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SFPD recruitment bonus proposed to avoid 'catastrophic' shortage of police officers

CEO robbed at gunpoint says crime is driving businesses away from San Francisco
CEO robbed at gunpoint says crime is driving businesses away from San Francisco 04:22

SAN FRANCISCO -- A San Francisco supervisor is proposing the city match police officer recruitment bonuses offered by other cities to help alleviate what he calls a "catastrophic" staffing shortage.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey said in a press statement he will introduce a resolution Tuesday urging the city to adopt a policy of automatically matching top police recruitment bonuses offered by competing jurisdictions in Northern California, which "significantly out-bid" San Francisco for police officer hires. 

The resolution would also urge the city's Police Commission to develop a plan for reaching the recommended SFPD staffing level of 2,182 police officers within four years.

Dorsey said data presented to police commissioners last week showed the SFPD's full-duty staffing numbers have dropped to 1,537 police officers -  an unprecedented low point in recent decades - with nearly 500 of them currently eligible for retirement.  

"San Francisco is on the precipice of a potentially catastrophic police staffing shortage, and there are too many public safety problems we'll be helpless to solve if we don't start solving SFPD's understaffing crisis first," said Dorsey in a prepared statement.

Last March, the police department released a report showing it has a significant staffing deficit across both sworn and professional staff. The analysis indicated SFPD staffing levels declined steadily from January 2019 to February 2022, with the number of full-duty sworn officers in San Francisco dropping 12%, from 1,868 to 1,639.

In addition, the report said resignations and terminations were on track to increase over prior years because of the COVID vaccine mandate. As of February 2022, 76 sworn members remained unvaccinated and were either awaiting vaccine case resolution or were on some type of leave. Twenty-five unvaccinated sworn officers have left the Department since the October 2021 mandate deadline.  

Also, the report said over the past five years there have been fewer recruits as a result of fewer academy classes and smaller class sizes.

"Although recruitment bonuses are only one factor that prospective police officers and their families may consider when deciding where to pursue their law enforcement careers, they are a factor San Francisco should never voluntarily yield to competing jurisdictions," Dorsey said. "San Francisco has the largest municipal budget of any city in Northern California, and I think we must leverage that when it comes to competing for the best, most dedicated and diverse police force we can attract to protect and serve our city."

Dorsey said a survey of police recruitment bonuses and starting salaries provided to the Board of Supervisors showed nearly two dozen law enforcement agencies across the state provide more generous recruitment bonuses than San Francisco, including at least four Bay Area cities - Alameda, Hayward, San Mateo and Daly City.

A San Francisco Chronicle survey last year found more than half of all San Francisco residents have been a victim of theft or larceny, including a staggering number of car break-ins.

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