A week after her State of the City address, SF Mayor London Breed is asking the Board of Supervisors to approve a new chunk of money in the budget for police overtime costs — and she stresses this is about improving street safety across the city.
"Our police department is suffering from staffing shortages and officers are working overtime to fill shifts and keep residents safe," Breed said in a statement Tuesday. "I am introducing a funding measure to fund more overtime so [the SFPD] can provide the critical services our residents deserve."
The funding measure, which will head first to the Board of Supervisors' Budget Committee before going before the full board, seeks $27.6 million to cover police overtime, given ongoing staffing shortages at the SFPD. The money would also be used to support the SFPD Community Ambassador program, which uses civilian retired sworn members of the department to supplement beat patrols on foot in commercial areas, to deter crime.
The measure comes before the board at a time of budget cutting and shortfalls, and after a year in which Mayor Breed pledged multiple times to clean up the streets so that the city could "reopen" and welcome back more tourism. That included the addition of extra Ambassadors in and around Union Square over the holidays.
"Between 2021 and 2022, the [SFPD] saw a 121% increase in total overtime to support overtime backfill caused by critically low staffing shortages and ramped up police presence in key areas like Union Square, the Tenderloin, and throughout Downtown and commercial corridors," the Mayor's Office said in a release. "The ability to utilize overtime provided sufficient resources to investigate and curtail drug dealing and illegal use of narcotics, reduce gun violence, homicides, and violent crimes."
Also in the State of the City address, Breed reiterated that she wanted to crack down hard on drug dealers, echoing things that have been said by DA Brooke Jenkins — who took a very politically expedient stand in reversing predecessor Chesa Boudin's strategy of only seeking out high-level dealers and distributors.
"I want to make one thing very clear," Breed said last week (as seen in the clip below that she tweeted out Tuesday morning), "I am not okay with open-air drug dealing in this city, period. The families who are losing people to fetanyl are certainly not okay with it. And the people who live and work in the Tenderloin every day are not okay with it."
Our police department is suffering from staffing shortages and officers are working overtime to fill shifts and keep residents safe. I am introducing a funding measure to fund more overtime so @SFPD can provide the critical services our residents deserve. https://t.co/YzpJVsX3YU pic.twitter.com/xcKDLcWtkr— London Breed (@LondonBreed) February 14, 2023
Breed said Tuesday she would be introducing companion legislation to give the DA's office an extra $200,000 to fund three more prosecutors "who will focus on open-air drug dealing."
The SFPD is actively hiring, but the department currently has 340 fewer officers than it had in 2019, and a staffing analysis recommendation has the department 541 officers short of what it needs.
Critics are going to point out that even when SF cops have been present at the scene of crimes in recent years — like this November 2021 dispensary burglary — they've appeared to do nothing about making an arrest. And all of the latest rhetoric and budget proposals are a stark reversal from the Defund the Police days of mid-2020, when Breed's two-year budget slashed $120 million from the SFPD.
But the recall of Chesa Boudin, two years of rising petty crime rates, and the November election confirming Brooke Jenkins's tenure, have changed the tenor of the conversation for many. And now at least four supervisors are on board with Breed's budget measure: Catherine Stefani, Rafael Mandelman, Matt Dorsey, and Joel Engardio. All four gave statements of support in today's release.
"This supplemental appropriation will allow SFPD operations to continue uninterrupted for the remainder of the current fiscal year and is critical to maintaining public safety,” says Mandelman. "I am committed to working with the Mayor and my colleagues on the Board's Budget Committee to address SFPD's staffing crisis, which threatens the City's ability to provide core public services."
And new Supe Joel Engardio says that the SFPD's Taraval Station has "lost half of its officers since 2020," and "We can’t go a night without officers, that’s why overtime funding is essential along with hiring retired officers to walk beats as ambassadors."