I want to share with you directly an opinion piece I wrote this week to explain the nuance in my position regarding police funding, which has exploded throughout the media in recent weeks. You need to hear it from me, in my own words, because the internet trolls and right-wing pundits have taken over the narrative and misconstrued every word.
Consistent Values - People Over Handbags, De-police Poverty
We are at a moment in San Francisco’s history where inequality is at a record high, poverty is overwhelming, untreated mental illness and drug addiction are at epidemic levels, and the cost of living is beyond reach for even those working two full time minimum wage jobs. This reality is leading to street conditions in some places that are chaotic, unhealthy, and at times dangerous.
Where possible, I have supported defunding enormous police budgets to move resources to more effective responses to the visual street impacts of poverty. For example, I created the Street Crisis Response Teams that have shifted over 16,000 calls to 911 from the police to mental health professionals and community paramedics. I created a law to have the Department of Public Works enforce vendor permits and confiscate goods if vendors do not have proof of ownership. These new non-police run systems are starting to show impact and success.
However, the areas around the Mission’s BART Stations and all along Mission Street remain so chaotic that many people will no longer use public transportation. We also had a dangerous prostitution tract that had grown to the largest it has ever been on Capp Street. Because systemic change often takes years to implement, I have often advocated strongly for more foot beat officers in the Mission District to address immediately dangerous conditions. It took me months to get additional police presence on Capp Street and we didn’t actually get additional officers until I asked the Assistant Chief of Police to visit the site with me in the middle of the night.
In addition, despite regularly requesting additional foot beat officers at the 16th & 24th Bart Stations, because of reports of extortion of permitted street vendors and several homicides and assaults in these areas, SFPD had denied those requests for close to a year claiming understaffing. Meanwhile, they are deploying officers and spending disproportionately on overtime for programs like Safe Shopper, protecting high-end shops in Union Square. The Mission, and our beleaguered communities, once again, left behind.
Last week the police came to the Board of Supervisors asking for $25 Million dollars in extra overtime. The Chief presented data showing SFPD had spent over a hundred thousand hours protecting high end shops in Union Square. I have been advocating strongly for months, along with Mission small businesses and residents, for more police presence to address the dangerous street conditions in the Mission to little avail while SFPD has gone above and beyond to protect luxury stores.
While conservative pundits like to point out otherwise, it is fully consistent to simultaneously support the reallocation of money from enormous police budgets to more effective interventions better designed to address social problems like mental illness, homelessness, and addiction, while also requesting additional police presence to protect people from violent crimes in neighborhoods versus deploying more officers to protect luxury goods at Louis Vuitton.
It is also reasonable to request assistance from the police to address violence while also reimagining and creating alternative systems to protect public safety without killing people of color and over-incarceration. These goals are not in conflict with one another.
Police address symptoms of societal problems - they do not fix the root causes of crime, especially crimes related to poverty. Effective governance for my District requires short and long term strategies to address problems. We must be flexible, innovative, and maintain the ability to see gray in most things. I will never stop reimagining and working towards a more just world where every resident can live with dignity and abundance free from both street and state violence. In the meantime, I must work towards livable neighborhoods where we share collective spaces in a dense city without hurting one another. FOX News may not understand the need for nuance and multiple strategies to address difficult problems, but I know most San Franciscans do.
I will be sending out a newsletter for March/April in a few weeks, but felt it essential to share this perspective with you meanwhile. As always, please reach out to my office with any concerns or questions by emailing: email@example.com.