S.F. rookie officers need training

February 8, 2008 7:06:05 PM PST
The latest police cadets are fresh from the academy and eager to fill an urgent need on the streets of San Francisco.

Here's the problem: Rookie cops need veteran officers to train them when they first hit the streets.

So finally, San Francisco has some new, desperately needed officers, but they are stuck on desk duties instead of on patrol.

Here you have 43 rookie cops who just graduated from the academy, eager to go out on the streets of San Francisco.

But they can't until the department assigns them to training officers to supervise them, and there aren't enough of those officers to go around.

"We will bring our department up to the minimum staffing level," said San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong.

That has been the mantra of San Francisco Police Chief Heather Fong and Mayor Gavin Newsom, to make up a shortage of 250 officers.

"The mayor has committed to us to hire 250 officers each year for the next four years," said San Francisco Police Department Recruiting Officer Trinia Wearing.

In the past six months, the police academy has had five classes with 180 new officers.

The most recent class with 43 cadets graduated last Friday -- all of them eager to get out on the streets.

But there was a big hitch.

"Well, there was not enough active current FTO's to go around for the 43-member class that just graduated," said San Francisco Police Department Public Affairs Officer Steve Mannina.

FTO's are free trained officers, officers who volunteer to supervise new graduates when they hit the streets during a four month probationary period.

While the department is churning out new recruits, ironically there aren't enough training officers to go out with them.

"With the recruits we've been having coming through, it has been taxing on the current FTO's that we have," said Sgt. Mannina.

The 43 rookies have been housed at the eight district stations -- seven at Mission Station alone.

But police spokesman Sgt. Steve Mannina says they're not just twiddling their thumbs.

"They'll be answering phones. They'll be writing reports. They'll be handling walk up traffic from citizens who walk up to the front windows of these stations," said Sgt. Mannina.

Police Union President Gary Delagnes says the FTO's can't be expected to take on anymore than they have now.

He says the job's already stressful both mentally and physically and it takes a lot out of them.

"So I think what's happening is some of these FTO's have been getting so many recruits, they're saying hey man, I need a break," said Police Officers Association President Gary Delagnes.

Delagnes also believes many veterans aren't volunteering as FTO's because of low morale.

"The cops, especially ones out in the streets don't believe in the system, don't believe their backs are being covered either by the police administration or City Hall. And that filers its way through things like the FTO program, the crime suppression units because the cops simply don't buy into it," said Delagnes.

The problem now is all the available training officers are already out supervising other rookies who graduated from previous classes.

But we're told there may be enough FTO'S to go out with these 43 new officers sometime next week.


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