But back to the Bay Area in San Francisco- I lived out there in 1996-1997, and offer the following:
San Jose Police Dept. was starting at 65k back then- that's right, 65k. Lots of openings at the time, and opportunities for special assignments.
Santa Clara County Sheriff's Dept- You start in Detention and spend some time there before you can bid on the road. Real diverse county with large cities and small towns. A little bit of everything
Fremont Police Dept. Fremont had 175k people when I lived there, up over 205K now. Brand new police facility, pay is comparable to other dept's in the area. Excellent bennies and contract. They have Community Service Officers (CSO's) who are non sworn and take a lot of the junk calls (abandoned autos, illegally parked autos, barking dogs, etc.)
Richmond PD- Very urban. Kind of like working in Brockton. They accept laterals from MA. An minimum AA degree is required.
Bay Area Rapid Transit (BART) Police. Similar to T police in their mission. Very squared away Dept.
Lots of guys do 20 years with the bigger urban Depts like SF or SJ and retire with a 50% pension at age 42 or 43, and then go to work full time for a rural county sheriff's office like Stanislaus County.
Stay away from East Palo Alto PD. This city was formed about 10 years ago, and there's lot's of problems within the Dept. Also avoid Union City and Heyward.
The City of Sunnyvale has a Public Safety Dept where police and fire are combined into one dept., and you have to cross train between the two fields. While you are a PSO (Public Safety Officer) You rotate regularly between the police and fire sides, and while you are on the police side you keep your helmet and turnout coat in the trunk of your cruiser in case of a big fire. I think that as you start taking promotional exams you can then specialize in one field or the other.
You should look at the California POST (Peace Officer Standards & Training) www.post.ca.gov/
for information on the "Basic Course Waiver Process" (laterals) as well as current job openings
Also remember that while the pays sound high, the cost of living is as well. You won't find a house for under $500k, and the apt that I was renting for $1200 a month back then is now renting for $1950. Gas prices are insane. It's a beautiful area with lots of things to see and do, but 3 million other people are trying to see and do the same things as you on freeways that make the Southeast Expressway look state of art.
JDS I hope some of this is helpful. If you have any specific questions send me a message.