A neighborhood security group is suing the embattled San Francisco Police Department.
Known as Patrol Special, the group has been authorized by the city’s charter since 1847 to safeguard neighborhoods to which they are assigned.
The Police Commission appoints the non-sworn private police officers to beats, as they are called, which they purchase. The officers are paid by the neighborhoods they serve and sell their beat to someone else before retiring.
"You develop trust with people," said Patrol Special officer Alan Byard. "They start telling you what's going on."
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Calvin Wiley, who like Byard has patrolled San Francisco neighborhoods for decades, agreed.
"You protect and serve, basically something similar to a police department," he said.
Patrol Special leaders, however, believes that their private security officers are a vanishing breed and they blame their dwindling business on the San Francisco Police Department.
According to a complaint filed in January by 14 former and current Patrol Special officers, the police department is taking away clients and costing the group millions of dollars.
"If you lose business, that's automatically going to devalue the beat," Wiley said.
But the City Attorney's office says this is not a new development. Businesses have paid the San Francisco Police Department for services, with the Board of Supervisors’ blessing, since 1973.
However, Daniel Bakondi, the attorney who is representing Patrol Special believes the city’s charter should supersede any ordinance.
"It's sad to say but I think the city just wants to destroy the program – destroy their retirements and get away with it," he said.
The case is now headed to federal court where a hearing is slated for March 31.