New Expansion of SFPD Community Ambassadors Deployed to Neighborhood Merchant Corridors

Program, which consists of retired SFPD officers walking beats, is part of the City’s work to strengthen public safety efforts and expand alternatives to policing
April 21, 2023

San Francisco, CA – Today Mayor London N. Breed announced the deployment of 25 additional San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) Community Ambassadors as part of the City’s ongoing public safety efforts and investments in alternatives to policing. This new addition expands the program by 50%, providing coverage of additional neighborhoods and more support for neighborhoods the program is already in.  

A majority of the new deployment of ambassadors have been assigned to new beats in the Outer Sunset district and Hayes Valley area, while the remaining ambassadors will complement safety efforts in the Castro, Fillmore and West Portal neighborhoods, in addition to Fisherman’s Wharf.  

Mayor Breed created the SFPD Community Ambassador Program to help free up sworn police officers and implement community alternatives as part of police reform efforts. Community Ambassadors are unarmed, civilian retired sworn members who serve to supplement foot beat patrol presence in business and commercial corridors, acting as added reinforcements to help create safer neighborhoods.  

"Public safety in our neighborhoods means having both police officers and ambassadors working together to support our residents and merchants,” said Mayor Breed. “These retired SFPD officers have the knowledge and experience to help recognize challenges and call for help, allowing our police officers to be available for calls that require a police response, and to focus on investigations and disrupting crime.”  

“My first action as supervisor was to find a way to bring the retired police officer program to the Sunset. Residents have long been asking for more police presence and protection in our neighborhoods and these retired officers are a welcome sight,” said Supervisor Joel Engardio. “They will help fill the gap as we work to recruit and hire enough new officers to address our severe police staffing shortage.”  

SFPD had been under a hiring freeze, delaying the hiring and deployment of these new ambassadors to neighborhoods like the Sunset. With the recent approval of the Mayor’s police budget supplemental, the hiring freeze was lifted, allowing the City to complete the hiring process for the 25 new Community Ambassadors, as well as funding police overtime to maintain and deliver public safety services.  

"Our public safety commitment goes beyond enforcing laws and making arrests. It also means finding creative solutions that most effectively and efficiently reduce community harms while engaging with, and building relationships with, our diverse communities,” said Police Chief Bill Scott. “The ambassador program is a great example of how we have taken community input and collaborated with Mayor Breed to implement innovative, non-traditional policing solutions and strategies to enhance the safety of San Francisco and reduce community harms.”     

Ambassadors are scheduled to work two days a week, Wednesday through Sunday, except in Chinatown and Union Square where Ambassadors are assigned seven days a week. With this expansion, San Francisco has 74 SFPD Community Ambassadors assigned to neighborhoods across the City.   

Sworn staffing levels have fallen precipitously in the last three years. Currently, San Francisco is 562 below the staffing analysis recommended level, with many eligible for retirement. Ambassadors are one component of the Mayor’s long-term public safety and police staffing strategy that includes police retention, recruitment, civilianization, and alternatives for police response.   

Since the start of the program, Ambassadors have proven to be effective in deterring crime due to a high visibility presence and answering calls for service that do not require a police response. Diverting non-public safety calls away from SFPD sworn officers allows residents to receive help and information for situations outside of a true police response, allowing police officers to focus on criminal incidents and investigations and frees up officers to focus on addressing crime, conducting community policing, and responding to calls for service. Some of the SFPD Community Ambassador duties include:  

  • Reporting and coordinating the response of SFPD personnel for any crime in progress or enforcement action   
  • Assisting with quality-of-life issues  
  • Collaborating with community partners in community policing efforts   
  • Building relationships with merchants and various businesses  
  • Distributing SFPD safety and resource material   

All ambassadors are trained to engage with members of the public and are often able to interrupt anti-social behavior, contain mental health episodes, reverse overdose events, and connect individuals in need to appropriate service personnel like EMTs, outreach workers for unhoused populations, or the police.

SFPD retired police ambassadors are part of a broader strategy to provide alternatives to the police on the street. San Francisco has dramatically increased the presence of ambassadors in neighborhoods across the City. This includes Urban Alchemy ambassadors in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market area; Welcome Ambassadors across Downtown, Union Square, and tourist areas;  SFPD Community Ambassadors in neighborhoods across the City; and transit station attendants at BART stations. The Mayor has also funded new ambassadors for the Mission, which will deploy next month.