The report, prepared for the city by the Public Safety Strategies Group, a Massachusetts-based consulting firm, and released today, recommends “that the city discontinue the Patrol Specials program.”
The report cited the program’s privacy, violations of rules and procedures, lack of legal oversight and cost to the city.
Though Patrol Special police are not sworn San Francisco police officers, they wear similar uniforms and stars and receive training from the Police Department. Local businesses and residents hire them to provide extra security.
The report, based on a study conducted between April 2009 and March of this year, said Patrol Special officers could continue to operate as private security guards, outside of the city charter. It recommended that the city and the Police Department explore other programs to supplement police services in the community.
The San Francisco Police Commission is discussing the findings at its meeting tonight.
Alan Byard, president of the Patrol Special Police Officers Association, condemned the study today as outdated and “full of mistakes.”
“I welcome the chance to sit down with the Police Commission, and to go over every single point that was made, and to rebuke every single one of them,” Byard said, referring to the report and not the commissioners.
Byard acknowledged with a chuckle, however, that tonight he would likely only receive the official three minutes allotted during the commission’s public comment period.
According to Byard, there are currently between 45 and 47 Patrol Special officers working throughout the city.
With recent budget cuts, and reductions in the number of Police Department officers and in police overtime, “There is a very big need for our services in this city,” said Byard.
Byard said local residents and businesses have established a close relationship with the Patrol Specials.
“They trust us because they always see us,” he said.
The report, however, found it problematic the Patrol Special officers are providing private security services and are not “under the direction and control” of the city while performing their duties.
Additionally, Patrol Special officers receive benefits that other security guards do not, such as the exclusive right, outside of the Police Department, to patrol streets and sidewalks. They also are allowed to operate on restricted police radio channels.
While the Police Commission has legal oversight over the Patrol Specials, it does not have the ability to direct and control their services, creating liability issues for the city, the report said.
Excluding litigation, the city spends more than $300,000 per year on the program, and assigns a full-time police officer to oversee it, according to the report.
The study’s authors said that Patrol Special officers have been seen violating “uniform, accountability and operational rules and procedures” as well as parking and traffic laws.
Other violations included responding to Police Department calls for service, and announcing themselves as “police,” they said.
But Byard claimed that the real beneficiary, should the Patrol Special program be eliminated, would be the Police Department itself.
“With us gone, they will be able to work more off-duty security,” he said. “That’s the whole thing behind all of this.”