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The Road to Making San Francisco Safer

January 1, 2024
Tracy McCray - SFPOA President

For the first time in what seems like forever, we are making progress on San Francisco’s public safety issues. Illegal drugs are being seized by the kilo, Get-out-of-Jail Free cards for drug dealers are revoked; smash and grab crooks are being tied to bigger retail theft operations; and San Francisco residents are breaking their silence and demanding from city leaders’ safe neighborhoods.

While those are all significant landmarks on the road to rebuilding a safer San Francisco, now is not the time to take our foot off the gas. We can and should push further, now. There are three immediate steps our city can take that will have long-term positive impacts on public safety.
First, we must stop the police staffing freefall. SFPD is down 600 officers from where it should be, and that number will likely reach 700 soon. We exceed our 911 response time goals by dangerous margins, and we cannot perform special details, like cracking down on retail theft or increasing foot patrols around Union Square unless we take officers out of neighborhood patrols, dramatically increasing overtime, or both.

SFPD must be a place where future officers want to work and where current officers want to stay. Mayor Breed stepped up to ensure competitive wages and benefits for our officers and to add more police academies, and most of the Board of Supervisors supported that plan. Now we need an aggressive officer recruitment and retention plan. SFPD’s current plan leaves the Department an additional 100 officers in the hole. That’s not a plan. We need a plan that begins to fill that hole.
The second thing we can do right now is cut the red tape, cut the bogus rules, and let us do our jobs. It’s not unusual for an officer to spend her last hour to 90 minutes of her shift doing administrative tasks. They’re not answering 911 calls, connecting with the community, nor are they conducting proactive investigations. They feel like they spend more time fighting paper cuts than crime. This directly jeopardizes public safety.

Mayor Breed, as well as grass roots citizen groups, are pushing forward ballot measures next March to address a lot of the policy problems created by the anti-public safety members on the Board of Supervisors and the Police Commission and to give officers the tools and support they need to do their jobs. It will keep more officers on our streets, and it deserves a YES vote.
Third, certain members of the Board of Supervisors and Police Commission cannot step away from the soap box and allow SFPD to adopt long-proven technology products. In San Francisco, we contend with some members of the Board of Supervisors who are hostile to the police constantly trying to play games and cut our staffing. We deal with Police Commissioners more focused on activism than they are on public safety. These efforts hurt our ability to recruit and retain officers. Other examples of political non-public safety agendas that severely restrict our ability to use tools and best practices to protect the residents of our city include when Supervisors delay and oppose new technologies from being put in place, either by directly opposing them or putting in place complicated policies written by advocates who don’t live here to restrict what technology officers can use.

The Board of Supervisors has an opportunity to approve a $4 million state grant to install 400 automated license plate readers throughout San Francisco that both protect privacy and are a proven tool to address crime and expedite arrests and convictions. It’s a no brainer. They should do the right thing.

Those are three tangible actions our city can take to make San Francisco safer. But they will all be for naught if we do not change the organizational culture of our city government, the Police Commission specifically. The rhetoric, the disdain for police officers, the lack of knowledge of policing in general is driving good cops away and discourages new recruits from applying to the SFPD. This behavior can no longer be tolerated.

Words matter. Appointments to the Police Commission matter. Putting effective policies and innovative tools into the hands of our officers matters. If an elected or appointed city official can’t sheath their political axes and box up their silly political games, they should pull over and get out of the way. We don’t need them on this road to a safer San Francisco. They can hitch a ride somewhere else.

Your police officers stand ready to take the next steps to make San Francisco safer and to put in the hard work to rebuild a public safety infrastructure that puts the safety of our residents, workers, and tourists above all other interests.