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Effort to hold up police academy funding for SF anti-bias training fails

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A request by Superviser Mar to hold up funding for police academy classes until anti-bias training was established failed Monday. EXAMINER FILE PHOTO

A move to hold up funding for police academy classes until a comprehensive anti-bias training was established in the San Francisco Police Department was defeated Monday.

As the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee was finishing up a hearing on the mayor’s proposed budget, Supervisor Eric Mar made the request in response to the revelations this year that 14 police officers exchanged bigoted and homophobic text messages in 2011 and 2012.

He asked the committee to place on reserve $2.1 million in the budget for the final two of five police academy classes in the budget proposal. The funding could be released by the committee only if the Police Department could show a comprehensive anti-bias training was established for the entire police force.

Mar, looking for support from his colleagues, scaled back the proposal to only put on reserve $1 million in funding for the fifth class. Supervisor Norman Yee supported it. But chair of the committee Mark Farrell and other committee members Katy Tang and Scott Wiener opposed it.

“This is a very modest request given the seriousness of the racist, homophobic, anti-immigrant, sexist texting that happened,” Mar said, adding that it would help ensure “our city has a police force that is as free of bias as possible and that we have concrete plans within the Police Department.”

But Wiener was quick to criticize the proposal. “This would have the effect of delaying the hiring of much needed police officers,” Wiener said.

Yee countered that “it’s really important for us to make a statement that the Police Department develop this anti-bias curriculum as soon as possible.”

Tang argued: “I don’t see that we have to delay a class in order to achieve those goals.”
The debate highlighted the ongoing political tensions surrounding the Police Department and the ongoing debate about hiring more police officers. Today, the board could vote on a resolution supporting a higher staffing mandate of officers.

Mar said he planned to make the request again when the full board votes on the budget next month.

Meanwhile, the committee expects to finalize its budget deliberations mid-afternoon Wednesday. If that happens it would be unusual. Add-back processes in past years have lasted well past midnight.

The add-back process is when the committee takes the pot of money it accrued after making cuts to the mayor’s proposed budget and reallocates the money to other priorities.

“It’s a different tone given the economic success of our city,” Farrell said of this year’s budget process. “But that doesn’t mean there aren’t real needs remaining, and serious work in front of us.”

By Monday afternoon, all city departments had come to an agreement with the committee about reductions. But Monday night board members were said to be deciding how to reallocate money. Farrell estimated there was at least $15 million of revenue to spend on different priorities in the first year of the budget proposal and $10 million in the second.

A coalition of nonprofits has identified $33 million in funding they would like the committee to allocate for such things as rent subsidies and food programs.

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