A San Francisco supervisor recently proposed increasing recruitment bonuses for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) to compete with other agencies and to avoid what he called a “catastrophic” staffing shortage.
Supervisor Matt Dorsey submitted a resolution on January 24 for the SFPD to automatically match recruiting bonuses offered by competing jurisdictions in Northern California that previously “outbid” San Francisco for new recruits.
“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’s resolution also urges the city police commission to take steps to reach the recommended staffing level of 2,182 officers within the next four years by offering financial benefits among other steps.
According to the data submitted in the resolution, the SFPD’s full-duty staffing level currently sits at 1,537 police officers — a significant low point in recent decades.
To compound the problem, around 500 of those officers are 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,” Dorsey said in a statement.
According to a report released by the SFPD, the department’s staffing levels have declined steadily beginning in January 2019 and continuing throughout February 2022.
Throughout this time period, sworn officers in the department dropped by 12% from 1,868 to 1,639.
Vaccine mandates have also taken a toll on staffing levels, with 25 officers leaving the department and 76 on leave or awaiting a resolution on their case last year.
Like many other agencies around the country, the department has complained of fewer applicants due to fewer academy classes and smaller class sizes.
According to Dorsey, a survey of police recruitment bonuses and starting salaries showed that nearly 24 law enforcement agencies across the state provided larger recruitment bonuses than San Francisco.
Among these included the four Bay Area cities of Alameda, Hayward, San Mateo and Daly City.