The SFPD has been frequently met with criticism, unavoidable due to problems of accountability and corruption that plagued the department early in its inception. In 1937, an investigation, referred to as the “Atherton Report” by District Attorney Matthew Brady found that more than $1 million per year was being pocketed by officers from regular payoffs by prostitution, gambling and other criminal interests. It has also dealt with attacks such as the Preparedness Day Bombing in 1916 and the San Francisco Police Department Park Station bombing in the 1960s by leftist radicals.
Recent examples of controversy include racist and homophobic texts (http://www.latimes.com/local/lanow/la-me-ln-racist-police-text-messages-review-20150317-story.html), police shootings, the reaction to Critical Mass bicycle rides and protests in the Financial District against U.S. foreign policy. Surprisingly the rate of complaints against officers and “excessive force” cases are lower relative to other big-city departments, such as the LAPD, the NYPD, or CPD. Nevertheless, the city retains one of the highest complaint rates; particularly when analyzed on a per-capita basis, factoring in the relatively small population of San Francisco compared to Los Angeles or New York. This could be attributed to several factors, including the dramatic increase of so-called “transient population”, or those coming to visit the city (increasing the population to approximately 1.3 million), or the proactive nature of the Office of Citizen Complaints, or OCC. The OCC, created by San Francisco City Charter, has been known to solicit complaints from people contacted by police, and while the initial complaint volume appears high, the actual volume of sustained complaints against officers is very low for a department of its size.
November 20, 2002: A scandal known as “Fajitagate” occurred when three off-duty police officers—Matthew Tonsing, David Lee, and Alex Fagan Jr.—assaulted two San Francisco residents, Adam Snyder and Jade Santoro, over a bag of fajitas. Alex Fagan Jr. is the son of SFPD Assistant Chief Alex Fagan, who later became Chief. Nine officers and Chief Earl Sanders were involved in a cover up regarding the fight. This incident has led to a grand jury indictment of the parties involved. However, unable to prove that a cover up ever existed, the district attorney dropped the charges against former Chief Earl Sanders. Acting Chief Alex Fagan also resigned. In 2006, a civil jury found former officers Fagan and Tonsing liable for damages suffered in the beating, awarding plaintiffs Snyder and Santoro $41,000 in compensation. In 2011,[when?] the FBI opened an investigation into alleged police misconduct. Public Defender Jeff Adachi released video footage from security cameras that showed different cases of SFPD officers entering apartments without warrants, plain-clothed officers not displaying badges, and officers removing belongings that were never accounted for in police reports and other court documents. The misconduct lead to dismissal of 57 criminal cases.
In 2012, 12 employees (sworn or unsworn) of the department were charged with crimes. Seven were cited for drunk driving, three for theft, one for possession of drug paraphernalia and one for unauthorized access to official databases.
The SFPD has also been criticized for the high salaries received by staff. Due to the high cost of living in the Bay Area, SFPD officers starting salary is the highest in the country at $81,380 to $113,282. Greg Suhr, is the highest paid police chief in the country, at $321,577.