'Worst is yet to come:' SFPD may be short around 825 officers by end of year, ABC7 I-Team uncovers

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, September 15, 2022
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Police staffing in SF is projected to hit an all-time low. Documents obtained by ABC7 shed light on which neighborhoods are suffering because of it.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Police staffing in San Francisco projected at an all-time low. Documents obtained by the ABC7 News I-Team shed light on the crisis and which neighborhoods are suffering because of it.

From drug deals to car break-ins, to brazen smash-and-grab robberies - there's a lot to police in San Francisco. The problem is the city doesn't have enough officers to properly serve and protect its residents. But that's not a new problem. The current reality is - the problem isn't getting better.

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"We got to pick ourselves up and get back into the game," said Tracy McCray, the President of the San Francisco Police Officers Association.

For months the department has reported they've been more than 500 officers short. Chief Bill Scott told ABC7 News last month the department is short approximately 525 officers.

But in three months that could change.

"Come Dec. 31 -- 300 people could walk out the door. That's on top of the cops we're short just right now," McCray said.

Here's the evolution of the staffing shortage. This data is compiled by Matrix Consulting Group.

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In 2020, there were 1,911 current sworn officers.

In September of 2021, that number dropped to 1,830.

In April of 2022, that number dropped again to 1,723.

In September of 2022, that number sits at a low of 1,651 full-duty sworn officers, per SFPD.

"That's a fail," said McCray. "It's getting bad."

The numbers on paper don't reflect the reality on the streets - the officers on the ground citywide.

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Even though we currently have 1,651 full-duty sworn officers, documents show there are approximately 836 officers assigned to the 10 SFPD district stations. But, not every officer is out at any given time. Chief Bill Scott told ABC7 last month there are only around 300 officers working patrol citywide each shift.

"It definitely is a strain to keep up with the calls for service," Chief Scott said.

McCray agrees - adding the worst is yet to come.

"We can't have numbers like this," she told ABC7's Stephanie Sierra.

Documents obtained by the ABC7 News I-Team show disparities in the call volume across SFPD's 10 district stations from late June to late August. For example, 109 officers were assigned to the Tenderloin during that time period - more than any other district. Whereas the Park district, which has a significantly larger area only had 47 officers.

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"Where do you think the criminals are going to head?" McCray said.

"The tenderloin has huge challenges with the open air drug sales and usage," said Chief Scott. "It takes a lot of personnel to address that."

But the triage of officers is leaving other areas at higher risk.

ABC7's data analysis found Southern, Central, Northern, and Mission districts each had a higher percentage of life-threatening emergency calls than the Tenderloin from late June to late August. Yet, all four districts were assigned fewer officers than the Tenderloin.

Another example of the disparity is in the Richmond district. Police records show that 53 officers were assigned to respond to 3,319 calls in the district's mainly residential neighborhoods. 654 of those calls were life-threatening emergencies. Chief Scott told ABC7 that the department is often down to only two squad cars which is heavily impacting response times.

Take a look at for a look at more stories by Stephanie Sierra and the ABC7 News I-Team.

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