San Francisco to turn over 17 types of calls to ‘unarmed civilian response teams’, delays pay raises for officers

SAN FRANCISCO, CA- The San Francisco Police Officers Association (POA) has reportedly signed off on a plan to delay pay raises for its officers and to turn over 17 different types of calls that will instead be handled by unarmed civilian service providers.

The POA’s endorsement comes just a few weeks after San Francisco voters passed legislation eliminating minimum staffing requirements for the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD). The law, which required the city to maintain at least 1,971 full-time police officers, which was approved in Proposition E, has been squashed by voters.

Now, the staffing levels on the police department will be decided by elected novices, many likely with political agendas. The proposition tasks the police commission with evaluating police staffing levels on a regular basis and to adjust the numbers accordingly.

Ahead of that vote, the union argued that the department has been chronically understaffed as of late and was already struggling to cover calls. At the time, POA Vice President Sergeant Tracy McCray told the San Francisco Chronicle:

“Our response times to 911 calls are lagging because we don’t have enough people on patrol.”

At the end of November, Mayor London Breed announced the launch of the first phase of San Francisco’s Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT) pilot program. SCRT is part of the city’s efforts to develop alternatives to police responses to non-violent calls.

The SCRT pilot program is a collaboration between the San Francisco Department of Public Health and the San Francisco Fire Department with support from the Department of Emergency Management. Reportedly, each team includes a community paramedic, a behavioral health clinician, and a behavioral health peer specialist.

Veteran officers have been leaving the city’s police department in record numbers over the past several months, with many opting to take jobs in other areas. POA President Tony Montoya said in a statement earlier this month:

“The reality is, our staffing is not getting any better.”

In response, Montoya signed a letter of intent with city officials, clearing the way for calls involving mental health, non-violent crimes, and homelessness to be handled by civilian service providers. The letter said, in part:

“Currently, police officers are the initial responders and primary resource on certain calls for service that may be better suited to mental health or non-law enforcement professionals.”

Reportedly, juvenile disturbances, quality-of-life calls, traffic congestion, public health violations, dog complaints, and parking violations will also be addressed by the unarmed citizen responders. Montoya said that officers have been spending a significant amount of time dealing with those types of calls. He said:

“This will be better use of the limited resources we have. It’s going to free up more officers to do what traditionally police officers should be doing.”

Days after Montoya issued the “collaboration agreement letter,” the San Francisco Board of Supervisors voted 9-2 in favor of delaying the SFPD’s upcoming pay increases. Reportedly, officers will receive steeper raises in the future as a result of the two-year labor contract.

Critics of the contract claim that the agreement does “nothing to address the POA’s unrelenting history of delaying much needed reforms.” While the contract may have fell short for these critics, the POA did reach two agreements.

One being the union agreeing to police redirecting 17 types of calls for service to mental health or other professional. The agreement said, in part:

“The SFPOA intends and agrees to work collaboratively with the City to develop and accelerate implementation of specific reforms, including those that address police biases and strengthen accountability.”

The other agreement, signed by both the Department of Human Resources and the POA, is meant to clarify a contentious section of the contract that requires the City to notify the union of management decisions that affect officers. The agreement reads, in part:

“This MOU provision does not expand the City’s bargaining requirements.”

In an interview with NPR, San Francisco Fire Department (SFFD) Captain Simon Pang said that the unarmed civilian response is long overdue. Pang is leading the SFFD’s effort to establish the new “response teams.” He said:

“It’s glaringly obvious we need to change the model. Police are handling these calls the best they can, but the fact remains that because of the traditional system, which is in place out of inertia, you have law enforcement officers responding to non-violent, non-criminal calls for service for people whose needs are largely social, behavioral, or mental.”

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LET Unity

San Francisco voters just passed a measure to significantly shrink the police force despite crime, violence

November 6th, 2020

SAN FRANCISCO, CA- As violence continues across the country, and with it likely to get worse depending on the outcome of the election, some cities continue down the road of emasculating their police departments.

The latest example occurred Tuesday in San Francisco when voters decided to quash a longtime law which established minimum police department staffing in that city, according to Vox.

The law, which required the city to maintain at least 1,971 full-time police officers on that city’s police department, which was approved in Proposition E, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.

Now, staffing levels on the police department will be decided by elected novices, many likely with political agendas. The proposition tasks the police commission with evaluating police staffing levels on a regular basis and adjust accordingly.

In addition, the proposition requires the police department to end a requirement which specified a minimum number of sworn police officers assigned to neighborhood policing and patrol—which law enforcement sources said had never been accomplished due to manpower resources.

The measure in San Francisco comes as cities across the country are calling for police departments to be defunded, and further in some cases calling for police to be dismantled. Proposition E doesn’t quite go to that level, however local politicians said that the measure was designed as a first step toward meeting demands of San Francisco residents to reform the police department.

Some reform supporters suggest that untrained social workers should take over some duties from police, such as responding to cases of homelessness and mental health issues, while they would accept primary responsibility in those areas.

San Francisco’s Controller Ben Rosenfield noted that Proposition E could accomplish the following:

He estimated that annual salary and fringe benefit cost for a full-time San Francisco police officer is approximately $155,000 and said that savings from staffing reductions could be redirected to other budget items.

In late July, San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors voted unanimously voted to put Proposition E on the ballot. Norman Yee, the president of the city’s Board of Supervisors mirrored Rosenfield’s statements, noting that the proposition could assist the city in “join[ing] the growing number of cities dispatching teams of social workers and substance use counselors to respond to calls seeking their skills and service when appropriate.”

Proponents of Proposition E called the police department’s staffing requirement “outdated” and “arbitrary,” since voters approved it in 1994, when politicians and city residents were calling for “tough on crime” policies and additional staffing on the police department.

Supporters also said the law doesn’t account for changes in crime rates, which have fallen since the early 1990’s as well as the changing role of police officers.

Not surprisingly, the San Francisco Police Officers Association strongly opposed Proposition E, noting that the police department hasn’t met minimum staffing levels in recent years, and that the department is consistently short-staffed, the San Francisco Chronicle said.

“Our response times to 911 calls are lagging because we don’t have enough people on patrol,” Sgt. Tracy McCray, vice president of the police union told the publication. “They have supervisors who say they want more foot beats…It’s kind of hard to do when there’s not a lot of people to go around in the first place.”

Proponents of the measure disagree, claiming that Proposition E will streamline work for police officers.

Meanwhile, Fox News is reporting that across the country, voters in cities, counties and at least six states passed police reform measures this past week. The new propositions toughen police oversight and allow for more public access to body and dashboard camera recordings.

Much of the measures passed in cities that held large “peaceful” demonstrations in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis while in police custody, such as Seattle, Portland, Oakland, San Diego and Sonoma County in California. Police reforms also passed statewide in Texas and Ohio.

In Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, a new measure called for creating a Citizens Police Oversight Committee was passed by voters. This comes in the aftermath of the shooting death of Walter Wallace, a convicted felon who attacked police with a knife and was shot to death. On cue, his death led to days of riots and looting in the city.

Philadelphia police on Wednesday released body camera footage from the shooting that showed Wallace had ignored commands to drop his knife as officers approached him. Family members said Wallace had mental health problems.

Yet another proposal suggested including a stipulation in the city charter which would “eliminate the practice of unconstitutional stop and frisk, consistent with judicial precedent.”

In Akron, Ohio, voters approved a charter amendment which would require police agencies to make public any recordings from either body or dashboard cameras in circumstances where officers used force and a suspect either dies or is seriously injured.

In Los Angeles, voters approved a measure that allocates 10% of the city’s annual general fund budget, or around $360 million, to prison diversion programs, such as job training, substance abuse programs or mental health treatment.

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LET Unity

We have been reporting about efforts across the country to defund and dismantle the police. We previously reported on San Francisco and the exodus of police from that city. For more on that, we invite you to:

DIG DEEPER

As protests continue from coast to coast and more towns are cutting millions from law enforcement budgets, departments like the San Francisco Police Department are seeing veteran officers leaving in record numbers.

According to reports, 23 officers left the department during the first six months of 2020 and another 31 officers have retired. In comparison, in all of 2019, only 26 officers resigned, and back in 2018, only 12 officers left the department. 

Many of the SFPD officers that have left are opting to take jobs in other areas and are actively going through the hiring process. Tony Montoya, the president of the Police Officers Association, said in a statement:

“This is just the beginning. Dozens are actively in the hiring process with other agencies.”

He added:

“The members are upset that the social experiment being conducted in San Francisco is failing and they would rather work someplace that values them.”

Like many other cities across the country, in July San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a $120 million reduction in police funding. Breed said that those funds are going to be redirected to initiatives to address issues that face the black community.

Montoya said:

“Members have gone to places like the Sonoma County Sheriff’s Office, Pleasant Hill, Beverly Hills, Petaluma, Palm Springs, Placerville, Long Beach, Idaho, Texas, and Arizona.”

During exit interviews, officers have stated various reasons for leaving SFPD, including, but not limited to, high California taxes and the criminal justice reform measures that have recently taken place.

Not to mention that many were frustrated with the general lack of support from the community and government leaders. An officer who left San Francisco for a Texas department and wished to remain anonymous said:

“I was getting a great paycheck, but 20% went to taxes. Here, I got a bigger house, a more affordable lifestyle, and a commute that went from two hours each way to 15 minutes.

“It’s also nice working at a place where everyone isn’t mad at you. In San Francisco, everyone was mad. The homeowners would get mad because you didn’t move the homeless who were sleeping in front of their house. Then, when you tried to help the homeless, someone would start telling about police brutality.”

SFPD Police Chief Bill Scott said that he believes the recent spike in resignation is mostly due to long commutes. He said in a statement:

“It’s a tough job and for many officers it’s also a long commute to and from work. If there are opportunities closer to home, people are going to take them.”

Scott claims that his department will not be hindered by the huge $120 million budget cut. During a press conference at the end of July, Scott said this in response to Breed revealing the upcoming budget:

“While the cuts are significant, they are cuts we can absorb and that will not diminish our ability to provide essential services.”

Montoya disagrees and said that response times could suffer if the department can’t hire new officers. He said:

“It could impact our ability to respond to emergencies if we don’t have the necessary staffing.”

To help save money and close the budget shortfall gap, the city is also asking police and firefighter unions to delay raises for two years. Breed claims that delaying raises will help the city avoid cutting services and laying off employees. 

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Author: Jenna Curren

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