For almost three years the City of San Rafael’s Police Department has had a dedicated “Downtown Foot Patrol” made up of three sworn officers, one civilian homeless outreach provider, and a supervisor. The Downtown Foot Patrol’s primary mission is to work with the community to improve quality of life issues. Sergeant Scott Eberle currently supervises the team.
What is your background – both within and before the Department?
After graduating from Novato High School, I went into the Army Reserve as a Combat Medic. I became a Police Cadet in 2000 while I attended Sonoma State University. When I graduated with a Bachelor’s Degree in Criminal Justice in 2001, I became a sworn police officer with the San Rafael Police Department. During my tenure here, I have been a persons, narcotics and property crimes detective (all separate times), a Field Training Officer, a Street Crimes Officer, a SWAT Team Leader, a K9 Supervisor and a Field Training Officer Sergeant. I recently received my Master’s Degree from the University of San Diego in Leadership in Law Enforcement and Public Safety.
What has surprised you the most in your position with the Downtown Foot Patrol?
I was expecting that there would be a lot of “red tape” when trying to collaborate with other city departments to solve quality of life issues. It has been just the opposite, all of the city employees that I have met and worked with during my time with the Downtown Foot Patrol have been such a pleasure to work with, have outstanding work ethic and energy that has made my job very easy.
What is the most frustrating part of your position?
The most frustrating part of my position is seeing homeless people refusing the help that is offered. I know that everyone works very hard to get people the services and help they need, but when someone falls off the wagon and gets wrapped back up in the criminal justice system, it is very frustrating. The “light at the end of the tunnel” is that I work with such a progressive group, we are constantly looking at trying out new methods to “police” those individuals. We are constantly looking at balancing rehabilitative and educational approaches into programs to get the most effective results.
What is the biggest myth about homelessness in San Rafael?
That homelessness is a police problem, and they are the only ones that can provide a solution. To help the problem of homelessness in San Rafael, it requires not only the police department but social services, city departments, business owners and residents all to work in partnership.
What do you consider to be your greatest achievement in your position?
The greatest achievement in my position is the relationships that I have established within the community and the city. Because of those relationships, we (the Downtown Foot Patrol) have been able to improve many quality of life issues. I certainly cannot take credit for any one achievement; it is completely a team endeavor each and every time.
Why is the Downtown Foot Patrol important?
The Downtown Foot Patrol is important to me because it allows for us to be out of our patrol vehicles to interact with the residents, business owners, and the homeless population. When we are out of our vehicles, it helps us to get to know the community and other city staff better. It allows us to be proactive in addressing problems facing our community and be more approachable and available to everyone. A specialty like the Downtown Foot Patrol gives us the opportunity to take the time necessary to come up with collaborative solutions and make a positive impact.
The Downtown Foot Patrol in front of City Hall (from left to right: Officer Anthony Scalercio, Officer David Casalnuovo, Officer Zach Brickell, Sergeant Scott Eberle, Officer Marc LaPlante, and Mental Health Resource Officer Lynn Murphy).
Over the past few years, the City has created a variety of tactical mechanisms for addressing quality of life issues in our community:
- Call 911 – If something doesn’t look or feel right, don’t be afraid to call the Police Department.
- Businesses Should Have a Trespass Letter on File – A Trespass Letter allows the Police Department to go on private property during off-hour patrols. Letters must be renewed every six months.
- Property Improvements – Lighting, surveillance, security gates, the Downtown Foot Patrol can help advise on successful diversion tactics. Please contact the Police Department (415-485-3000) and ask for Sgt. Eberle directly.
- Don’t Give Money on the Street – It’s excellent to give, but please know where your money is going and donate directly to local organizations.
- Please Visit the City’s “Report an Issue” Page – Trash, abandoned vehicles, graffiti, check out the City’s new website to get the help you need.