SF Mayor Breed: Budget cuts won't include public safety

  • by John Ferrannini, Assistant Editor
  • Thursday May 30, 2024
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San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced public safety aspects of her budget proposal May 30. Photo: Rick Gerharter
San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced public safety aspects of her budget proposal May 30. Photo: Rick Gerharter

San Francisco Mayor London Breed started unveiling what's in her budget proposal for the next two years with a Thursday news release touting that public safety funding will not be cut despite the city's budget deficit.

As a matter of fact, the release stated that under Breed's budget, the city will fund four police academy classes of 50 officers each over the next year "as a baseline," spend $3.7 million on drones and public cameras, and fill three 911 dispatcher academies with the goal of adding 45 dispatchers over the next year.

Breed also stated that she will maintain current levels of funding for the district attorney, public defender, adult probation and juvenile probation offices, and the San Francisco Fire Department.

"We have made real progress on public safety in San Francisco, but this is a moment to double down, not to let up," Breed stated. "One of the core responsibilities of city government is to keep our residents, businesses, workers, and visitors safe, and my budget will deliver on that commitment.

"What we are doing is working, and we will build on that," she added. "This budget not only invests in having the workforce to keep our residents safe, but also in the technology, tools and teamwork to deliver results."

San Francisco Fire Chief Jeanine Nicholson, a lesbian, is thankful that the cuts won't be affecting her department.

"I thank Mayor London Breed for her comprehensive approach to enhancing public safety across our city," stated Nicholson. "Our work in suppression, emergency medical services, community paramedicine, street overdose, and street crisis response teams are vital in providing timely, compassionate care to those experiencing an emergency, especially those experiencing behavioral health crises and homelessness.

"These initiatives, combined with expanded staffing and new technology, will ensure we continue to serve our community effectively and with dedication," the fire chief added.

The mayor typically has until June 1 to submit a budget proposal to the San Francisco Board of Supervisors, which has to vote on the city's budget. (Because June begins on a Saturday this year, she has until Monday, June 3, to release the budget, according to a spokesperson.)

The mayor's full budget document has not yet been uploaded to the city's website, so it's unclear where Breed is expected to make cuts to balance the budget amid an $800 million deficit over the next two fiscal years.

The supervisors will hold hearings in June to analyze the budget, hear feedback from the public, and likely make changes. In July, the budget is finalized and approved by the supervisors and the mayor.

Already expecting budget challenges, Breed last December asked city departments for 10% cuts across the board. In addition to the aforementioned deficit, Breed has said the shortfall could reach $1 billion by Fiscal Year 2028.

Word of potential drastic cuts in funding from the Department of Children, Youth & Their Families to youth-serving nonprofits such as LYRIC, the San Francisco LGBT Community Center, and Larkin Street Youth Services have already prompted an outcry, as the Bay Area Reporter previously reported.

Furthermore, Breed has so far declined to commit to backfilling from the city's budget some $500,000-$800,000 of expected federal HIV cuts, as has typically been done in the past, as the B.A.R. also reported. She did say it's her goal to do so.

The three gay men serving as supervisors — Rafael Mandelman, who represents District 8, including the Castro; Matt Dorsey in District 6; and Joel Engardio in District 4 — did not return requests for comment.

Police, 911 dispatch academies funded above recent enrollment

Breed's release stated that reported crime in the city "is at its lowest in 10 years," and that "San Francisco's homicide clearance rate remains above 80%, far above the national average."

It also noted that 3,000 people have been arrested over the last year in the effort to disrupt open-air drug markets such as in the Tenderloin district.

Breed is committed to a fully-staffed San Francisco Police Department, the release stated, and therefore the budget proposal would fund four academy classes of 50 each over the next year as a baseline.

"If SFPD recruitment exceeds this goal, the mayor is committed to funding more recruits," the release noted.

SFPD's 281st recruit class, sworn in on May 28, only had 15 graduating officers, according to the department.

When asked how the city will improve recruitment efforts, a Breed spokesperson stated there are currently 56 people in the two ongoing police academy classes.

"The mayor's proposed budget funds four classes, which is how many classes are in the current budget," the spokesperson stated. "But the difference is increasing the size to 50, which is double than what current classes can accommodate. The reason for this is because of the increase in demand we're seeing with applicants to SFPD. Over the last few years, the mayor's budget has ramped up investment into recruitment, academy class funding and retention."

Police Chief William Scott praised his department's efforts.

"SFPD officers have been doing an outstanding job keeping the public safe," Scott stated in the release. "The evidence is unequivocal; crime is down in every category this year. I want to thank Mayor London Breed for continuing to invest in the SFPD as we work hard to rebuild our ranks and rebound from the pandemic."

Since Proposition E passed in March, the city has the capability to utilize drones and surveillance cameras in new ways. Thus, the budget includes $3.7 million "to implement these new technologies, starting with modernization and expanded use of existing public safety cameras and installation of new cameras in high-concern areas."

Department of Emergency Management Executive Director Mary Ellen Carroll is excited about the money to fund three 911 dispatch academies.

"This budget will support our critical work to hire more 911 dispatchers as we begin our largest academy class in over two years," Carroll stated in the release. "Dispatchers are the city's first first responders, serving as a calm, helpful voice on the other end of the line for countless people having their worst day, and I am so grateful for the lifesaving work they do."

The city currently employs 125 dispatchers, the Department of Emergency Management stated to the B.A.R. on May 30. There are 11 trainees who recently graduated "several different academy classes," and 12 currently in the academy, according to a DEM spokesperson, who added that 12 is the academy's largest class in over two years.

When asked how the city will improve dispatcher recruitment efforts, the Breed spokesperson stated, "The mayor's proposed budget also includes funding to enable the Department of Emergency Management to fill new dispatcher academies throughout the next fiscal year. The FY 2024-25 budget funds three [Peace Officers Standards and Training] classes with 15 candidates in each class, with the goal of returning to pre-pandemic standards, and supporting the department toward meeting their operational goals.

"DEM will utilize enhanced recruitment strategies such as moving applications online and updating testing and background processes to meet their hiring goals," the spokesperson added.

Seventy-three percent of calls in February 2024 were answered within 15 seconds, according to city data. The department's goal is 95%, and the 73% number is the second-lowest share of the past six years.

The budget proposal also includes funding for the Drug Market Agency Coordination Center, to disrupt open-air drug markets in the Tenderloin and mid-Market areas; to increase the Sheriff's Department staff to fill vacancies (the exact number of vacancies was not stated); and to continue funding Police Service Aides, citywide Public Safety Community Ambassadors, retired police officer ambassadors, and the Street Crisis Response Teams, "which provide non-law enforcement responses to 911 and 311 calls for people in behavioral health crisis and people experiencing homelessness," the release stated.

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