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As the Pendulum Swings

January 1, 2022
Tony Montoya - SFPOA President

Merriam-Webster’s Dictionary defines a pendulum as “a body suspended from a fixed point so as to swing freely to and fro under the action of gravity and commonly used to regulate movements (as of clockwork).” The pendulum, driven by gravity, is so completely in sync with the Earth’s movements that the pendulum clock, invited in the mid 1600s, was the world’s standard for timekeeping until the 1930s.

The figurative political pendulum is just as reliable as Galileo’s law of the pendulum. When the political tides turn too conservative, we see a swing to more liberal ideals and candidates. In our world, the so-called “criminal justice reform” movement swiftly drove the political pendulum on public safety and criminal justice policies to new heights. But as Galileo demonstrated, the pendulum swings back, which is what we’re seeing in San Francisco, across our state and across the nation.

Voters and residents showed expressed compassion when they approved of new laws (and candidates who supported those laws) that seemingly would eliminate or provide punishments for “victimless,” “petty,” or “non-violent” crimes. The ACLU, other activist organizations and activist politicians essentially told the voters that these proposals would end excessive sentences for smoking a joint or swiping a candy bar. People of color would finally be treated fairly. Violent criminals would be dealt with, but how many more people do you want serving life sentences for smoking weed? 

As we know, the ACLU and others lied. That’s not what those laws focused on at all. All of the reform laws, from AB 109 to Prop 47 and Prop 57 and more were really about a mass reduction in prison and jail populations, period, with nearly complete disregard to the crimes committed or long criminal histories of those who committed them. Then came the defund movement with promises of safety, reimagined, with fewer cops.

This is not what the public thought that it voted for, both proposition and candidate-wise, now there’s a reckoning coming for the hucksters who sold the voters this bill of goods.

While criminal justice crusaders like Chesa Boudin were coming up with new ways to not hold criminals accountable, both property and violent crime rose. As I write, total crime is up 10.7%, homicides are the highest they’ve been in 3 years, and gunshot victims are at a 5-year high. More striking, however, was not the total number of crimes going up, but the brazenness of the crimes and the violence behind them. In San Francisco, we’ve seen elderly Asian-American men cross the street in Chinatown and beat over the head and robbed of their watch. We’ve seen an innocent female senior citizen out for a walk body slammed for her purse.

The list is endless. People are fed up and its showing.

Our Mayor reversed course on defunding and is urging for more police and tougher actions against criminals stating the City will “take the steps to be more aggressive with law enforcement, more aggressive with the changes in our policies, and less tolerant of all the bullshit that has destroyed our city.”

The Governor, who only a few weeks before blamed law enforcement for the surge in shoplifting, changed course and is now proposing $300 million in funding to crack down on retail theft stating, “these organized retail mobs ... (have) a profound impact on our feelings of safety.”

Among the public, a CBS statewide poll in August showed that 92% of adult Californians ranked crime as an important issue, with 68% stating it was very important. In San Francisco, the Chamber of Commerce poll showed that 71% of voters felt homelessness and street behavior had gotten worse over last few years, and 81% stated crime has gotten worse and 76% wanted more officers in high crime areas.

Contrast this with the rhetoric of Boudin, the ACLU and others who were stating crime is going down, sentencing reform was working and that we just need to be more compassionate to those dealing and using drugs in our now world-famous open-air drug markets. In their wokeness, they’ve failed to wake up and see that the pendulum is swinging against them now.

What does this mean for the SFPOA and law enforcement in general? Essentially, we’re continuing to educate the public on the truth and as the pendulum swings our way our message of investing in policing, smarter investments in public safety and strict accountability for people who make a life or living out of creating more crime victims.

We work with other law enforcement organizations to keep our communities strong. This was our focus in launching An interactive website designed to begin to display the actual impacts of the policies pushed by the ACLU and others on our communities. They want to dazzle with cherry-picked-stats, but we will educate with hard facts and the stories of those harmed by groups like the ACLU.

By reminding ourselves of the law of the pendulum, we can focus on improving our profession and ourselves rather than scrambling to hold on every time it swings away from us. The pendulum will swing back our way because there is a truth that no so-called reformer can deny, people want and need to feel safe. It’s an innate human instinct that no policy paper drafted in the coziness of an ivory tower will ever change. They will do everything in their power to achieve that. So, in abusing the public’s trust in the experiment of leniency, reformers have pushed the pendulum back our way on their own, like clockwork.