income and a region-wide rent cap, alongside massive new spending on affordable housing and transportation infrastructure. (Shutterstock)
$1.4 trillion ‘blueprint’ would address Bay Area’s housing, transit woes

Analyzing the big ticket proposals in ‘Plan Bay Area 2050’

A felled tree in San Francisco is pictured on Fillmore Street following a major storm that produced high winds and heavy rains on Oct. 24, 2021. (Photo courtesy of Philip Ford)
Storm updates: Rainiest October day in San Francisco history

Rainfall exceeded 10 inches in parts of the Bay Area

On Sunday, California bore the brunt of what meteorologists referred to as a bomb cyclone and an atmospheric river, a convergence of storms that brought more than half a foot of rain to parts of the Bay Area, along with high winds, concerns about flash floods and the potential for heavy snow in the Sierra Nevada. Much of the Bay Area was under a flash flood watch on Sunday, with the National Weather Service warning of the potential for mudslides across the region. (NOAA via The New York Times)
Bomb cyclone, atmospheric river combine to pummel California with rain and wind

What you need to know about this historic weather event

The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
The Department of Building Inspection, at 49 South Van Ness Ave., has been mired in scandal since its creation by voter referendum under Proposition G in 1994. (Courtesy SF.gov)
Whistleblowing hasn’t worked at the SF Dept. of Building Inspection

DBI inspectors say their boss kept them off connected builders’ projects

Most Read