A consultant has recommended increasing patrol officers at stations with heavy workloads, like Bayview, Mission and Tenderloin, while reducing them at quieter stations like Park and Richmond. (Amanda Peterson/Special to S.F. Examiner)

Study finds SFPD patrol staffing ‘severely inadequate’

Consultant recommends redistributing officers to improve response times

A newly released study has found that San Francisco police need to hire more than 100 additional patrol officers to speed up lagging response times.

The study, from an outside consultant hired by The City at the request of Board of Supervisors President Norman Yee, concluded that San Francisco Police Department staffing is “severely inadequate.”

The researchers found that response times for non-urgent calls for service in San Francisco are “extraordinarily high” as a result of the need for more officers and show large disparities from one district to another due to uneven staffing.

A review of the more than 300,000 calls for service in 2018 showed that while police responded to emergency calls on time, officers took more than three hours to respond to about a third of Priority C calls.

And while stations on the suburban west side of The City adequately responded to low-priority calls within 45 minutes, the median response time for those calls at Mission and Southern exceeded two hours.

For example, a caller reporting a suspicious person in a vehicle in the Mission might wait 179 minutes, or more than five times as long as a caller in the Richmond, according to the study.

“While emergency calls for service are responded to quickly and effectively, there is often a significant wait before responses are made to lower-priority calls,” Matrix Consulting Group wrote. “These results are highly abnormal.”

To address the “severe disparities” in response times, the consultant recommended that police redistribute patrol staffing at the 10 district stations using a data-driven approach based on calls for service.

That would lead to stations with heavy workloads like Bayview, Mission and Tenderloin gaining between 10 and 50 patrol officers, while the quieter Park and Richmond stations could lose between five and 10.

Overall, the study recommended that the department should have 2,176 officers compared to its current 1,911 sworn positions.

That includes an increase of 134 patrol officers as well 65 “station keeper” positions that are currently staffed by officers who would otherwise be on patrol.

The study did not include numbers from the Airport Bureau.

David Stevenson, a police spokesperson, said the department is “absorbing” the recommendations and working on a proposed budget request for the coming fiscal year.

“The Matrix report establishes a framework for an analytical approach to SFPD staffing and deployment,” Stevenson said. “It helps us begin a conversation as to how we will address staffing challenges across the department and across city districts to meet San Francisco’s expanding and evolving policing needs.”

Stevenson said, “The report also highlights the department’s effective responses to the A priority calls, which include in-progress crimes, violent crimes and threats to life.”

Supervisor Shamann Walton speaks alongside Supervisor Matt Haney and police commissioners Cindy Elias and Dion-Jay Brookter as they announce legislation requiring citywide police foot patrols and the creation of a new neighborhood safety police unit at a news conference on Tuesday, March 10, 2020. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

The study also examined the department’s use of widely popular foot beats and offered a data-driven approach for identifying locations to have officers walk the beat and interact with the community.

Based on pedestrian traffic data from transit officials, the study recommended that police assign 94 officers to 23 foot beat areas including on Third Street in Dogpatch and Irving Street in the Inner Sunset.

But the consultant noted that the areas are simply recommendations for police and city leaders to consider.

“Foot beats are inherently discretionary in nature, and intersect with politics to a degree,” the study reads. “As a result, it is important to weigh the recommended foot beat zones and the number of staff allocated to them should be within the context of commander discretion.”

On Tuesday, supervisors Matt Haney and Shamann Walton introduced legislation that would require the Police Commission to create a strategy and formula for designating foot patrol locations.

The legislation would also create a “Neighborhood Safety Unit” focused on foot patrols at each station.

Haney and Walton held a press conference announcing the legislation alongside Police Commission members Cindy Elias and Dion-Jay Brookter.

“When we have police officers who understand the neighborhood,” Haney said, “that’s the partnership that will keep our communities safe.”

Commissioners Petra DeJesus and John Hamasaki are also supporters.

Elias said at the press conference that the legislation would create a “mechanism” for tracking data on whether a foot patrol is working or not.

“We know that the police department is understaffed, and we know that often times foot patrol is not prioritized,” Elias said. “This legislation is… going to allow us to better police areas where the community needs it.”


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