My proposed budget is built on delivering the basics that our residents deserve and our City needs. This includes our need to focus on public safety. While we are closing a massive deficit, it’s critical that we still focus on making San Francisco a safe and just city for all.
The top priority is to turn around our police staffing crisis and start growing our police force again. But public safety is not just about police officers — it’s a wide range of solutions. It’s work around accountability and alternatives to policing. It’s the work we do to make sure our police officers have the proper training to do their jobs in the community and keep everyone safe. It’s the work we do to coordinate all of our local, state, and federal partners to tackle our most difficult challenges like open-air drug markets.
Safety must be a focus for our neighborhoods and for our economic recovery Downtown. It’s what we hear about from residents, small business owners, and workers. The good news is there has been growing support for this wide range of solutions to safety, and I’m hopeful that support will continue in the budget.
Building Back our Police Staffing
Since the pandemic, we’ve seen our police staffing levels dramatically drop. This has impacted our ability to staff district stations and to provide consistent and comprehensive coverage across our entire city.
Despite this, our police officers have continued to do work, relying on overtime to keep our city safe. For example, despite understaffing, SFPD has maintained a homicide clearance rate above 90% (the national average is around 60%.) SFPD has increased drug arrests in the Tenderloin, pulling 60 kilos of fentanyl (a 170% increase from the previous year) off the street.
But to see real change, we need to turn around our police staffing. This requires a focus on four areas: recruitment, retention, civilianization, and alternatives to policing.
The good news is that San Francisco has seen an increase in applications for the Police Department over the last six months, with levels reaching interest not seen since 2018. This is welcome news after recent struggles to fill Academy classes.
My budget builds on this growing momentum by:
- Funding 220 new officers over the next two years, with a goal of reaching 1800 sworn officers this year. This is part of a multi-year strategy to reach full staffing in the next five years.
- Supporting the recently approved contract to make the City the highest paid starting salary for officers of large Bay Area cities.
- Setting dynamic Academy class goals so that the Department is ready to start classes as they fill
- Supporting SFPD recruitment efforts to conduct various outreach strategies, improve the application process and continue to add resources dedicated to recruiting.
On retention, we are increasing incentives at key years when officers tend to leave the force, either by transferring to another station or retiring. Because as much as we need to grow our force with new recruits, we also need to keep the officers we are training in our City to keep our ranks stable as we build back.
But Police Staffing isn’t just about police officers. It’s also about moving non-law enforcement work away from police officers to provide a more appropriate response and to free up our officers to focus on crime and safety issues.
In this budget we are
- Expanding civilian staffing by funding 22 new Police Service Aides. These PSAs assist with administrative duties and write and file reports on low-priority incidents, which allows our officers to be out in the field instead of behind a desk.
- Continuing call diversion efforts, including funding for the Street Response Teams, which are out 24/7 responding to calls for service. Our Street Crisis Response Team alone has responded to around 20,000 calls since it launched at the end of 2021.
- Maintaining the current level of ambassadors in the City, including recent expansions. This includes SFPD Community Ambassadors (retired police officers), Urban Alchemy in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market, Welcome Ambassadors in Downtown and tourist areas, BART attendants in Downtown transit stations, and the Mission Ambassadors.
Shutting Down Open-Air Drug Markets
We have to prioritize shutting down open-air drug markets to remove the harm it causes in our neighborhoods and for those struggling with addiction. This requires more law enforcement staffing, and partnerships between local, state, and federal enforcement agencies. This has been paired with expanded treatment and services through our Department of Public Health and other outreach programs. To further that work, this budget:
- Funds the recent expansion of prosecutors in the District Attorney’s Office dedicated to targeting drug dealing.
- Funds eight new park rangers to continue their work with City Departments in UN Plaza and other public spaces in the city.
It also includes funding our multi-agency effort coordinated by the Department of Emergency Management to focus on three key areas: open drug sales, public drug use, and illegal fencing of stolen goods in the drug market areas.
- Drug Sales: SFPD, the Sheriff, and the District Attorney will coordinate with state and federal law enforcement partners to identify and arrest drug dealers and traffickers, disrupt the supply chain, and reduce the profitability of this criminal operation.
- Drug Use: SFPD and the Sheriff are coordinating to arrest and detain those who pose a danger to themselves and to others. Anyone detained in our jails is supported by Jail Health Services and offered access to voluntary services upon release. At the same time, city health and homelessness outreach workers will continue the proactive outreach in targeted neighborhoods, offering a wide range of public health and homelessness services to those on our streets;
- Illegal Fencing of Stolen Goods: SFPD is enforcing against illegal sales of stolen goods and supporting Public Works’ inspection efforts, confiscation, and other enforcement against vending in violation of our existing lawful street vending program.
Making our communities safe and welcoming requires so many investments. In addition to the above investments, we will continue to do the hard work to expand efforts to support our communities like with our investments in small businesses, street cleaning and graffiti abatement, early education and schools, homelessness and mental health, and programs like the Dreamkeeper Initiative.
Creating a safe and just city isn’t just about responding to crime, but also addressing the root causes with investments that lift up the community and give people an opportunity to thrive.