San Francisco Law Enforcement and Its Unparalleled Diversity

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office is one of the City’s best kept secrets and a hidden jewel amongst law enforcement agencies.  The SFSO has been in existence since 1850, but goes largely unnoticed by many of its residents. Since San Francisco is both a city and a county, the Sheriff’s Office maintains a lower profile than most large, county agencies.  However, the Sheriff and its diverse group of deputies have unobtrusively served its residents, performing many essential services, within the county, for a long time. Its unique history and long-established practice of embracing diversity, inclusiveness and valuing the advancement and promotion of its LGBTQI, women and minority deputies is out of the ordinary when compared to most law enforcement agencies throughout the country.

The Sheriff’s Office is a law enforcement agency with a variety of functions.  Patrol, investigations, court services, law enforcement within and protection of government buildings are some of the important services provided by the Sheriff’s Office. Some who are familiar with the SFSO may associate it with its long history of responsibilities relating to the housing and the monitoring of incarcerated individuals, but many do not realize the agency has evolved into one of the most progressive leaders of the restorative justice process in San Francisco.  Many justice partner collaborations, reforms, education projects and programs were developed under the long-term leadership of Criminal Justice Reform Pioneer, Sheriff Michael Hennessey, have become the national model and continue to flourish under the current Sheriff, Paul Miyamoto. These varied responsibilities, along with the work done in its Community Programs Unit, Civil Section and the Transportation Unit are staffed by an amazingly diverse body of deputized staff.   This eclectic law enforcement agency provides these much needed services to its residents and the county’s justice system. 

Additionally, the San Francisco Sheriff’s Training Unit stays on the cutting edge of issues that plague community relations with law enforcement agencies throughout the nation. The Training Staff works hard to address any problems within the SFSO which may erode the public’s confidence in its ability to fairly provide essential law enforcement services to the city of San Francisco.  The sworn staff of the Sheriff’s Office is dedicated to eradicating any practices which may interfere with the goal of establishing trust between them, as a local law enforcement agency and the community which they serve. The long established dedication to diverse hiring is an integral part in achieving this goal and is essential in bridging the divide.

For decades the Sheriff’s Office has prided itself on diversity amongst the ranks of sworn officers.  Diversity is important and this is why;

Study Finds Increasing Diversity Can Decrease Police Misconduct

 A 2016 study published in the American Society for Public Administration found increasing a police force’s ethnic diversity can reduce officer misconduct. “An increase in the proportion of ethnic minority police officers is significantly associated with a decrease in police misconduct,” the study noted.

“Because their fellow police officer is representing these cultures, there’s just a natural, organic way in which people become a little bit more open minded, a little more progressive thinking, a little bit more compassionate and empathetic, because they see in these individuals, their own friends, their own colleagues, their own peers,” said Rob Davis, former San Jose Police Chief and current law enforcement consultant with the Chicago-based security firm Hillard Heintze. “Your police department has to be reflective of that community.”

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Department has been way ahead of its time in establishing an agency which is a reflection of the community.  One of the most unique aspects of the Sheriff’s immense diversity is that it did not reach these impressive ratios through mandates but came about through embracing a progressive philosophy that welcomed and encouraged people of various races, women and LGBTQI individuals to join the agency.   

The charts provided are a comparison of the racial breakdown of  sworn personnel within large law enforcement agencies in San Francisco.

We asked the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office how do they recruit diverse applicants. Sheriff’s Captain Sanford stated, “We have attended numerous community and cultural events throughout the city.  We have also attended community based job fairs, city job fairs and college job fairs.  Deputy Sheriff Moret also attended a job fair that included students from the Atlanta University Center (Three Historically Black Colleges & Universities).”

The San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs’ Association President Ken Lomba stated, “We are a labor union that represents more than 720 deputies and senior deputies who serve and protect San Franciscans in the jails, the courts, city hall, and in specialized assignments throughout the City. Our diversity makes us better engage with the community and we are proud of that.”