Mayor London Breed Proposes Funding to Address Public Safety Staffing Shortages
$22.5 million funding to Fire and Police departments must be approved to continue to provide essential public safety services amid significant staffing shortages
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today introduced a Public Safety Funding measure for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) and San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) to ensure critical services continue through the end of the fiscal year. The proposal, which calls for an allocation of $22.5 million, would provide an additional $7.9 million to SFPD and $14.6 million for SFFD so that the Departments can continue to provide essential city services and avoid cuts that would reduce the ability to address serious crime, maintain emergency response times, and meet other basic safety needs. This legislation is co-sponsored by Supervisor Catherine Stefani.
Today’s proposal comes as both SFPD and SFFD have experienced an increase in the use of overtime pay due to significant staffing shortages. The cost of overtime is greater than any salary savings from unfilled positions, causing the projected budget shortfalls. Staffing shortages are the result of high levels of attrition and retirements, limited hiring over the last few years, and high uses of sick and administrative leave due to COVID-19 exposure, illness, and quarantines. Both SFPD and SFFD have seen the departure of approximately 10% of total staff over the past two years in addition to employees out on sick or other types of short-term leave. The supplemental is strictly to fill current shortages and does not allocate funding to either department to hire additional staff beyond what has already been approved in the budget.
Recent discussion of SFPD overtime has focused on operations within the Tenderloin and the Tenderloin Emergency, but overtime deployments in the Tenderloin make up only a portion of the overall overtime usage in the department. The greatest use of overtime has been to fill basic station operations and patrols due to the lack of available staff.
“We have a responsibility to make sure everyone in this City feels safe and that we can deliver the essential emergency services our residents deserve,” said Mayor Breed. “Right now, our public safety departments are in a staffing crisis, which requires both immediate solutions like this Public Safety Funding, and a long-term commitment to funding and filling Academy Classes. We need police officers out on the street engaging in community policing and addressing crime, and we need our firefighters and paramedics responding to emergency calls when people are at their most vulnerable. That funding must be approved quickly so we can continue to meet our basic responsibilities.”
As of January 2022, uniformed staffing levels are down 20% across SFPD and 16% across SFFD, compared to pre-pandemic levels, due to both permanent departures and current personnel out on leave. To meet the growing public safety demands of the City, remaining department staff are working extremely high levels of overtime to backfill vacancies and those on leave, further straining employees and department budgets. Currently in the SFFD, the majority of overtime shifts are considered ‘mandatory OT,’ resulting in higher costs as all hours are paid at time and a half compared to ‘voluntary OT,’ where the first half of an individual’s shift is paid at their normal rate.
“I believe our highest priority as a city should be to keep San Franciscans safe, and we cannot meet that responsibility without this supplemental appropriation,” said Supervisor Catherine Stefani. “For more than two years, we’ve known that our patrol staffing levels were severely inadequate, and the situation is only getting worse. We cannot continue to turn a blind eye to the conditions in our city or ignore the thousands of San Franciscans who call 911 in crisis every single day. This supplemental is absolutely necessary to ensure we meet our public safety obligations.”
“Like other public agencies across the State, the San Francisco Fire Department has been impacted by COVID-19 in many ways,” said Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson. “The Department has been utilizing contingency plans to sustain operations, however, this has tasked our members with working an unprecedented amount of overtime. This public safety measure will shore up our base operations so the Department can continue to safeguard the City and people in it.”
“Most major city law enforcement agencies today are grappling with a police staffing crisis that’s a nationwide phenomenon, and the San Francisco Police Department is no exception,” said Chief of Police Bill Scott. “At a time where many police officers hired across our country in the early 1990s are approaching retirement, we’re sadly seeing fewer and fewer people choose a career in the policing profession. It’s a long-term challenge we must all work together to solve, but it starts by meeting our short-term needs. This proposed funding package will address our current staffing shortage and enable us to avoid problematic cuts.”
If the funding is not approved, the Departments will have to find ways to address the shortfall within their existing budget. On Monday, the City Controller sent a letter to the Chiefs of both SFPD and SFFD informing them that the City Controller will work with the Departments to place fiscal controls on the Departments to ensure each remain within budget. These controls could result in significant operational challenges, with possible options including reducing deployments of officers throughout the City, the suspension of planned training academies for both Departments, which are intended to add new permanent staff that will help alleviate current staffing shortages, and an inability to move forward with critical equipment purchases or contracts. The City Controller will be working with SFPD and SFFD on these contingency plans in the coming weeks.
The supplemental will need to be heard and approved by the Board’s Budget and Finance committee before going to the Board of Supervisors for a final vote. The Mayor has requested the supplemental be heard as soon as possible to ensure that SFPD and SFFD can continue to meet public safety demands, and not need to implement the fiscal controls described above. This includes requesting that the Board of Supervisors waives the traditional 30 day hold that all legislation goes through, which is a common request for legislation that must be addressed urgently.