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San Francisco Grapples With Drastic Drop in Police Recruits

SAN FRANCISCO (KPIX 5) -- As police departments across the country have had up to a third of its force quit or retire within the last year, the SFPD is facing a similar shortage.

Department officials say they are seeing fewer applicants this year.

Officers assaulted on streets, escalating violent situations, and non-stop calls to redirect funding away from police are part of why departments are having trouble getting more applicants these days.

ALSO READ: Oakland City Council Votes to Defund Police, Stripping More Than $17M from Department Budget

"With recruitment right now, we're getting less candidates, and less people applying. That impacts how many we can bring through the academy doors," said San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott.

SFPD needs about 400 more officers, and the shortage has gotten worse from 12% in 2020, to now 18% shy of where it should be according to the department and based on an independent study commissioned by the city and Board of Supervisors in 2020.

Store owners say they're thwarting thieves almost daily and need help.

"I don't believe in defunding police departments. Don't understand the logic. It's ridiculous," said shop owner Sammy Suleiman.

By a 3-to-1 margin, city residents want more cops and expanded community policing, according to a new Citybeat poll released Thursday by the SF Chamber of Commerce.

"We need more cops on the streets," said Chief Scott.

The poll also says 8 in 10 residents think crime has gotten worse over the years.

But advocates of alternative policing solutions, are demanding funds be directed away from police departments.

"We have been asking for a very long time for police reform. They have not complied with their own reform standards and still they ask for more in their budget," said Adriana Camarena of Compassionate Alternative Response Team.

"Police are an important part of public safety in this city so it is necessary to not always scapegoat our law enforcement agencies," said San Francisco Mayor London Breed.

But even the current climate isn't changing the latest class of San Francisco police recruits who want to wear blue.

"I had already decided this is the career I wanted to pursue. At no point did I ever decide to change my mind based on what I've seen," said SFPD recruit Clarence Caine.

The starting salary for an SFPD officer is just shy of $90,000.

This latest recruiting class will add to the department, but it is unclear how many officers will retire this year or leave force. Whatever the number, it won't come close to addressing the current shortage.

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