City Hall

City Hall: Joel Engardio

Where Are the Police in SF?

Parents are on edge after recent violence at Stonestown Mall where mobs of teenagers attacked other teenagers. If kids can’t safely meet friends after school at the mall, it’s yet another decline in quality of life in San Francisco and failure of our City to function as it should.

Residents ask, where are the police?

The police station serving the Sunset has lost half of its officers since 2020. On any given night, only seven officers are patrolling an area from Twin Peaks to the ocean and Golden Gate Park to Daly City.

We are short 500 officers citywide because few want to be a police officer in San Francisco anymore. Many officers are choosing early retirement and we will lose hundreds more in June. Some take jobs in other cities where they feel more supported. Others are simply leaving the profession.

Applications to SFPD are anemic. The last police academy only graduated 12 new officers. Years ago, the typical class graduated 50 officers – and there were multiple classes a year. The current academy only has eight cadets.

A number of city supervisors have called for defunding or even disbanding the San Francisco police department in recent years. This made police officers feel unwelcome and it turned off potential recruits.

We need to change the narrative about police in San Francisco. Instead of saying defund and disband, we should recognize their good work. The California Department of Justice praised our police department for implementing more than 90% of needed reforms. Nationally, SFPD is a model of reform.

Our officers are diverse. They’re committed to accountability and serving at the highest standard. Let’s acknowledge and praise that, so more people will want to become police officers in San Francisco.

Residents are asking for more police protection. They want officers walking the neighborhoods and patrolling business districts. Whenever there is a crisis, like the mob violence at Stonestown Mall or the open-air drug market in the Tenderloin, there is a call for more police presence.

People must be held accountable for their crimes. Drug dealers peddling death must be arrested and prosecuted. But this isn’t just about arresting people and throwing them in jail. Visibility is a deterrent. If officers are on the street corners and walking in the mall, their presence stops bad things from happening.

We will never have the level of police visibility we need when we are short 500 officers. And we will never hire enough officers if they don’t feel welcomed and supported by city leaders. The police officers who remain on the job care a lot about our City. They want to help, but they need our support.

In the past month, the Board of Supervisors has reaffirmed some core values in our City – sanctuary protections for immigrants and reparations to right historical wrongs against generations of Black San Franciscans. City supervisors must also stand up for the basic value of public safety.

Residents should be able to walk down the street, go to school, ride Muni or shop in San Francisco without fear of being attacked. Residents should be able to park their car on the street and not return to a smashed window, stolen bags or car parts sawed off.

Let’s not forget the ordinary majority of San Franciscans who just want a clean, safe City that works. They are the ordinary and exhausted majority who work hard, pay taxes and follow the rules. They expect city supervisors to enact policies that will keep them safe. That’s why City Hall must make public safety a budget priority.

I co-sponsored with the mayor a police budget supplemental to cover the overtime costs that come with existing officers covering the shortage. Overtime is not a long-term solution. We need more people willing to be police officers in San Francisco.

I go out of my way to talk to officers at the station serving the Sunset. I’ll always remember what one officer told me: “Helping is at the heart of policing.”

The officer further explained: “I’ve carried groceries and pushed people uphill in their wheelchair. There are so many ways people need help, and when you’re out there, you have the ability to affect in a positive direction every life you run into.”

That’s the state of policing in San Francisco today. Let’s support it. Let’s recruit more officers by making our City a place where they want to work.

Joel Engardio is the District 4 representative on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors. He can be reached at

5 replies »

  1. I applaud these statements, particularly that most families just want a clean safe City that works. Mr. Engardio and others have big plans for more development on the West side, but unless and until the City can demonstrate basic competency then we should not support any of these plans. More density means more tax revenue, which is great, but the current government has not demonstrated that will be able to effectively spend the additional revenue to improve schools, parks, transportation, and public safety.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I keep hearing about a severe shortage of police officers and wonder why the mayor doesn’t re-assign the ones at SFO to SF City streets and let the Sheriffs take over at the airport? I’ve read there are close to 200 officers stationed at SFO and they do not even investigate crimes there- San Mateo is responsible for that. Why are SFPD at the airport when they are so desperately needed on our streets? Is there a good reason why the SFSO can not take over at the airport?


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