Proposed ballot measure triggers debate over what principles should guide SFPD
Previous beat patrol methods largely ended when the 911 system came along, and the emphasis was placed on calls for service, statistics, and response times, leaving officers with little time to patrol and prevent crime.
The change to community policing emphasized neighborhood input and officers becoming an organic part of the community they served. Citizen contributions, generally through community meetings, began to drive decision-making. Foot patrols were revived and officers were once again expected to have a physical presence and a connection to the community they served.
That change was seen as particularly important in poor neighborhoods and communities of color, where police can sometimes be seen as an occupying army and residents were reluctant to cooperate with investigations. Officials hoped to prevent crimes by showing a presence in neighborhoods rather than simply reacting to them when someone called.
Mirkarimi says a CompStat-driven police force would be a return to that reactive model, potentially sacrificing the long-term commitment required to build trust between a neighborhood and its police department, which is central to community policing. "[CompStat] undermines the principles and practices of community policing because true community policing requires a discipline and a protocol that is sustained," he said.
While either approach can theoretically result in the same practices, such as a foot beat patrol in a given neighborhood, Zimring said the reasoning behind it depends on the model. "CompStat to begin with is completely crime-driven," Zimring said. "The reason you have it is to reduce crimes. It involves computerized mapping of crimes. It involves allocating resources to so-called hot spots, and it involves the police department imposing its own priorities as opposed to implementing community priorities."
The Board of Supervisors will consider Mirkarimi's measure and SFPD budget in July, airing a debate that could continue on to the November ballot, when voters would decide whether to maintain their faith in CompStat and the SFPD or ask for more community policing and foot patrols.