It's a big bonanza for the police and fire departments because they're losing their Vietnam-era personnel. The baby boomers are retiring, so Lee is simply trying to stop the hemorrhaging. There'll be more classes at the police academy in coming years. Lee's new two-year budget includes six academy classes totaling 300 officer candidates. And, it gets even better.
"We will continue to hire three classes of 50 officers for the next six years," he said. The department is about 200 officers short right now from the city charter mandated force of 1,971 officers. It expects to lose close to 300 more officers over the next three years because of the anticipated end to a program that offers retired officers several more years work, while deferring their pensions. Many seasoned veterans will be gone.
The classes will include teaching new recruits new technology like using computer tablets to write up incident reports. "If we can get our officers more connected, they can stay out on patrol longer, the back and forth to desktop computers goes away. These are all things we're working toward," SFPD Chief Greg Suhr said.
The fire department also got good news. There will be one fire academy class every year for the next six years, with the goal of hiring a total of 252 new recruits. For years now, the department has been at an all-time low in staffing. "In recent years, because we haven't been able to hire to match the levels of retirement, we had to place heavy reliance on overtime," SFFD Chief Joanne Hayes-White explained.
The overtime has been a big concern over the years for the mayor and the city supervisors. Supervisor Carmen Chu worked with the mayor on the budget and is in support of it. That's important because she chairs the supervisors' budget committee.