Mayor Breed’s proposal to increase the police budget — yet again — and to also increase police surveillance will only lead to more violence against Black and Brown San Franciscans and builds on a completely false media narrative of increasing crime in San Francisco, when SFPD’s own crime stats show the opposite.
by Aditi Joshi, Defund SFPD Now
San Francisco – On Tuesday, Dec. 14, Mayor London Breed announced a comprehensive plan to criminalize people in the Tenderloin. Flanked by cops, the mayor proclaimed, “It’s time that the reign of criminal[s] who are destroying our city … come to an end.”
But we know who has been destroying our city: big money interests and politicians who cater to them, resulting in a city with some of the starkest income inequality in the nation. Following the start of the legislative winter recess, Mayor Breed also declared a state of emergency in the Tenderloin in an apparent attempt to go around city approval processes.
The mayor’s plan includes moves to appropriate additional money to the San Francisco Police Department, expand coordinated sweeps of unhoused people, expand surveillance and target unlicensed street vendors. While we believe in doing whatever we can do to secure basic resources and dignity, Mayor Breed’s latest proposal deflects from the failures of the City’s neoliberal policies by imprisoning vulnerable people in the Tenderloin.
For years, the SFPD’s budget has increased despite their documented “extreme” anti-Blackness, abysmal clearance rates, and the Mayor’s (broken) promise to redirect money from the police budget into investments for the Black community. In 2020, the mayor and Board of Supervisors approved SFPD’s monumental $700 million budget and similarly approved an increase of $25 million for the 2021-2022 Fiscal Year.
The mayor’s plan includes moves to appropriate additional money to the San Francisco Police Department, expand coordinated sweeps of unhoused people, expand surveillance and target unlicensed street vendors.
With this latest announcement, Mayor Breed has decided to go back to the Board of Supervisors to seek even more money for the cop budget, all while closing shelter-in-place hotels and refusing to fund other services for unhoused folks. The mayor is also allowing the Sheriff’s Department to reopen the defunct County Jail 6 this month, an unnecessary and expensive increase in SF’s incarceration capacity.
Breed’s plan to recall San Francisco’s Surveillance Technology Ordinance is equally unacceptable. Surveillance technologies like facial recognition (disallowed by the ordinance) have serious racial biases, violate privacy, intimidate protestors and, above all, don’t make residents any safer. And yet, SFPD has illegally used mass surveillance on protesters during the Black Lives Matter and cemented San Francisco as one of the nation’s most-surveilled cities.
This blatant overreach of weaponized state power flies in the face of what we know from our data and prior study. Despite a cluster of recent high-profile incidents, the overall reported crime in the Tenderloin is no higher than it was in 2020 according to SFPD’s own dashboards.
Moreover, numerous reports show that incarceration will not make us safer and that it disrupts community well-being. We should never forget that over-policing neighborhoods instills fear and deteriorates social cohesion.
Ultimately, a movement to swiftly and forcibly clean the streets is an unjustifiable encroachment on human dignity and the civil rights of Tenderloin residents. It is a distraction from the city’s responsibility to provide the basic needs of its people, signaling the perpetuation of a system that blames those without the means to fend for themselves.
A movement to swiftly and forcibly clean the streets is an unjustifiable encroachment on human dignity and the civil rights of Tenderloin residents, the perpetuation of a system that blames those without the means to fend for themselves.
We are disappointed that Mayor Breed would use the declaration of a state of emergency to increase the reach of criminalization rather than using it to meet people’s needs with respect and compassion. We will not be deceived into the same failed strategies that destroy our communities and instead look to prioritize solutions that directly empower those communities.
The people of the Tenderloin have been historically underserved and underinvested; they deserve secure housing, economic opportunity, community-led responses to mental health crises and a government that will prioritize their voices in any proposed solution. Community members and organizations have suggested potential solutions to ensure that folks are housed and have access to medical, behavioral and substance use treatment – it’s time to listen to them.
The Defund SFPD Now campaign is a grassroots campaign committed to re-imagining public safety by replacing policing and prisons with the life affirming care needed to support and empower us all. Contact them at email@example.com.
The DSA SF AfroSocialists & Socialists of Color Caucus is an organizing space for Black, Indigenous and socialists of color within occupied Ohlone land that we know as San Francisco.
The No New SF Jail Coalition is an abolitionist coalition working to reduce the scope of criminalization and imprisonment within the city.