San Francisco

Hearing Focuses on San Francisco Police Department Staffing Levels

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Members of the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Thursday heard from the city's police department regarding current staffing levels.

During the hours-long hearing at city hall, the San Francisco Police Department painted the grim picture of its biggest challenge these days, addressing its staffing shortage.

Currently, SFPD faces a deficit of almost 460 officers from the recommended number of over 2100.

But that’s not all, the numbers can grow and the consequences are even more felt as hundreds more move closer to retirement.

“We really want to have the time to be able to engage with the community. Be able to proactive. Be able to be visible. To make people feel safe and if we’re running from call to call to call, we can’t do that,” said San Francisco Police Commander Nicole Jones.

SFPD admitted that response times to "priority C" calls or non-emergency calls are long. At times, it’s over an hour. Sometimes, it's closer to an hour and a half.

“We really have to prioritize our number one mission, which is when calls for service come out from the public that we respond and everything else at this point is extra,” Jones said.

A recent confrontation between two men outside a donut shop happened Wednesday on Van Ness and Market streets.

The owner of the store told NBC Bay Area that a man came into the shop, harassed one of his Asian employees by using an anti-Asian slur.

The man then spit at the cashier and stole food.

One of the employees ran outside to fend the man off for what continued to be around 15 minutes. There was no police report filed.

“We definitely want people to continue to call in. What that means though is that it’s going to take us longer to get there,” Jones said.

But why such a drastic shortage of SFPD officers?

“This is due primarily to retirements as our workforce reaches retirement age and then, also due to separations that are due to members resigning from our department as well,” said SFPD Senior Analyst Celeste Berg.

But when officers resign, they don’t seem to go too far.

Some of the officers go to nearby cities and counties in the Bay Area that offer more competitive pay, better incentives and thousands of dollars in signing bonuses.

The meeting also comes as a local group petitions for crime alert app Citizen to report updates in Asian languages.

The group "They Can't Burn Us All" started a petition explaining how Asian elders would benefit from updates on the popular app.

The group said those who often don’t speak English and don’t want to get involved with law enforcement could benefit from understanding the notifications on the app.

“With this app, they won't really have to talk to anybody. All they have to do is just turn on the app and they can communicate, they can report things all without being uncomfortable,” rapper and activist China Mac said.

A Citizen spokesperson said the company welcomes the concept of multi-language crime alerts but understands the enormity of such a project.

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