Bo Kovitz wrote this post with contributions from the other reporters. 

Halloween wasn’t exactly a holiday for San Francisco police officers.

Early in the day, they prepared to increase foot patrols throughout the city, shifted work hours for some and got ready for the evening hours. Officers are not allowed to take the 31st off and there’s no overtime. It’s a different kind of day.

With daylight still shining, many officers spent their shifts in the community, some even trick-or-treating with residents. But as night fell, crowds of monsters, ghouls, superheroes and flashy characters slipped into the moonlight. More and more officers emerged, too, stationing themselves on the city’s heavily populated streets.

“We want to make sure everyone has a safe and enjoyable Halloween,” said SFPD Commander David Lazar, who also heads the department’s community policing division. “We’re vigilant every night, but on Halloween especially.”

Just after midnight, at 18th and Diamond streets, a call about a suspicious vehicle ended in an exchange of gunfire that sent an officer and a suspect to the hospital.

Earlier on, plenty of police presence was seen in the Castro, where dozens of officers were positioned in pairs or clusters. Some stood on empty street corners, “to be prepared,” said Officer C. Arew, who was one of nine officers standing at 18th and Dolores streets, backlit by the bright beams from Dolores Park’s tennis courts.

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As they watched,  hundreds of costumed San Franciscans danced and partied deep into the night. A dog dressed as a bush howled in unison with the siren of a passing cop car, the sound enveloped in the noise of the neighborhood.

When Officer Christian Serrano spotted a bundle of pastel balloons, strings wrapped around the enormous white gloves of two frighteningly made-up clowns, she lunged to intercept the clowns. She asked them to stop — and take a picture with her.

Serrano beamed as she posed between the clowns. She has worked at least six Halloweens, a holiday she said she enjoys “because the public tends to be more thankful for their service.”

On cue, someone in costume walked by.  “Thank you,” he said.

SFPD officers stand outside a gas station in the Castro district, where the department sent most of its cops to patrol the streets. Photo by Kaitlin Benz.

The other serious incident this year took place at approximately 8:10 p.m., when a driver traveling on Sloat Blvd. in the Sunset fatally struck a pedestrian.

Most incidents were the usual, common crimes — public intoxication and public nuisance, according to SFPD spokesperson Officer Grace Gatpandan.

“You can drink at the bars, but you can’t drink in the streets,” Gatpandan said.

Tell that to the drunk man who stumbled around outside Smoke Plus on 18th Street, dressed as an almost-too-convincing Captain Jack Sparrow. Or, to Troy, a homeless man perched on Haight Street with his dog Moxy. Both were clad in pirate apparel.

“I’m just trying to get some money for some rum to celebrate Halloween,” Troy said.

“You ever see a pirate dog? She’s got a patch, a striped shirt and even some little shorts.” Troy sits with his dog, Moxy, on Haight Street, where there was less police presence than usual as officers focused patrols elsewhere in the city for the holiday. Photo by Nikka Singh.

Other parts of the city were like ghost towns. Haight-Ashbury was quieter than usual all afternoon. Once it turned dark, Park Station was so still, it seemed asleep.

The only soul who wandered into the station was Officer Delaney, who said nothing really happened “until 10 or 11 at night.”

Early in the evening, more than a hundred witches encircled the foyer of City Hall and made rounds through the building, casting spells and praying for housing and sanctuary-city laws, among other legislation.

An officer from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Department interrupted the witches, who were then forced out of the building because they had brought burning materials inside.

Witches at City Hall Photo by Carlos Mureithi

Out in Civic Center Plaza, few wandered in front of City Hall as the night grew darker, the building’s architecture illuminated with a soft blood-tinted light. The only evidence of police was an unoccupied police car parked nearby.

In the lobby of SFPD’s Central Station that afternoon, another witch — a little one dressed in purple — sat with her feet dangling off a bench, popping M&Ms into her mouth.

Two SFPD officers, clutching plastic pumpkins and big bags brimming with candy, burst through the front doors of the station, soon to greet a small dinosaur, a construction worker and a young girl dressed as a strawberry.

“Want to see how the lights work?” asked Officer Brendan Mannix.

The lime-green dinosaur nodded and was then hoisted into the driver’s seat of a patrol car. Mannix showed the little boy how to turn the car’s lights on and off.

Central Station Officer Brendan Mannix teaches a young dinosaur how to operate the lights in an SFPD patrol car during a candy-filled afternoon. Photo by Susie Neilson.

Throughout Tuesday afternoon, officers at various stations, including the Bayview district, ramped up community policing efforts for Halloween. They passed out candy to children who went trick-or-treating as soon as school let out.

Similarly, in the Tenderloin, foot-beat officers joined kindergarteners through eighth graders at the City Academy in a show-and-tell, before walking with them through the neighborhood Tuesday morning.

Central District officers decorated the station’s lobby with pumpkins, with goofy faces scrawled on with Sharpie pens, and spent about $300 on Halloween candy to hand out to the community.

Sgt. Culbert Chu, who saw several kids throughout the day dressed up as cops, joked, “hopefully the officers won’t eat all the candy.”