Police staffing issue to go before San Francisco voters

SFPD motorcycles line up before an escort ( (Jane Tyska/Digital First Media/East Bay Times via Getty Images))

On Tuesday, the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a charter amendment that would fund and require the hiring of new cops. They will put it before voters in March.    

"The proposed measure provides voters with a chance to express whether they desire more police presence," said Supervisor Catherine Stefani, who voted for the measure along with Supervisors Myrna Melgar, Connie Chan, Shamann Walton and Aaron Peskin. It was sponsored by Supervisor Ahsha Safai.

"We don't have to pass a new tax for this to be meaningful," said Stefani, adding that her goal would be to redirect dollars from existing tax funds, "which I think is very doable."

If the voters approve a future tax to supply additional revenue to fund the cost of employing more full duty sworn officers, then the city will set a minimum staffing number for the next five years.

That number would begin with 1,700 officers the first year and increase each year until it hits a maximum of 2,074.  

The measure would require the city's general fund to be used to at least pay for the same officers as the previous year. A police staffing fund would be established with $16.8 million the first year, with future funds to be dedicated, unless there is an emergency. 

City controller Ben Rosenfield said the department has about 300 fully funded positions currently vacant in its budget.

"So, it is not for lack of funding, it is for lack of applicants," said Peskin.

According to Chan, the San Francisco Police Department had 25 police academy graduates this year, plus 30 hires from other counties, which falls short of their goal of 100 per year.

"We have not provided young people and people in community with the excitement of becoming a police officer," said Walton. 

The measure to amend the city charter will go before voters March 5, 2024.