police-light-bar1.jpgSan Francisco Mayor Ed Lee today announced a plan to invest in the city’s public safety agencies by funding several police and fire academy classes over the next six years.

Parts of the plan, announced at the police academy in the city’s Diamond Heights neighborhood this morning, will be included in the mayor’s proposed two-year budget that will be unveiled on Thursday.

“The city’s exhibiting recovery economically,” Lee said. “We can do this.”

The proposal includes six police academy classes, at the cost of about $4 million to hire 50 officers per class, over the next two years, followed by three more classes of 50 officers each over the next four years to reach the city charter mandate of 1,971 officers by June 2018.

The fire department will also hold six fire academy classes and one emergency medical technicians class over the next six years to restore staffing levels and help the department reduce its use of overtime, according to the plan.

Police Chief Greg Suhr called the announcement of the plan “a tremendous day for San Francisco,” especially given the likely loss of nearly 300 officers in the next couple years with the end of the city’s Deferred Retirement Option Program (DROP).

The city had devised the program, which expires in June 2014, to give officers an incentive to not retire by putting aside money in a tax-deferred account that they would get once they left the force.

Fire Chief Joanne Hayes-White said the city has recently had a “heavy reliance on overtime” by its firefighters, currently budgeted at about $25 million per year, and said she’s “glad we’ll be bringing that down” with the influx of new firefighters.

The inclusion of the funding for the academies in the mayor’s proposed budget still has to be approved by the Board of Supervisors, but Lee said he was confident that the supervisors were on board with his plan.

“It’s not going to be 100 percent,” he said, but added that he has talked to each of the supervisors and they have all been “quite complimentary that we’re going in the right direction for them as well as for the rest of the city.”

Dan McMenamin, Bay City News

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