Police Department wants more money as city faces budget deficit

Although The City faces a projected $233 million budget deficit for next fiscal year, the San Francisco Police Department has drafted a budget proposal that asks for a 15 percent increase in funding over last year’s budget to address The City’s growing demand to fight crime.

Despite recent police data that shows that violent crime has decreased over 2007 levels, the homicide rate was its highest in more than a decade.

“Much of the proposed budget seeks to reduce violent crime by putting more officers on the streets,” police Chief Heather Fong told The Examiner on Wednesday. “This is a budget that’s reflective of the need to rebuild the department in regards to what the community has asked for.”

The Police Department’s base spending has an increase of more than $24 million over last year’s budget of approximately $407 million.

Fong said $15 million of that amount is largely due to a recently approved 25 percent salary increase for officers over the next four years. Premium pay rates, including court pay and night work, have also gone up, Fong said.

The department also plans to train 250 new officers, prompting a request for $8.6 million for next fiscal year, which starts July 1, and almost $22 million for fiscal year 2009-10.

The police budget also requests another $6 million for one-time expenditures to update the aging patrol car fleet.

Additionally, the current draft of the budget calls for almost $39 million in additional funding for new positions including a director, clerical support and a hearing judge for the Police Commission; three new employees for the crime analysis unit, gang task force and homicide unit; and 20 new civilian positions, which will allow officers filling those jobs to move out onto the street.

While The City has designated more than 100 positions for civilianization, meaning applicants who don’t have to be sworn officers to take over the jobs, only about 22 have been filled.

“Civilian staffing has been woefully inadequate,” Fong said.

Next year’s budget calls for the department to hire about 20 civilians, including positions for a horse stable attendant, a records room supervisor and a court liaison.

Mayor Gavin Newsom’s spokesman Nathan Ballardsaid the mayor hasn’t seen the Police Department’s budget yet, but he was prepared to make the necessary cuts to balance The City’s overall budget.

“You can be sure that it will be a balanced budget that reflects the shared priorities of the mayor and his constituents — and public safety is at the very top of that list of priorities,” Ballard said.

bbegin@examiner.com

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