Police and Sheriff Merger

(OLA #: 009-03)


To: Members of the Board of Supervisors

From: Adam Van de Water, Office of the Legislative Analyst

Date: June 23, 2003

RE: Merger of the Police and Sheriff’s Departments

Summary and Scope of Work

Supervisor Daly, through the Budget Committee and pursuant to motion M03-02, requested that the Office of the Legislative Analyst (OLA) respond to the issues raised in the 1999-2000 Civil Grand Jury’s report "Proposed Study: Sheriff/Police Department Merger" and develop a "roadmap" of the process by which such a re-organization could occur. The "roadmap" should identify the organizations, departments and stakeholders that would play a role in the merger process and, to the extent possible, define these roles. Attention may also be given to other governmental entities that have undergone similar mergers and the necessary steps required to enact such a merger. Finally, working with the Controller’s City Projects Group, please estimate the total costs and benefits of conducting such a merger.

Executive Summary

A report by the 1999/2000 Civil Grand Jury entitled "Proposed Study: Sheriff/Police Department Merger" found several potential benefits to the merging of the Police and Sheriff’s departments. These included, "a lower dropout rate, greater economies of scale, possible reduction in duplicative administrative functions, coordination of departmental policies, lower personnel turnover, increased training and orientation opportunities, and more efficient hiring."

However, realizing these potential benefits would not be without at least initial costs. Unlike other jurisdictions that have completed law enforcement mergers, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department does not conduct investigative or patrol work outside of their mostly custodial duties. Therefore, unless there is an emergency disturbance in cooperation with the Police Department, there are currently few areas of overlapping jurisdiction between the two departments.

Merging more than discrete functions would necessitate the formation of a working group representing both departments, the Controller’s Office and the City Attorney’s Office, with assistance from the Police Commission, the Office of Citizen Complaints, the District Attorney’s Office, and other public stakeholders. Should the City and County of San Francisco pursue a merger of the Police and Sheriff’s Department, this working group would need to:

  • Evaluate operating policies and procedures including officer training, deployment, jurisdiction, use of force, weapons, uniforms, decals, vehicle fleets, radio communications, and facilities;
  • Work with the Police Officer’s Association, Deputy Sheriff’s Association, and SEIU Local 790 to normalize salaries, benefits, training, and union representation; and
  • Establish a coordinated oversight function and means of responding to citizen complaints to succeed the Police Commission and Office of Citizen Complaints.

Overall costs and savings of law enforcement mergers have depended largely on both the numbers of personnel involved in the merger and the relative ease of combining functions and standardizing salaries and benefits.

The Office of the Legislative Analyst surveyed ten jurisdictions that have effectuated law enforcement mergers in the past thirty years and found that the short-term net financial impact ranged from real cost savings of nearly $1 million to net real costs of nearly $4.5 million.


San Francisco is the only City and County in California and is therefore the only jurisdiction with a state-mandated county Sheriff that shares the same border with a local police department. In most California counties, the Sheriff has both custodial responsibilities (management of the jail and court systems) and patrol duties (providing law enforcement in the unincorporated parts of the county and, in some cases, for smaller municipalities within the county).

In San Francisco, the Sheriff is responsible for prisoner custody and transport, jail and warrants management, election security, court and building security, and enforcement of all civil court judgments. The Police Department handles all street patrol, crime prevention and investigation, traffic interruption, airport security, issuance of certain permits and licenses, and enforcement of state and local laws.

Despite sharing a contiguous border, there are currently few areas of overlapping jurisdiction between the Police and Sheriff’s Department. According to the two departments, the only areas where the departments’ jurisdictions overlap, or could overlap, are:

  • Short-Term Custody – the Police Department has holding cells in each of its 10 district stations and at the Hall of Justice where intakes are temporarily held until transported by the Sheriff for booking. Occasionally there is overlap between the two departments in this time period between arrest and booking;
  • Emergency Disturbances – At the request of the Police Chief, the Sheriff provides periodic support to the Police Department during emergency disturbances (such as the civil anti-war protests in late March and early April)
  • Building Security – The Sheriff provides security for the courts at the Hall of Justice and the Civil Court House, City Hall, the Department of Child Support Services, the Emergency Communications Center, and the Community Assessment and Referral Center, while the Police Department provides security at the Hall of Justice.
  • Prisoner Transport – the Sheriff provides intrastate transport of arrestees from district police stations and transports inmates to and from court, the hospital, and other counties and state facilities. The Police Department transports arrestees to and from states outside of California.

The Sheriff has recently assumed responsibility for a number of functions previously performed by the Police Department. Responsibility for prisoner transportation and warrant management, Institutional Police at San Francisco General Hospital and Laguna Honda Hospital, and, most recently, fingerprint services was recently transferred from the Police Department to the Sheriff.

Staffing and Budget

Public protection accounts for a major portion of the discretionary part of the budget. Taken together, the nearly 4,000 personnel and over $400 million in combined budgets of the San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s Departments comprise just over 13 percent of the City’s total General Fund budget and 12 percent of all citywide personnel. Should the Board of Supervisors initiate a full consolidation of the San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s Departments, therefore, it would be the largest U.S. law enforcement merger since 1995.1

Table 1 below details the total personnel, operating budget and primary union representation of each department as allocated in the Fiscal Year 2002-2003 Annual Appropriation and Salary Ordinances.

Table 1: San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s Department Staff, Budget, & Representation


# of Total Personnel

FY 2002-2003 Total Budget 2

(% General Fund)

Primary Union Representation






Police Officer’s Association, SEIU Local 790

Sheriff’s Department




Deputy Sheriff’s Association, SEIU Local 790

Current Law

City Charter Sections 4.109 and 4.127 provide the authority for the San Francisco Police Department and Police Commission and Section 4 of Article 11 of the California Constitution and California Government Code Section 24000 et. seq. provides the necessary authority for the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. Merging the Police Department and the Sheriff’s Department would therefore require the Board of Supervisors to take one of the following two actions:

  1. To merge the Police Department into the Sheriff’s Department: Submit a ballot proposal to the voters to amend Charter Sections 4.127 and 4.109. In order to place this on the November 4, 2003 ballot, this would require Rules Committee action between June 18 and July 9, first appearance at the Board of Supervisors by July 14, and submittal to the Director of the Department of Elections by July 25.
  2. To merge the Sheriff’s Department into the Police Department: Submit a formal request to the City Attorney to determine whether the State Constitution and Government Code grants the City and County the plenary authority to merge the functions of a state-mandated elected office into a department authorized by City Charter.

Mergers in Other Jurisdictions

Table 2 below shows a survey of ten law enforcement mergers in other jurisdictions over the last 30 years, presented by the number of personnel affected by the merger. Only five jurisdictions had completed financial analyses of the net costs and benefits of their law enforcement merger. Three resulted in net cost savings and two resulted in net additional costs.

Cost savings resulted from the consolidation of facilities, contracts, radio communications, and training resources and personnel. Additional costs resulted from adding additional on-call hours and, most significantly, selecting the higher of the two pay scales and benefits packages and extending them to all personnel within each newly merged classification.

Table 2: Law Enforcement Mergers in Other Jurisdictions

Completed Mergers


Number of Affected Personnel 3

Initial (Cost)/ Savings 4

  1. New York – NYC Transit Police and NYC Housing Authority Police Department merged into NYPD



Not Available 5

  • Kentucky – Consolidation of Louisville and Jefferson County Police Depts.



Not Yet Available

  • Nevada – Consolidation of the Las Vegas Police Department and Clark County Sheriff’s Department



($4,456,400 cost)

(salaries, benefits, uniforms, and weapons)

  • Florida – Consolidation of Jacksonville and Duvall County Governments


670, plus civilian

Not Available

  • California – California State Police merged into California Highway Patrol



$990,689 savings (facilities and contracts)

  • California – Metropolitan Transportation Authority Police Dept. merged into LAPD and LA Sheriff’s Department



Minimal savings

(training & radio communications)

  • North Carolina – Mecklenburg County Police Department merged into Charlotte City Police Department



Not Available

  • New York – Lancaster Village PD/ Town of Lancaster PD



Not Yet Available

Merger finalized 4/1/03

  • California – Consolidation of Larkspur and Corte Madera Police Departments



$193,752 savings

(personnel, vehicles, communications, and administrative services)

  • California – Sacramento County Marshall’s Office merged into Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department



($84,000 cost)

(savings due to conversion of sworn to non-sworn positions offset by adding on-call deputy hours)

Proposed Mergers



Reason Cited

  1. California -- Los Angeles Airport Police/LAPD

Board of Airport Commissioners Rejected


Proposed Charter amendment seen as too risky "in the current environment of heightened security needs."

  • California -- East Palo Alto PD/ San Mateo County Sheriff

City Council Rejected


East Palo Alto wanted to retain local control of their police functions but have, since April 1993, contracted out all investigative services to the San Mateo County Sheriff’s Department.

  • Indiana -- Indianapolis PD/Marion County Sheriff



Indianapolis and Marion County entered into a unified government plan 32 years ago but never consolidated police and sheriff despite favorable public opinion polls. The primary obstacle was seen as a political struggle between the Mayor of Indianapolis and the Marion County Sheriff.

Merger Considerations

Initiating a merger between the San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s Departments raises more questions than it answers. A working group comprised of representatives from the Sheriff, Police, City Attorney, and Controller’s offices – with consultation from the District Attorney, the Police Commission and the Office of Citizen Complaints – would need to address numerous legal and structural considerations. Merger transitions could occur gradually, beginning with those newly merged divisions that combine personnel and/or responsibilities of the formerly separate Police and Sheriff’s Departments.6

Considerations for the working group, therefore, include:

  • Procedures and Equipment – Disparate operating policies, procedures and equipment would need to be standardized including officer training, deployment, jurisdiction, use of force, weapons, uniforms, decals, vehicle fleets, radio communications, and facilities. Divisions remaining separate could continue to have different procedures and equipment that best match their job descriptions and could delay expenditures such as new vehicle or uniform acquisition.
  • Wages and Benefits – Other jurisdictions experienced significant personnel conflict immediately after consolidation. This was primarily due to inevitable differences in institutional cultures and departmental allegiances but also included resentment over differences in salaries and benefits. As part of any merger process, the working group would need to work with the Police Officer’s Association, the Deputy Sheriff’s Association, and SEIU Local 790 to normalize salaries, benefits, and union representation, especially where police officers would be working alongside deputy sheriffs.
  • Oversight and Citizen Complaints – The Charter establishes strong oversight measures for Police Department accountability through the Police Commission and the Office of Citizen Complaints. Merging the Police and Sheriff’s Departments would necessitate a review of these citizen protections to ensure that departmental accountability is not eroded.
  • Consolidation of Functions – Mergers and consolidations offer opportunities for increased efficiencies resulting from the elimination of overlapping services and duties. The working group may wish to explore specific administrative, managerial, and/or commission functions that could be reduced from such a merger, including consideration of voter-approved Proposition D which mandates a minimum of 1,971 sworn officers in the Police Department.
  • Training and Recruitment – Police officers and deputy sheriffs, due to their differing responsibilities, receive very different training. The working group may wish to also consider whether training functions could be consolidated and/or training programs altered to reflect merged duties.


Merging the San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s Departments would represent the largest law enforcement merger since 1995 and has the potential to provide the City with long-term cost savings due to reduced administrative and managerial costs, lower personnel turnover, and shared equipment and facilities.

However, there are few areas of overlapping jurisdiction between the Police Department which provides all law enforcement and patrol operations and the Sheriff who has responsibility for the jail and court systems. The experiences of other mergers nationwide have shown that law enforcement mergers face potentially significant up-front costs from salary and benefit equalization and standardization of equipment and decals.

The net financial impact to the City and County of San Francisco will depend on what functions the working group proposes to merge as well as the ease of the merger transition.

Initiating a merger of the San Francisco Police and Sheriff’s Departments is a policy matter for the Board of Supervisors.

1 That year 7,000 personnel from the New York City Housing Authority and Transit Police Departments were merged into the New York Police Department.

2 Excludes departmental supplemental appropriations.

3 In consolidations all employees are considered affected. In a merger, only those that were employed by the department merged into another are considered affected.

4 In 2003 inflation-adjusted dollars. Note: These are short-term merger/consolidation costs and savings collected by the department’s fiscal divisions and/or the city/county manager. They do not include savings due to long-term efficiencies or costs associated with changed duties as these figures were not available.

5 According to NYPD Transit Bureau Deputy Inspector John Cassillo, financial data regarding total costs and savings of the NYC Transit Police, NYC Housing Authority PD, and NYPD were never publicly released.

6 This could include areas of share jurisdiction that do not require additional training such as, for instance, arrestee transport, warrant management, and building security.