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Mental Health Issues are Significant Work Load of SF First Responders

June 1, 2019
Tony Montoya - SFPOA President

Our state faces a mental health crisis. San Franciscans feel this more than most. The SFPOA is working to advocate for more mental health funding and will be looking at new laws which will give local authorities a greater ability to intercede to ensure someone gets the care they need before they slip further towards a mental health crisis. This is the right thing to do and it keeps residents and officers safe.

SFPD officers are often the first response when someone is having a mental health crisis — and this can be very dangerous. In California, over 25% of all officer-involved shootings are related to someone with a mental illness. Police officers are not clinicians, but it’s now part of the job expectation. Yet, less than half of our officers have received Crisis Intervention Training. That’s unacceptable. It’s a question of money, and the SFPOA will be a strong voice locally and in Sacramento to ensure local law enforcement has the funding it needs to get the training our officers want and need.

We have a debilitating substance abuse problem. Our officers do the best they can to try and mitigate the neighborhood safety impacts caused by illicit drug use. The problem is much too big to solve on our own. The SFPOA is aggressively advocating that our political leaders address this crisis with something other than “compassion” that allows addicts to slowly die on our streets.

These are just some of the challenges that we must grapple with now. They certainly have become more politically complex than we’ve seen is past decades. That’s why it is critical that San Francisco police officers be a voice for what they want to see, and not just what we oppose.

Police Officers know that when they finish their watch, there will be an officer right behind them to start the next watch, to do the job we were sworn to do. No matter how much things appear to change, there is one constant, we protect and serve our community and we will never stop.