San Francisco has set the stage to make an even greater investment in the San Francisco Police Department, despite concerns about biased policing and other competing needs like below-market rate housing.
During the next two years, The City is slated to fund eight police academy classes — that includes $11 million for the first five classes next fiscal year — to hire some 400 new police officers.
The two-year hiring plan is expected to bring San Francisco in compliance with the 1994-voter mandated staffing level of 1,971, a level last met in 2009.
But the Board of Supervisors upped the ante Tuesday approving a resolution to say The City must go beyond the mandate, setting a goal of more than 2,200 officers, based on population growth since 1994.
“San Francisco has experienced a veritable explosion of property crimes,” said Supervisor Scott Wiener, who proposed the resolution. “We need more police officers.”
The department currently has 1,876 fully sworn officers with 1,483 assigned to patrol and 150 at the airport, according to the Police Department.
The proposal ignited a highly charged police staffing debate during the meeting over the legislation, which was approved in a 6-5 vote. The vote split along the moderate-progressive ideological lines. Supervisors London Breed, Katy Tang, Malia Cohen, Mark Farrell, Scott Wiener and Julie Christensen supported it. Supervisors Jane Kim, John Avalos, David Campos, Eric Mar and Norman Yee opposed it. While the resolution isn’t a mandate, it does commit the board politically to funding the effort.
“That the board commits to fully funding police academy classes to exceed this goal of 2,200 full duty sworn officers,” the resolution states.
The increase in the Police Department officers has generated concerns on several fronts. Homeless advocates worry it will lead to increased criminalization of homeless persons. Others argue the department needs to first focus on reform, pointing to the revelations this year that 14 police officers exchanged bigoted and homophobic text messages in 2011 and 2012.
There is also a question of resources. The more money allocated in The City budget to police, the less money is available for other spending priorities. The department’s budget increases from this fiscal year’s $528.8 million to $548.5 million in the proposed $8.9 billion city budget for next fiscal year.
The Mission-based nonprofit Just Cause organized a protest of the resolution. Protesters who filled the seats of the board chambers disrupted the meeting several times, shouting out “F— the police” or “bullshit.”
Some wore signs “Kids not cops.” Wiener’s opening remarks were interrupted by a chant of “crime is down, we need housing in this town,” forcing the meeting to temporarily go into recess.
Avalos, who led the unsuccessful charge to defeat the resolution, via Twitter called the vote a “loyalty oath” for the Police Officers Association.
Avalos said that the resolution is “tying the hands of The City on a singular unproven approach” adding that population isn’t the only factor to consider for police staffing.
Also Tuesday, the board unanimously approved Supervisor Scott Wiener’s proposed 22-member task force to formulate The City’s strategy for legalization of marijuana, which may be decided by state voters next year.