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Mirkarimi foot patrol legislation approved

Chief wants beat assignment flexibility

District 5 Supervisor Ross Mirkarimi moments after San Francisco Board of Supervisors passed pilot program legislation he sponsored requiring mandatory assignment of walking police foot patrols in neighbourhoods most impacted by violent crime.
The program begins January 1, 2007.
Photo(s) by Luke Thomas

By Emmet Berg, Bay City News Service

October 17, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN) - Mapping out San Francisco neighborhoods where daily foot patrols will become mandatory on Jan. 1 may handcuff the police department's ability to respond to crime outside those zones, Chief Heather Fong said today.

"It comes down to bodies," said Fong at City Hall. "I support the legislation, but I am still concerned about a lack of flexibility in the prospective beats."

Chief Heather Fong

Fong asked, "What if an officer is on foot patrol and there's an incident in an area outside the bounds of the prospective beats? This is something we should let captains and watch commanders decide at each precinct."

After months of discussion, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 8-3 today to push ahead with the new policy. It requires at least one officer, on at least two different times in the day, to conduct patrols on foot at neighborhoods located within eight police precincts. Many of those areas have seen a spike in violent crime.

Supervisors Michaela Alioto-Pier, Sean Elsbernd and Aaron Peskin were opposed.

District 2 Supervisor Michela Alioto-Pier

District 7 Supervisor Sean Elsbernd

District 3 Supervisor and Board President Aaron Peskin

Elsbernd told board members he was fundamentally against "the Board of Supervisors dictating to a paramilitary organization how it should deploy its troops."

But a majority of supervisors voted yes, exemplified by Supervisor Chris Daly, who said mandating foot patrols would be a "wildly popular program with very little downside."

District 6 Supervisor Chris Daly

Supervisors separately voted 6-5 to consider expanding the program to all 10 police precincts before its rollout on Jan. 1.

Originally the foot patrol plan was intended to take effect within 30 days of enactment, but the delay was written in to give police time to make new hires.

In comments before the board, Fong said it was "new bodies that ultimately will be able to advance the goals of the legislation."

Fong said the department budget this year allowed for hiring of 18 police service aides to perform functions at police stations that are now done by uniformed officers. The civilian aides don't need to attend police academies and their hiring will free up more patrol officers, she said.

The department also expects to hire dozens of new recruits from police academy classes graduating in November and January. The academy recruits won't be thrown into solo foot patrols, Fong said. After graduating from the academy, recruits undergo field training and a year's probation before they can patrol on their own.

Copyright © 2006 by Bay City News, Inc. -- Republication, Rebroadcast or any other Reuse without the express written consent of Bay City News, Inc. is prohibited.




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