logo

How to Become a Police Officer in San Francisco

San Francisco is home to over 860,000 residents and is the fourth-largest city in California, with a variety of amenities to offer.1 Over 2,200 cops protect and serve the residents and tourists in San Francisco.2 Despite its large police force, San Francisco has higher than average crime rates, with an average of 477.7 violent crimes and 3,348 violent crimes per 100,000 residents.3 Individuals wishing to become a part of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) will find information on the application, selection, and training process below.

San Francisco Police Officer Requirements

The San Francisco Police Department is continually recruiting for officers to join its force. To qualify for a police officer job in San Francisco, candidates must:

  • Be at least 21 years of age
  • Be a US citizen
  • Have a high school diploma or GED
  • Possess a valid driver’s license
  • Have visual acuity of 20/30 corrected in each eye, 20/100 uncorrected, and undergo vision testing for binocular vision
  • Have no felony convictions
  • Have no domestic violence misdemeanors or misdemeanor in which the penalty prohibits the ownership or possession of a firearm

Interested candidates must first submit an application and schedule and take the written FrontLine National law enforcement exam. Candidates who pass and meet the department’s qualifications will be contacted to schedule a physical ability test, which ensures that potential law enforcement officers can handle the physical demands of the job. SFPD applicants who pass these two exams must next undergo polygraph, psychological, and medical examinations. The best-qualified candidates will be selected to attend the police academy for recruit training.

For additional information about becoming a law enforcement officer in a big city, see 10 Steps to Becoming a Police Officer on our home page. Interested applicants can find more recruitment information on the SFPD website.

Chief William “Bill” Scott was selected as San Francisco’s Chief of Police in 2017. He has over 27 years of law enforcement experience and started his career with the Los Angeles Police Department (LAPD). Chief Scott holds a bachelor’s in accounting from the University of Alabama. He is dedicated to community policing and brings to the department his experience in implementing major reforms.

San Francisco Police Department Academy

Basic training for all SFPD recruits occurs at the San Francisco Police Department Regional Training Facility, also known as the SFPD Academy. The academy’s goal is to get officers mentally and physically ready for the demanding police work that lies ahead of them. The basic training academy course is a 664-hour course with training in 42 topics, including the law, the use of weapons, responding to critical incidents, and communication. Most instruction is held during the day, though some night training is included.

San Francisco Police Department Information

The SFPD has 10 district patrol stations across the city, which are overseen by the Field Operations Bureau. The department also maintains specialized units such as the Marine Unit, SWAT Team, Major Crimes Unit, Explosive Ordinance Disposal Unit, and Bay Area Urban Area Security Initiative.

The SFPD entered into a voluntary oversight with the US Department of Justice in 2016 program aiming towards significant reforms; the program is now under the oversight of the State of California. Current initiatives in the reform process include improving community-oriented policing practices, transparency, professionalism, and accountability. The reform efforts have also improved the city’s police recruiting practices through increased transparency about the process and a new physical abilities test that more closely aligns with current policing standards.2

The SFPD stays involved with the community through the San Francisco PALs, the Police Activities League. This league provides activities for youth across the city that includes a conditioning program, the sandlot program, baseball, cheerleading, football, and judo. The Department also offers fishing and wilderness adventure youth programs. SFPD also works with San Francisco SAFE (Safety Awareness for Everyone) to help neighborhood and business watch groups, educate citizens about youth and older adult safety, and encourage community organizing. The SFPD also offers a Community Police Academy, a 10-week course that trains citizens in community policing and provides insights into SFPD operations.

Department Contact Information

1245 3rd St
San Francisco, CA 94158
(415) 558-5595
SFPD Website
SFPD Facebook
SFPD Twitter

Salary, Benefits, and Jobs Outlook

The starting salary for San Francisco patrol officers is $84,682 per year.2 With annual step increases, officers earn a base salary of $115,544 per year after seven years of service.2 Officers also receive paid vacation, holidays, and sick days and are eligible for bilingual and special assignment pay. Retiring officers receive a pension of 3% of their final compensation per year of service, up to 90% of their final compensation tier for 30 years of service.2

Cops in San Francisco earn an average annual salary of $109,810.4 The number of police officers in California is projected to increase by 5% by 2026, resulting in an average of 350 new job openings per year.5 The actual number of cops San Francisco hires is tied to the city’s budget and the number of police who retire annually. To view open police positions in San Francisco, visit our jobs board.

Cities and Police Departments Near San Francisco

There are about 8,530 police and sheriff’s patrol officers employed in the San Francisco metro.4 For those who would like to live in the area but are seeking different opportunities than those offered by the San Francisco PD, there are several suburban and collar communities that regularly hire qualified officers. The below table compares selected area cities based on police employment and crime rates.

CityForce Name/AbbreviationCity Population6Police Dept. Total Employees7Sworn Officers7Civilian Staff7Violent Crime Rate per 1,000 People8Property Crime Rate per 1,000 People8
BerkeleyBerkeley Police Department (BPD)122,324263175880.494.43
Daly CityDaly City Police Department (DCPD)107,074133100330.231.52
OaklandOakland Police Department (OPD)425,1951,0467502961.45.63
San FranciscoSan Francisco Police Department (SFPD)883,3052,8922,2965960.75.36
San MateoSan Mateo Police Department (SMPD)104,748148111370.232.04
San RafaelSan Rafael Police Department (SRPD)59,0708665210.422.9

Additional Resources

References:
1. Sperling’s Best Places, San Francisco, CA: https://www.bestplaces.net/city/california/san_francisco
2. San Francisco Police Department: https://sanfranciscopolice.org
3. US News & World Report Best Places to Live, San Francisco, CA: https://realestate.usnews.com/places/california/san-francisco/crime
4. Bureau of Labor Statistics, Occupational Employment and Wage Estimates, San Francisco-Oakland-Hayward, CA: https://www.bls.gov/oes/current/oes_41860.htm
5. Projections Central: http://www.projectionscentral.com/projections/longterm
6. US Census Bureau, QuickFacts: https://www.census.gov/quickfacts/fact/table/US/PST045218
7. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Full-time Law Enforcement Employees by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-26/table-26.xls/view
8. Federal Bureau of Investigation Uniform Crime Reports, Offenses Known to Law Enforcement by State by City: https://ucr.fbi.gov/crime-in-the-u.s/2016/crime-in-the-u.s.-2016/tables/table-6/table-6.xls/view