Read the No-Longer-Posted SFPD “Web Letter” Regarding Foot Patrols

Here’s the backstory about police foot patrols in San Francisco. It’s a touchy issue so things have been a bit hard on the captains who need to implement the program. And here’s the recent 208-page report from Public Safety Strategies Group. It documents “both the positive and negative outcomes of foot patrol implementation.” Now you’re up to speed.

Comes news today from San Francisco Chronicle Staff Writer Cecilia M. Vega - S.F. Supervisors Blast Police Web Letter:

San Francisco supervisors and police commissioners blasted Police Chief Heather Fong Wednesday for what they said was the premature posting of a letter on her department’s Web site that refuted the findings of a study criticizing the top brass’ implementation of a police foot-patrol program.

You’ll find a copy of the three-page letter here. Oops, maybe not, but that’s where the .pdf used to be, before it went down the memory hole. 

You can see a truncated HTML version here.

Or, click on to see the whole letter after the jump. Please remember that although Heather Fong took issue with data the consultants used to draw their conclusions, “on Wednesday she said she no longer had reservations about the methodology used and that she agreed with many of the findings in the report.” 

Fair enough. O.K., read on.

Foot patrols, like this but without the cars. Western Addition.




San Francisco Police Department
The San Francisco Police Department has reviewed the Foot Patrol Report recently
released by Public Safety Strategies Group (PSSG). We welcome the analysis performed
by PSSG. As noted in the report, the department currently lacks the technological
resources to perform such a comprehensive analysis of a specific police deployment
strategy. We know that this type of analysis is essential, not only for reviewing strategies
such as foot patrols, but also areas ranging from administrative tracking to other strategic
initiatives. Support to provide the technological resources to the department so it can
perform such comprehensive analysis internally is critical. City data, processed by PSSG
into useful formats, will be helpful to the department’s efforts to continue developing
such capabilities for the future. Although we do not agree with all of the data and
recommendations, we embrace several of the findings:

• Commitment to Foot Patrols: The department, since its inception, has deployed
foot beats and remains committed to this strategy. As stated in the analysis,
during the study period the department increased its dedicated foot beat
deployment from 45,512 hours to 84,684 hours (an 86%. Increase). Currently the
department is staffing its foot beats (legislative and non-legislative) at a level of
approximately 2167 times per month.

• Improved Perception of Safety: The research indicates that 66% of the
responding members of the department and 90% of the responding community
concur that foot beats are a viable deployment strategy for addressing crime,
public safety and quality of life issues. Additionally, an overwhelming number of
those community members that were surveyed feel safer as a result of foot patrols
(82% by telephone and 73% through written surveys).

• Need for Improved Technology and Auditing Tools: In 2006, mindful of the
inadequate technological capabilities in equipment and human resources, the
department secured funding to have a thorough analysis of its technological
systems prepared. The resulting Gartner Report serves as the road map for the
department’s short and long term implementation of systems, hardware and
professional informational technology (IT) resources. As discussed in the PSSG
report as well as noted by the Police Executive Research Forum, which is
conducting an organizational assessment of the SFPD, the department’s
technology is antiquated and our efforts to bring our technology infrastructure
into the 21st century must be supported and continue. Implementation of these
initiatives will provide managers with the tools to make deployment decisions
that best meet the needs of the community.

• Conflict of Legislation Defining Operational Deployment: As noted in the
report, certain beats identified in the legislation spanned multiple police districts.
Additionally, certain police districts encompass several legislative districts, thus
creating a potential conflict in the deployment of resources. The report indicates

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that beats should be “small enough to allow the officer to patrol the entire beat
several times a shift.” The actual size of some of the beats did not make this
practical. Additionally, it should be further noted that implementation of the pilot
program allowed district station captains the leeway to reassign foot patrol
officers from the designated beat areas to other areas when necessary, given
crime patterns.

Although the department may not have met all the data requirements of the foot patrol
legislation, it far exceeded the spirit of the legislation (86% increase in deployment hours,
and a continued deployment level of approximately 2167 times per month). It should be
further noted that the department had initiated a priority foot beat program prior to the
implementation of the legislation, but did modify this directive to comply with the

The department believes that it would have better met the specifics of the pilot program if
the Controller’s Office or the group contracted to conduct the analysis was initially
involved in working with the department in developing the parameters of the study and
defining the means for gathering the associated data. As previously discussed, the
technology deficiencies of the department negatively impacted its ability to accomplish
this goal. The department has reservations about some of the data used for this analysis.

This is based on:

• Beat Descriptors: The consultant states that CABLE data does not distinguish
between beats, sectors and specialty assignments. In fact it does, and this may be
a contributing factor to data discrepancies. As an example, the department uses 5
shift designators (A-E). These shift designators are attached to the beat. As an
example, 3E48D refers to the beat and shift (3=Patrol / E= Northern Police
District / 48=Foot Beat / D=Swing Shift). Using this example, if the beat 3E48
was staffed on all shifts in one day it could have 5 different shift indicators (A-E).
If the researcher is not familiar with this protocol, data queries could be flawed,
and produce skewed or otherwise incomplete results. The department has
previously identified this discrepancy, and is not confident that the issue has been

The department acknowledges that the management of the pilot program could have been
better. However, foot beat deployment is only one strategy employed by the department
and overall technology support systems are being developed to improve management of
these various deployment strategies. The department did issue a Field Operations Bureau
General Order on December 22, 2006 (BGO #06-02) which did describe the
implementation and management of the beats (consistent with the legislation). This is an
active BGO and may be modified based on the final evaluation of the report and its

On a similar note, the department concurs that the existing foot beat

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training curriculum should be enhanced in light of certain recommendations identified in
the report and with involvement of foot patrol officers and members of the community.
The de-centralized organizational structure of the department parallels its commitment to
community policing. Based on the positive perception data identified in the report, it is
clear the community values foot patrol officers and these foot beat officers are a
significant part of our community policing strategy. Foot beat officers are one of a
number of strategies that are part of our community policing approach and one that must
be considered within the context of our overall staffing needs. In light of this observation,
community interaction is critical to ensure that commanding officers make their
deployment decisions in an effective manner. The model identified by the Mayor’s
Community Policing Advisory Committee provides a solid conduit for this input, and the
department supports this initiative. The department plans to meet with these members of
the public to obtain their involvement as we link the foot beat strategy with other
initiatives they have identified in our efforts to enhance community/police partnerships.
In 2006, the department requested that an outside entity be allowed to conduct an
organizational assessment of the SFPD. In any agency, it is important to have a
perspective of the strengths as well as identify areas that require improvement, as
compared to similar organizations. The Police Executive Research Forum (PERF), which
has done work with police agencies throughout the nation and abroad, was contracted to
perform this review. Their work will look at the overall organization, including
technology, hiring and training, use of force, discipline, and crime strategies, to name a
few. This review will include an implementation component throughout the process. We
look forward to the PERF study as it will help put the issue of foot patrols, and other
pressing matters, into a broader organizational context. We are confident this study will
provide much needed information on how foot patrols fit in with the overall staffing plan
and the appropriate deployment of limited resources.

The department looks forward to continuing its participation in the City’s Performance
Evaluation Reports (PER), which include the foot patrol review, district boundary
assessment, and the organizational review. The results of these studies, like the Gartner
Report, will serve as a guide and provide a foundation for current and future members of
the department to develop the future of the San Francisco Police Department along with
our community.

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