San Francisco police chief cracks down on overtime

The Police Department is slashing overtime costs for police officers patrolling special events and neighborhood hot spots such as North Beach as San Francisco works to close its current budget shortfall.

The Police Department must close a $6 million deficit before the end of the fiscal year in June. It also has as much as $47 million in cuts to deal with next fiscal year, when The City faces a $522.2 million deficit. To do so, police Chief George Gascón is axing the overtime. He says he can cut half of that mid-year budget deficit through reducing overtime.

“We’re having to look at places where we can cut and overtime is one of the areas where we’ve been aggressively concentrating our efforts,” Gascón said. “We certainly do not have the money to put people on overtime to patrol.”

Police have consistently been second only to the Municipal Transportation Agency in overtime spending. In fiscal year 2007-2008, police overtime cost $41.7 million, and last fiscal year it was about $34 million.

One challenge that the police will be facing is patrolling special events and rallies without using overtime hours, Assistant Chief Kevin Cashman said. It’s very possible that enforcement will be “creative” in the future, he said.

Officers and detectives have been transferred from the Hall of Justice to neighborhood stations already as a way to put officers on the streets without using overtime, according to Cashman.

One neighborhood that has already been affected by the overtime crackdown is North Beach.

After three years of increased police presence along Broadway, Gascón has pulled the plug on overtime to patrol weekends on one of San Francisco’s rowdiest strips.

In 2006, Mayor Gavin Newsom and then-police Chief Heather Fong announced a crackdown on the corridor. Dozens of police officers were called in to work mandatory overtime. The Sheriff’s Department brought out mobile jails. Tow trucks waited for nightfall before clearing the street of cars.

But now police will have to leverage officers at Central Station to cool the violence, causing some in the neighborhood to worry crime will seep back into the area. Rico Reyes has worked in North Beach as a bartender and as security for strip clubs.

“When you see cops standing everywhere on Broadway, it can be a little intimidating,” Reyes said. “But I think people like it. It makes them feel safer.”

In 2006, police foot patrols became a heated issue at City Hall as the Board of Supervisors mandated officers at several stations to walk a beat during most of the day. Mayor Gavin Newsom opposed the legislation, saying law enforcement officials should determine police staffing issues, not lawmakers.

Though people may see fewer officers along Broadway, Central Station still plans to staff foot beats. How the overtime crackdown affects patrol in the rest of The City may become clearer in the coming months.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

Overtime costs

Police Chief George Gascón is looking to cut back on the spending for extra hours.

$442 million Total Police Department budget for 2009-10

$396 million Portion of the budget that comes from general fund

$6 million Department budget shortfall for 2009-10

$42 million Department overtime in 2007-08

$34 million Department overtime in 2008-09

Source: Controller’s Office

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