An recent audit has exposed a serious decline in hiring standards at the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) after it revealed that the department hired unqualified and undocumented officers to address staffing shortages.
According to newly obtained state records, 45 Bay Area officers hired since 2016 did not meet basic hiring requirements, with some missing fingerprints, citizenship documentation, graduation records or failing to complete psychological exams and background checks.
Former San Francisco Police Officer Joel Aylworth expressed concern over the decline in vetting standards, stating that the SFPD training staff was consistently told to “lower the standards” for new recruits in recent years.
“I was never allowed these things. I mean, the background process is very intense. It’s about a six month to a year process. I mean, how does someone just [go], ‘Oh, I don’t know how the psych eval got lost.’ Like, that’s impossible because that person has to tell your background investigator before you can go on. So, how is any of this even possible? I have no idea,” Aylworth said in an interview with Fox and Friends.
Aylworth said there were many factors behind the drop in hiring standards, such as staffing shortages, difficulty recruiting new talent and a $120 million budget cut approved by the mayor in 2020.
“At the academy, when I first got hired in 2013, we were running academies, five academies a year with 50 plus applicants. Now they are lucky to run three a year, filling that academy with 20 applicants. And the applicants they’re getting are absolutely atrocious,” the former officer said.
Aylworth estimated that the SFPD has lost 40 to 80 officers with at least five years of experience due to the COVID vaccine mandate, which has left the vast majority of the department staffed by “junior” officers.
“When it comes to integrity, if you don’t catch this in the academy, guess what? You’re going to see that manifest on the street. Then you’re going to see some scandal on the news that this police officer didn’t do this,” Aylworth said. “The people who have higher standards and morals are not surprised. We’re shrugging our heads going, ‘We could have told you that.’”
Aylworth also provided examples of officers who made it into the academy when they should not have, including an individual who was wanted by the FBI. He highlighted the importance of integrity and catching issues during the academy, stating that a lack of vetting can lead to scandals and compromised police work.
San Francisco district supervisor is Hillary Ronen also called more policing in the city despite advocating to defund the police in 2020.
Ronen, a Democrat who represents District 9 on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, urged the department to add more officers to the Mission District.
“I’ve been begging this department to give the Mission what it deserves in terms of police presence all year long,” Ronen said. “And I have been told time and time and time and time again there are no officers that we can send to Mission.”