Q&A: Meet Ocean Avenue Footbeat Officer Drewkai Butler

The neighborhood’s longest-serving footbeat officer brings people skills to the street.

Drewkai Butler, the Ocean Avenue footbeat officer for Taraval Station. Alex Mullaney/Ingleside Light
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San Francisco Police Officer Drewkai Butler has become a familiar sight on Ocean Avenue like fog and the K Ingleside streetcar. Since 2019, he has served as the footbeat officer with a special commitment to community policing.

In April, Butler was honored for his dedication, service and commitment to public safety at the San Francisco Coordinating Council of Lions Clubs 57th Annual Police, Firefighters, and Sheriffs' Awards Night at the Scottish Rite Masonic Center.

“Officer Butler has obtained ‘rock star status’ on the Ocean Avenue corridor,” former Taraval Station Capt. Eric Vintero wrote in the station’s weekly newsletter.

“Officer Butler is well respected by his peers and supervisors at Taraval Station for his extreme professionalism, tenacious drive, and for this infectious personality,” Vintero continued. “Officer Butler is truly one of SFPD's finest.”

His family moved to San Francisco from Liberia, West Africa, when he was seven years old. He attended Lakeshore Elementary, Presidio middle and to Bridgemont High School before attending UC Berkeley where he graduated with a degree in sociology.

“I was going to do electrical engineering, but having to study math and calculus seemed too boring,” Butler said. “And then I found out that sociology was a people subject so that was my lane to go.”

He worked in the staffing industry, and then moved to employee relations.

“My team's job was to handle all HR issues in person,” Butler said. “Just dealing with people and people problems.”

The Ingleside Light interviewed Butler about his work patrolling Ingleside’s stretch of Ocean Avenue.

This interview has been lightly edited for clarity and brevity.

How did you become a police officer?

I saw some things going on in the city around 2015 that didn't remind me of the way things used to be done so I figured that if you want to see a difference as an officer, be that difference. I wanted to join up and come out here. And if there are situations that are going on, I’d bring a different approach to get different results, and just be a better part of helping out San Francisco.

Which stations have you been assigned?

I finished the academy in 2016 and then went to Taraval Station for probation, moved to Central Station and then transferred back to Taraval Station, where I was able to get on the footbeat.

You are the longest-serving footbeat officer on Ocean Avenue in recent memory. Why did you pick the footbeat?

The footbeat is the only way you can really interact with a lot of people in a short amount of time. Walking up and down Ocean Avenue, I can say “Hi” to 50 to 100 people a day. That constant interaction, that constant presence, helps San Francisco police connect with the community.

It just really gives you that ability to connect with people. If you're in a vehicle driving by you just don't have the time to have those connections. People like connections and it makes you feel a part of the community.

Every six months you put in to stay on Ocean Avenue, correct?

I always want to be out here. There's nothing like connecting with people and in the end, everything is always going to break down to people. Cool products are only cool because people enjoy those products. I find people to be the most important thing on any job. And if I can invest in the lives of people in a positive way — whether it's just sharing a smile with somebody, a laugh with somebody, a conversation with somebody, a hug with somebody, make somebody's day better — I can be out here making that difference in the lives of hundreds of people.

What is the day-to-day work besides being a presence? I imagine that Walgreens and Whole Foods take up a lot of your time.

Yeah, we do handle the shoplifting that goes on in the city — I don't have to expand on that. And we handle the vandalism calls, domestic violence calls and fight calls. Whatever people need out here, even if it's just questions on whether or not to file a report, I handle that.

From the mundane to hate crimes, I've responded to those as well out here. But just by your presence being out here, there's so much more that I believe that you get to prevent, and you really get a better chance to keep the peace by having your presence out here constantly, rather than always having to restore the peace. There's probably 1,000 things that I get to prevent by just being out here.

Any insight about the fabric of Ocean Avenue?

It's an amazing corridor because to the north and south of Ocean Avenue there are different groups of people, but they all intermix and find a way to get along. There’s different ethnic groups, different economic groups and different class groups. It's like a little microcosm of San Francisco with just a huge diversity and mix. Everybody is doing their own thing and that's just OK.

How long do you want to stay as Ocean Avenue’s footbeat officer?

Until they take me off the beat.

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