Reform or don’t get paid.
That’s the message Supervisor John Avalos is sending to the San Francisco Police Department as part of the Board of Supervisors’ review of Mayor Ed Lee’s $9.6 billion budget proposal, which began Thursday.
On Friday, Avalos will ask the five-member board Budget and Finance Committee to support placing on reserve $200 million of the Police Department’s salary budget. Avalos said that would leave the department with enough funding to operate for the first six months of the fiscal year before having to return to the Board of Supervisors to ask for additional money.
The remaining money would only be released if the department makes specific reforms, like adopting a use-of-force policy that requires de-escalation techniques and “use of the ‘minimal force necessary’ as opposed to ‘reasonable’ force.”
There would also need to be quarterly reports on arrests and use of force, including demographic data and incidents resulting in death or injury.
Avalos made his case during a rally outside City Hall on Thursday morning.
The proposal comes as the Police Department is facing backlash for recent fatal police shootings, including that of a black woman in the Bayview last month, which led to then-Chief Greg Suhr’s resignation.
The board committee began Thursday reviewing city departments’ budgets in hearings that are expected to continue until June 23, when they would conclude with what is known as the “add-back” process. That’s when the committee reallocates the millions of dollars it had cut from the budget proposal and to other areas.
“We’ve been told for many years that reforms are on the way, that changes are being made, that policies are being put in place that would prevent officer-involved shootings and the use of force, and we are just not seeing that happen and lives are lost,” Avalos said, adding that it was exercising the “power of our purse strings.”
Avalos said he had a phone conversation with acting police Chief Toney Chaplin, who told him “don’t do it” in regards to holding police funding hostage. Avalos said he intends to have an in-person meeting with Chaplin prior to Friday’s committee hearing.
Supervisor Malia Cohen, however, raised concerns about impacts to “immediate staffing levels and incoming Police Academies.”
“I agree with Supervisor Avalos that the SFPD needs to be held accountable for delivering use-of-force reforms, but it is my hope we do not politicize a process that requires trust and collaboration from all sides,” Cohen said.
Mayor Ed Lee’s spokesperson Deirdre Hussey was also critical of the concept. Noting that “Mayor Lee is committed to implementing reforms,” Hussey pointed to such efforts as body cameras, the ongoing revision of use-of-force policies and an outside review by the Department of Justice.
“This is real reform — not politicking with the budget,” she said.
Avalos deflected concerns over the impact onto the department itself.
“If there is an officer shortage because we haven’t released funds, that means that the department is not carrying forward on the reforms that we are calling for. So that’s on the officers,” Avalos said.
The Police Department’s proposed $577 million budget for fiscal year 2016-17 is an increase by $32 million — 9 percent — from the current year, and would fund an additional 160 patrol officers. Of the total budget, $502 million is salaries and fringe benefits.