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Beware of Politicians Bearing Ballot Measures

June 1, 2020
Tony Montoya - SFPOA President

There’s the old saying, you can’t have your cake and eat it too. Someone should have told our Board of Supervisors. For San Francisco politicians, it’s more like have they want their cake, and then they want to eat the whole damn bakery. Apparently, many of our Supervisors wanted to be police chiefs when they grew up, and that spells trouble for our city.

We’re approaching the deadline for when our City’s elected officials can submit proposals to go before the voters on the November ballot. Unfortunately for SFPD, this means it’s open season on nonsensical ideas that get their author’s good headlines for a day. Ideas that either can’t be implemented or they’d be disastrous if they were implemented.

The most recent press conference-launched proposal comes from Supervisors Haney and Walton. Their measure requires police foot patrols in every police district.

Everyone loves foot patrols.

Haney argued that his constituents are mad when they have fewer police officers and when foot patrols are redeployed elsewhere. Odd. You mean your residents actually want police officers? Of course, they do.

The proposal has one small fault. No new officers. These politicians want more services to please their constituents, yet they offer zero new officers. They offer the usual platitudes for solutions. The Chief should “re-prioritize” and “re-allocate” officers to staff the foot patrols. But take the officers from where? From patrol cars that respond to 911 calls? From special details that focus on priorities such as domestic violence, human trafficking, and outreach to the homeless?

They’re not saying.

Now let’s turn to Supervisor Yee’s grand proposal. He wants to propose a Charter amendment that would eliminate the requirement that the City have a minimum of 1,971 full duty police officers. Yee proposes removing the minimum staffing requirement and have the City instead rely on a “data-driven model” to determine police staffing. Small problem. The City has never met the minimum staffing requirement. So, unless you plan on continuing your history of understaffing the Department, why is this Charter amendment necessary?

Yee’s proposal drips with hypocrisy. The Board of Supervisors already possesses a data-driven report by Matrix Consultant Group that debunked the 1,971-officer number. It states SFPD should have 2,176 officers! That same report states you need to increase officers to properly staff foot beats.

All the Supervisors above have that report. None of the Supervisors above have done anything to address the disparity in the number of officers we have and the number of officers we need. Yet, we get press conference after press conference and proposal after proposal.

Also not mentioned in the press conferences is the fact that each ballot measure will likely cost the City hundreds of thousands of dollars in election costs. As cuts are made to services, is it really responsible to ask the voters to pay for these vanity projects?

Policing alone will not lead to safer neighborhoods and reduced crime. We also must attack the culture of crying a tear every time someone robs a San Franciscan at gunpoint is arrested and put “in the system.” We’ve built one of the nation’s largest and swiftest revolving doors. In our city, “Gone in 60 Seconds” isn’t a car heist movie. It’s the amount of time it takes to go from cuffs back to the streets.

As long as these Supervisors support their District Attorney’s criminals-first policy, crime will grow unchecked. What good are officers on a foot beat if they chase the same gang bangers and SFPD frequent flyers around the block every week? There are no ballot measures to address this.

All of this nonsense leaves the residents of San Francisco voting on proposals that will give them false hope of more officers in their neighborhoods to help crack down on crime. It’s a disservice.

It’s puzzling why these politicians won’t just step up and do the hard work and actually deliver the results their promising to their residents. Work with the SFPD on what is genuinely needed for staffing and then put together a plan to achieve it. We elect eleven Supervisors to solve problems, not to let them all play Police chief for the day. Maybe it’s time to put the microphones down and get to work?