Feds cut money for cops, violence on the rise 

Federal funding that has put 267 San Francisco police officers on the streets has been eliminated as The City struggles to attract and retain officers while battling an increase in violent crimes and homicides.

The federal Office of Community Oriented Policing Services, established in 1994, grants money to local law enforcement agencies to hire officers and purchase technology. The fiscal year 2008 federal budget, however, contains no funding for the program, according to local law enforcement officials.

In years past, COPS funding, which comes in the form of individually written grants, has paid for the hiring and supplemented the salaries of anywhere from 20 to 30 police officers per year. Typically, The City has received about $3 million to $4 million in grants per year, according to the U.S. Department of Justice, which administers COPS.

In a letter to the chairs of the U.S. Senate and House of Representatives’ appropriations and judiciary committees, Mayor Gavin Newsom, along with Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and San Jose Mayor Chuck Reed, called on the federal government to reinstate that funding, which they indicated had led to the creation of 118,000 law enforcement positions nationwide.

Huge crime increase, shortage of cops

The U.S. Conference of Mayors reported that 2005 showed the largest single-year percentage increase in violent crime in 15 years, and the trend continued in 2006, according to the letter.

As San Francisco faces increasing violent crime rates, the Police Department confronts a staffing shortage that hinders residents’ demands for more neighborhood foot patrols. Homicides hit a decade high in 2005 with 96. The City saw 84 homicides in 2006 and has already experienced 22 killings this year. Overall, violent crime increased by 19 percent in the first half of 2006 compared with the first six months of 2005, according to preliminary statistics reported by the Federal Bureau of Investigation.

As of Jan. 26, the SFPD reported 1,706 police officers on full, active duty in The City, 365 short of its voter-mandated level of 1,971.

The department has had trouble recruiting officers in recent years due to the high cost of city living, competitive salaries and benefits offered by suburban police departments.

The department has worked to curb attrition by offering bonuses to experienced officers who stay past their retirement dates. It has also moved so-called "non-sworn" employees into positions previously staffed by sworn officers, a move designed to get more badges on the street. But the department consistently finds itself overbudget after using overtime dollars to fill the need for more uniformed men and women on the sidewalks and roads.

The loss of the federal money could make it harder for the department to attract more qualified officer candidates and to hire more officers.

"As mayors struggling every day to keep our communities safe, we are frustrated that the current administration has slashed federal funding for major Department of Justice law enforcement programs in recent years," the letter reads.


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