sfpd_cityhall.jpgThe San Francisco Police Department has begun a supplementary foot patrol program in which about 70 desk officers will hit the streets for a couple of shifts every three months.

The Police Department made the announcement in a news release today, five days before San Francisco voters will consider a ballot measure that would force the department to implement a new foot patrol policy.

The new Patrol Rotation Program will have full-duty lieutenants, sergeants, inspectors and officers in the department’s Office of Administrative Services at the Hall of Justice spend at least two eight-hour shifts every three months walking beats in the Southern and Ingleside police districts.

According to police spokesman Officer Albie Esparza, the program will do more than just have more officers on foot beats who respond to calls for service.

The experience will allow the officers to retain “perishable skills” such as investigation of everyday street crimes, interviewing suspects and witnesses, writing tickets, and interacting with the public, he said.

“It’s just basic skills that every police officer has to have,” Esparza said.

Proposition M on the city’s Nov. 2 ballot would require the Police Department to adopt a comprehensive policy on its foot patrols.

Though the measure doesn’t specify exact numbers of foot patrols, it would require dedicated patrols in each district and on public transportation. The city controller’s office expects it would require additional officers and financial resources.

It was added to the ballot by the Board of Supervisors, to whom the Police Department would have to make regular reports on the program.

Proponents argue foot patrols are a proven crime deterrent that should be required under city law.

Opponents, noting that police already have foot patrols, argue Police Department policies and strategies should remain in the hands of police.

Proposition M would also invalidate another proposition on the ballot–a controversial measure supported by police that would make it illegal to sit or lie on public sidewalks during daytime hours–if it receives more votes.

Ari Burack, Bay City News

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