SF won’t require its next chief to have a BA

A decade of experience patrolling and investigating — and little more — is San Francisco’s bar for whoever becomes its next police chief.

That’s according to the search firm hired to find candidates to become San Francisco’s next chief of police — the highest paid chief in the U.S. — after the resignation of Greg Suhr in May following The City’s latest fatal police shooting.

Among the limited requirements, a bachelor’s degree and postgraduate studies are not required to become chief. They are, however, “highly desirable,” according to a brochure from Ralph Andersen and Associates.

The limited requirements, in contrast to smaller cities that require a bachelor’s degree, make it possible for Interim Chief Toney Chaplin — who did not reply for comment as to whether he had a BA or not — to put his hat in the ring along with others in the department’s upper echelons, who have years of experience but little-to-no higher education.

“It just sounds like it’s really, really minimal in a city that has been for years a challenging police executive job,” said David Couper, a former Madison, Wis., police chief and criminal justice pundit. “I would expect, for a city like San Francisco, the candidate should have an advanced academic degree.”

The next chief will have a lot on his or her plate, from implementing a series of policy reforms to rebuilding community trust to negotiating with a strong police union seen by some as obstructionist.

The Police Commission is heading the national search.


The job requirements make little mention of issues plaguing the department.

The job, which pays $316,732 with benefits, has no residency requirement for a chief leading a department of nearly 3,000 staff —including 2,346 sworn officers — with a proposed budget of $576 million.

Chaplin, who did not return a call for comment, does not live in The City.

The recruitment documents also hardly mention that a candidate should have a history of pushing through transformative reforms.

However, the documents note “this highly accomplished individual will also be strategic and well prepared to address an array of vital policy issues including police accountability, transparency, and discipline.”

Police Commission President Suzy Loftus said nothing should be read into the brochure’s lack of detail or low requirements.

“I didn’t ask them what other cities normally require [relating to] education,” Loftus said. “And any serious candidates considering applying to be San Francisco’s police chief will be well aware of the challenges facing him or her, so I don’t think they needed to be listed on the recruiting brochure.”

Commissioner Victor Hwang said the brochure was purposefully vague because it’s more of an enticement. As for the low educational bar, Hwang said he expected the firm to survey other similar cities to see what they require.

Other cities

The search firm, which did not return a call for comment on the matter, has done similar work for other cities — all smaller than San Francisco —and each city required a bachelor’s degree for its police chief.

For instance, 83,000-person Indio, Calif., gives a long list of challenges facing the department. Much was the same for the city of Shafter — the roughly 17,000-person city in Kern County. Both of those cities are seeking a new chief through this search firm.

What it means

“San Francisco is looking for someone who is going to implement the kind of use-of-force training that the department needs and someone who has respect internally and externally,” said Chuck Wexler, executive director of Police Executive Research Forum, a nonprofit think tank.

That means experience should trump education, Wexler said. What matters, he added, is they have at least a decade in leadership with a track record of implementing change.

“San Francisco really needs this person who can pick up where Greg Suhr left off,” said Wexler.

All applications are due Aug. 31.


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