Shootings are up. Homicides are up. Burglaries are up. Now is the time in San Francisco for us to see more officers on our streets, not less. More patrols. More visible engagement. More vigorous crime investigations. It looks like the residents of San Francisco share that view as well as our Police Commission.
A few weeks ago, Chief Scott was asked to propose a budget that included a 7% cut to the Department. While it does not sound like a lot on paper, but in terms of impact on the operation of the Department, it is disastrous. It would require eliminating 210 SFPD positions, 167 of them sworn positions. And while the cuts would hurt today, they create absolutely catastrophic impacts for our future. It’s important to note that while Chief Scott proposed the cuts, he did so because he was directed to do so. He publicly opposed the cuts.
Part of the proposed cuts included two options, one in which we’d stop all academies. The other option included cutting existing sworn positions and stopping academes. The results? Over five years, sworn staffing would drop from the current 1,829 down to 1,629 under the first option, and it would drop down to 1,502 sworn officers under the second. That’s a loss of 10.9% and 17.9%, respectively. When you look at it from the perspective of where the City’s independent consultant states we should be at, which is 2,176 officers, it leaves us understaffed by 40% under the worst-case scenario.
Thankfully, we’re not alone in that feeling. San Francisco residents and business owners are speaking up. They’re tired of the crime. They’re tired of violence, and they’re tired of the excuses. They want their city back. The San Francisco Police Commission recently heard the presentation and unanimously rejected it. Their action, albeit largely symbolic, sends a message that we haven’t heard publicly in our city for some time: cops make us safer.
San Francisco officers who work the streets know they enjoy the public’s support. But oftentimes, that’s only conveyed in private messages, a handshake, or maybe a warm hello at a coffee shop, not in newspapers, TV broadcasts, or in public meetings. It’s a welcome change.
Police staffing alone, however, cannot stop the alarming increases in crime in San Francisco, especially the gang activity and shootings. That requires swift and firm prosecution, and we all know how that is going. When Chesa Boudin was elected District Attorney, he was widely hailed as the golden child of criminal justice reform. San Franciscans, however, are seeing that everything that glitters is not always gold.
On the campaign trail and during his first year in office, Boudin’s platitudes on how the criminal justice system should operate were taken as some sort of sacrosanct sage omens. Always accepted. Never questioned or tested. That honeymoon is over.
We’ve seen several San Francisco journalists push Boudin for answers on the rise of crime and the recent rash of violent crime committed by serial offenders who are on the streets instead of serving time. Residents, for their part, are not buying the nonsense either. After all, they are the people who are living with the daily impacts of crime at their doorstep. They, too, are pushing Boudin, the Board of Supervisors, and the Mayor for action.
We’re not out of the woods yet on SFPD budget cuts. The rejection of the proposed cuts and the public outcry to address a crime problem that is spiraling out of control are good signs. It’s helpful that while the Mayor asked the Chief to lay out what a 7% cut looks like, she has not been dogmatic in her approach, nor has the majority of the Board of Supervisors. Our hope is they look at the budget with an analytic eye and with the belief that cops can, in fact, make us safer.