Vulnerable agencies lose sworn officers due to city’s deficit

Two deputy police chief positions overseeing security at agencies vulnerable to terrorism will be cut due to San Francisco’s budget deficit.

The City no longer will have sworn police officers overseeing the Municipal Transportation Agency and the Public Utilities Commission.

The cuts were in response to legislation by Board of Supervisors President Aaron Peskin that would have forced police Chief Heather Fong to shrink the Police Department’s 13-member command staff.

But the changes will not affect police or city budgets as both positions were financed out of the budgets for the PUC and Muni at a cost of more than $206,000 each per year. The MTA and PUC are lobbying to keep the sworn officers and plan to civilianize the posts.

Deputy police chief Greg Suhr was appointed to oversee the PUC, which operates the 200-mile system delivering water to San Francisco from the Hetch Hetchy Reservoir, in 2005. PUC officials hope to retain him in a different capacity.

“The security director in that position was responsible for not only working with the city agencies here, but for working with all the law enforcement agencies between here and Hetch Hetchy,” Fong said.

Deputy police Chief Antonio Parra oversaw parking-control officers, Muni’s contracted security force, the safety of The City’s public transportation system and, starting later this year, taxi issues. In an e-mail to the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee, Muni head Nathaniel Ford said the cut will cause “significant upheaval to the agency.”

Nathan Ballard, a spokesman for Mayor Gavin Newsom, said the latest changes are part of a “new, more efficient command structure.”

“The mayor has directed the chief to deploy terrorist-trained homeland security specialists throughout city government, concentrating on our most vulnerable areas,” Ballard said. “The reassignment of the deputy chiefs will have no negative effects.”

A commander position in the Police Department’s administrative bureau also was cut, saving more than $167,000 per year, Fong said.

bbegin@sfexaminer.com

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