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San Francisco Police Department’s headcount is SHRINKING despite increases in starting pay for rookies
By Ava Grace // Jan 18, 2024

A sufficient number of law enforcement officers seems to be an impossible goal for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD), as fewer young people want to be cops despite the $112,000 starting pay.

According to Bloomberg, the SFPD's police academy only graduated 26 officers in 2023 – the lowest in at least 10 years and less than a third of the total number from 2019. To boost numbers, the City by the Bay increased the starting salary for neophyte officers to $112,398. This amount is the highest for rookie cops in major U.S. cities, nearly double the starting pay for New York City police officers and more than what many Secret Service agents earn.

Police in the progressive city have had a hard time attracting would-be cops due to the negative views of law enforcement there, most especially during the George Floyd riots of 2020. "We are bending over backwards," said SFPD head of hiring Patrick McCormick. But the tide seems to be on the side of police, as the city recalled liberal District Attorney Chesa Boudin in 2022 and local leaders are increasingly backing the blue.

San Francisco is not the only city facing problems with police recruitment.

The Dallas Police Department set up recruitment billboards in Chicago. Florida Gov. Ron DeSantis approved bonuses of $5,000 for police officers willing to relocate from other states. The city of Ithaca in New York state has offered a $20,000 signing bonus for lateral hires.

"Twenty years ago, we would have hundreds of people knocking down our door to be police officers. That's not true in our society anymore," said Ted Schwartz, acting chief of the Ithaca Police Department.

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According to the Washington, D.C.-based Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), staffing at U.S. police departments fell almost five percent during the three years ending in January 2023. Much of the decline has been driven by officers quitting or aging out of the workforce. Resignations in 2022 were 47 percent higher than their 2019 level while retirements for that year rose by 19 percent, PERF noted.

Problems on the beat

The 2020 death of Floyd spotlighted police brutality and damaged trust in cops. Public scrutiny of law enforcement increased, complicating police forces' efforts to recruit candidates. This added to the difficulties of attracting potential applicants to a job already known for long hours and the ever-present threat of grave physical danger. (Related: San Francisco Police Department now has access to private security cameras across the city).

Starting pay is not the only issue, however, as additional personnel doesn't always translate to better policing. The effectiveness of police officers depends on how they are trained, as well as what police leaders decide to prioritize and allocate resources to. More staffing in lousy police departments won't necessarily help the public – and it might hurt.

Ben Struhl, executive director of the University of Pennsylvania's Crime and Justice Policy Lab, said shrinking police forces can exact costs on communities. "Without police in the first place, it's really hard for police to be strategic," he said.

To overcome this hurdle, the SFPD has launched a new campaign to attract potential officers. It launched a splashy recruitment website and video, and initiated outreach efforts stretching into Texas and New York. The campaign has shown results, with applications rising in 2023 and recruits coming in from Nevada and Alabama.

"You have to be able to talk to everybody – from the billionaire who calls you because somebody broke into their house, to the drug addicts who just overdosed on fentanyl [that] we brought … back from almost dying," said McCormick. "[In] some districts, you're talking to both of those people in a single shift."

The SFPD police academy's current class has 23 trainees, although there's no guarantee they'll all graduate. But after losing hundreds of officers in recent years, police staffing is still down 13 percent compared with 2020.

Visit Collapse.news for more stories about the effects of understaffed law enforcement in various cities.

Watch this video about the SFPD asking permission to activate killer robots.

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More related stories:

San Francisco police told to display Black Lives Matter banners in support of terrorists who want to eliminate cops.

DISMANTLING A CITY: San Francisco to suspend all cops, firefighters who refuse covid vaccines.

San Francisco bakery refuses to serve cops due to store’s gun ban.

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