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A New Approach to Public Safety

I’ve received a lot of questions about how we can solve the crisis of police violence against our Black and Brown neighbors. It’s going to take a new approach and a willingness to rethink our public safety system. I’ve worked on community-based policing issues for years as a neighborhood activist and in volunteering with nonprofits in the Western Addition.

I’ll tell you from firsthand experience: a different approach to public safety can work. Less traditional policing doesn’t mean less public safety.

Invest in Community, not SFPD

San Francisco spends over $700,000,000 on its police department every year, by far our largest budget item. We need to reprioritize funding to Black & Brown communities and City departments that can empower our response to homelessness, housing, and COVID-19.

Reallocating SFPD Budget: Mayor London Breed and Sup. Shamann Walton have already called for a 15% cut to SFPD’s budget. It’s a great start that will bring at least $100,000,000 into Black neighborhoods. We can go further.

Reinvest in the Fillmore: The Fillmore and Western Addition along with other neighborhoods in SF that never fully recovered from decades of urban renewal and broken windows policing. From gang injunction and stay away orders to the three strike law. It was devastating to communities of color. Now is the time to reinvest in San Francisco’s historically Black neighborhoods through a truly community-driven process, not dictated by City Hall.

Fund new community-based programs in D5 and across San Francisco. Collective Impact + Mo’Magic right here in the Fillmore/Western Addition are a model for how we can defund police and refocus on our community. By addressing violence prevention, re-entry, and youth programs we can quickly reap public safety and wellness benefits.

COVID-19 Response: The coronavirus pandemic has left our neighbors in need. As budgets across the City are slashed, we need to reallocate funds from SFPD into a comprehensive response to COVID-19.

Reforming SFPD, Rethinking Public Safety

Our public safety system is built around a police response to every situation. SFPD is called on to deal with mental health, substance abuse, and complex issues arising from homelessness. These situations do not need to be met with a sworn officer. We can create a new system to respond to non-violent, non-criminal service calls and reform SFPD.

The Right First Response: This takes real follow through, because we need mental health and other trained professionals who can form a comprehensive and responsive system to address non-violent, non-criminal calls. These healthcare professionals should also work with the community.

Streamline: SFPD is too top heavy. We can cut the command staff, Deputy Chiefs and commanders by 50% and invest the savings in proven community violence prevention programs and beat officers that are accountable to the community.

Demilitarize: SFPD must sell off military-style vehicles and weapons and ban the use of rubber bullets, tear gas and other chemical agents. Weapons of war don’t belong on our streets.

Recommit to Community Policing: We’ve never fully committed. SFPD must work to build real ties with the communities they’re sworn to protect. We’ve seen the impact of community policing before in SF when we legislated beat officers in high crime areas in 2006. The model was built around the police working with the communities and focused on violence prevention instead of reacting to incidents that would involve the police.