My fellow San Franciscans,
In San Francisco, we have been working to get as many police officers on our streets to address the public safety needs facing our City. Right now, we have a significant staffing shortage, just like jurisdictions across the country. While we do the long-term work on improving strategies to recruit new officers to fill our Academy classes and retain the officers we do have, we need to use overtime funding to ensure we can cover our city with the officers we do have on staff.
If we want to continue to see officers on our streets, investigating crimes, and responding to calls for service, we have to fund more overtime. This is about the safety of our neighborhoods and it\u30fbs about our economy.
To get us through the rest of the fiscal year (through June 30), we need to appropriate $27 million more to continue to fund overtime. I\u30fbve introduced that budget supplemental at the Board of Supervisors, with the support of co-sponsors Supervisors Catherine Stefani, Rafael Mandelman, Matt Dorsey, and Joel Engardio. We need eight votes from the Board of Supervisors to pass this.
This vote will be coming up in a few weeks at the Board, and it\u30fbs important to explain what it does and why it\u30fbs necessary.
Our residents are asking. Our small businesses are asking. Our large employers and workers are asking. And we have to listen and act. Listening also means continuing to expand our alternatives to policing, like our Street Crisis Response Teams, which are out on our streets 24/7 responding to people struggling with mental illness and addiction. It also means building our multi-department, coordinated approaches to those who are hardest to reach struggling with mental illness in our City, and continuing our work to reform our mental health laws at the state level. Because our police officers need to focus on crime and public safety, not issues around mental health and homelessness.
As I said, like police departments across this country, San Francisco has a severe staffing shortage. San Francisco is now 331 officers lower than in 2019 and 541 officers below the staffing analysis recommended level and many are eligible for retirement. This impacts our City\u30fbs response times and our ability to deploy officers across the city.
That is going to take years to fix, and we are working on it. In our last budget, we increased recruitment and retention bonuses to make San Francisco more competitive with surrounding jurisdictions. But while we do that work, we still need to provide the level of service to address the issues our residents, workers, and visitors deserve.
As the number of officers decline, the need for overtime increases in order to provide the same level of service. Between 2021 and 2022, SFPD saw a 121% increase in total overtime. And this year, we are using even more. To get us through the rest of the fiscal year (through June 30), we need to appropriate $27 million more to continue to fund overtime. The supplemental will ensure the police have the funding necessary to continue to meet current levels of service. This includes the work we are doing in the Tenderloin and addressing organized retail crime and fencing operations. It will help us from seeing response times further decline.
Importantly, this supplemental prevents mandated service cuts and a hiring freeze. If this supplemental does not pass, the Controller will be required to freeze hiring and overtime spending through the end of the fiscal year in June, which will significantly reduce policing levels across the city. That means fewer officers addressing drug markets and retail theft, reduced community foot patrols, and slower response times for calls for service.
This funding will also help continue to support SFPD Community Ambassadors. These are civilian retired sworn members who serve to supplement foot beat patrol presence in merchant corridors. These retired officers are essential to continuing to provide coverage in areas across the City like Chinatown, Union Square, and Fisherman\u30fbs Wharf.
These budget supplementals are part of our overall strategy. Around public safety, adding ambassadors, using alternatives to police to deal with behavioral health challenges and other issues. Around implementing police reforms so our police officers are doing their jobs the right way, with the proper training, and so they can continue to build trust with our communities they serve.
The Supplementals must be heard at Budget Committee starting in March. And the plans for how we tackle our long-term staffing issues will continue on into our budget conversations, which begin in May.
You can help by emailing members of the Board of Supervisor to express your support: [email protected]
We are making progress around public safety in San Francisco. There are significant long-term challenges around staffing that we will continue to address, but in the near-term we will continue to work with the community to meet their needs and make San Francisco safer for all.
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London N. Breed