Public safety has been at the forefront of San Franciscans’ minds, from the rising attacks on Asian elders in broad daylight to the brazen thefts of catalytic converters. I have been working with elected leaders and law enforcement agencies to improve public safety while still making reforms to our criminal justice system. Public safety is improved when we prioritize reforms and reduce disparities in law enforcement to deliver meaningful criminal justice. To advance this work, we need to approach public safety in our City with honest policy discussions.
There is no denying that people in this City are feeling less safe. We have seen a rise in targeted, violent attacks against our most vulnerable communities. In the past month, we saw three attacks against Asian elders in the Richmond District alone. This is unacceptable.
In 2022, as part of the Board’s Budget and Finance Committee, I supported an increase to the police budget to hire new police officers. My support was in direct response to the voters’ demand for the City to study police staffing, which indicated that our City indeed needs more police officers to keep up with the pace of retirement. Additionally, we need to continue to invest in resources for our police department to serve our community. This funding will go directly to bringing in five new police academy classes, and to expanded recruitment and retention initiatives.
I also co-sponsored Supervisor Gordon Mar’s legislation to demand a Community Policing Plan to increase foot and bike patrol deployment, as well as a transparent community process for eliciting input in each of our police districts. Now, with ongoing break-ins in our residents’ homes and small businesses, I have asked the mayor’s team and our Police Department to deploy the Retired Police Officer Ambassador program in the Richmond; to bring veteran police officers to our neighborhood to assist in patrolling and deterring crime. We must work with the San Francisco Police Department to bring foot patrols back to all our neighborhoods, not just those most visible to tourists. It is this community police work and reinvestment in our communities, not surveillance, that will lead to a decrease in crime, including property crime and attacks in our City.
And to alleviate the reliance on our police department so they can focus on violent and serious crimes, I supported continuing funding and the expansion of both the Street Crisis Response team and the Street Wellness Response team citywide to assist those who suffer mental health crises on our streets. With these crises, we see a dire need to adapt and rework our policing, to think outside of the box in addressing crime and justice in our City – to expand our community-based public safety tools. We have to empower and invest in our already established alternatives to law enforcement to work with the Department of Public Health and the Fire Department in responding to calls that involve people experiencing a mental health crisis, and to invest in Community Violence Prevention Programs to address issues with our at-risk populations before, rather than after, violence occurs.
This all brings us back to identifying solutions to ensure our police department can focus on delivering meaningful public safety that is just, equitable and efficient. The Department has been plagued with issues and was under U.S. Department of Justice’s review and demands of reform for years. The Department remains low on arrest and clearance rate for crimes on the national scale, and it still disproportionately stops and arrests people of color without clear justification and delivering results making us safer. And truthfully the lack of justice and results, also add to anti-blackness and racial tension especially among Asian American and Black and Brown communities. This is why we must continue reform for our police department. Until all of us are safe, none of us can be and feel safe. That is the reality. It is my responsibility as an elected member of the Board of Supervisors to do the work so that criminal-justice reform and public safety are not mutually exclusive. I am committed to do the hard work – holding our law enforcement agencies accountable and advocating for necessary resources to deliver to our communities both criminal justice reform and safety.
This article was published in the Richmond Review in October 2022.