San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott had requested $1 million in reserve funding to purchase Tasers for the department, but the request was rejected by the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee this week. (Kevin N. Hume/S.F. Examiner)

Supes reduce proposal to increase police overtime, cut funding for Tasers

Deal reached on department budget preserves funding for Union Square patrols

An overtime increase proposed by the Police Department for next year was reduced under an agreement reached Friday, a day after funding to equip officers with Tasers was cut.

The reductions will give the Board of Supervisors Budget and Finance Committee more funding to allocate to other spending priorities as it continues to review Mayor London Breed’s $12.3 billion budget proposal for next fiscal year.

“I think that it is a good compromise,” said Supervisor Catherine Stefani. “Although I still feel the need is out there probably to do more.”

On Friday, the committee and Police Chief Bill Scott agreed to reduce a portion of the proposed overtime increase by $1.4 million and to cut the $626,000 cost of a new pilot program to have 14 retired officers patrol the Union Square area in half.

Budget Analyst Harvey Rose had recommended a full cut of the $2.4 million in overtime spending increase, pointing to plans to increase the hiring of new officers and civilianize other positions. He said that with the overtime cut, the department would still have $19.9 million in overtime funds to spend. In fiscal year 2017-18, the department spent $19.2 million on overtime.

Rose also recommended the committee consider cutting all of the total Union Square pilot costs and letting the Union Square businesses bear the cost.

The recommendations came after a review of the department’s proposed $695.7 million budget for next fiscal year, a 10.5 percent or $65.9 million increase from the current year’s budget.

Supervisor Rafael Mandelman likened Rose’s recommendations to “a modest haircut.”

Scott said that the overtime increase was needed to sustain officers walking beats and boost service hours.

“We want to keep it going — we are in a good place — and enhance it,” Scott said Thursday.

On Friday, Scott said that despite the reduction, “This will allow us to continue the momentum that we’ve had over the last couple of years in reducing crime and engaging with our community.”

He said the reduction means the 28,000 service hours that would have been funded by the $2.4 million would now be reduced to 14,000 hours.

Scott said with the reduction to the Union Square pilot program by half that “we plan to roll this out and pilot this on peak hours and peak days.”

On Thursday, the committee debated the issue but put over the discussion to Friday, when an agreement was announced.

On Thursday the committee did agree to cut the $1 million for Tasers, which Scott requested to buy the devices.

Last year, the committee cut $2 million for Tasers and put $1 million on reserve. It was this reserve that the committee cut.

That means that the Police Department won’t be able to purchase the devices next fiscal year.

Ronen said Thursday that Scott has made “meaningful progress” on police reform and lowered the amount of use of force significantly.

She noted that there were three deaths in San Mateo County last year after they had Tasers used on them.

“I believe that introducing a new weapon that is increasingly more and more problematic, and the evidence is bearing that out, is dangerous and will set that tremendous gain that you have made backwards,” Ronen said.

The committee’s budget deliberations continue next week.

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