San Francisco police are preparing for budget cuts afterMayor London Breed ordered all city departments to plan to lose 7.5 percent in general fund support. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)

San Francisco police are preparing for budget cuts afterMayor London Breed ordered all city departments to plan to lose 7.5 percent in general fund support. (Mike Koozmin/2015 S.F. Examiner)

SF police consider laying off 11 percent of officers

San Francisco police are facing possible budget cuts that could result in 167 officers — or 11 percent of the force — and 43 civilians being laid off as the pandemic prompts city departments to tighten their belts.

The San Francisco Police Department is anticipating a nearly $37 million reduction in support from The City’s general fund under its two-year budget proposal being presented Wednesday to the Police Commission.

The possible reduction could mean layoffs for a department that already experienced cuts to its overtime spending, academy classes and vacant positions amid calls to defund the police during the last budget cycle.

“It’s going to greatly impact personnel,” SFPD Chief Financial Officer Patrick Leung said at a previous Police Commission meeting.

The police budget dropped by $24 million to $667.9 million between last fiscal year and the current one, and is projected to dip to $603 million in the coming year depending on if the reductions are implemented.

The latest potential cuts are being considered after Mayor London Breed directed all city departments to plan to lose 7.5 percent in general fund support and an additional 2.5 percent reduction should economic conditions get worse.

Another 2.5 percent cut could mean layoffs for an additional 56 officers and 14 civilians, police said.

The possible staffing cuts come amid fears of rising crime in San Francisco after a weekend of shootings and a series of high-profile killings since New Year’s Eve.

While overall crime is down in San Francisco, certain types of crime including burglaries have surged, according to police. Thirty three people have also been shot in The City so far this year compared to nine at this point in 2020.

Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said “cutting 160 police officers will only make the streets of San Francisco more dangerous.”

“We need a plan that results in fewer victims of crime, not more,” Montoya said.

But others have called for fewer police and an investment in civilian professionals who can respond to homeless and mental health calls instead of officers through programs like the Compassionate Alternative Response Team proposed last month.

San Francisco currently has 1,829 officers but is expected to lose officers in the coming years through attrition, with members retiring or leaving for other departments and not being replaced through academy classes.

A staffing study released last March recommended, based on the number of calls for service, that the department have 2,176 officers, compared to the 1,911 officers it retained at the time.

The SFPD projected as part of its proposed budget that it could have as few as 1,502 officers by 2023 if no academy classes are funded and sworn staffers are laid off.

The Police Department is expected to argue its case for keeping officers at the Police Commission meeting Wednesday. It’s unclear if the commission will take a vote on the budget.

The department has said layoffs would negatively impact diversity among the rank-and-file since civil service rules require the newest hires be let go first.

Of the 167 officers who would be laid off, 30 percent would be Latino, 28 percent would be Asian and 9 percent would be Black. The department is currently 18 percent Latino, 17 percent Asian and 10 percent Black.

Police Commission President Malia Cohen said she is undecided about whether she supports layoffs.

“I’m going to allow myself not to rush any decisions,” Cohen said. “We are going to have a robust decision about [reducing] the police budget. If that means delaying one week then that’s what it means.”

A Police Commission vote would be largely symbolic but could set the stage for future discussions at the Board of Supervisors.

The SFPD budget proposal is due to the mayor Feb. 22. Breed is expected to submit her budget proposal to the Board of Supervisors for review and adoption by June.

mbarba@sfexaminer.com

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