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Bogged down in meetings with police union, measure to potentially reduce SFPD size may miss ballot

Bogged down in meetings with police union, measure to potentially reduce SFPD size may miss ballot
Police officers surround the scene of a motorcycle accident in the first blocks of Valencia Street, on December 3, 2018.

On May 19, Supervisor Norman Yee introduced a potential Charter Amendment that would mandate San Francisco Police staffing levels be set every other year via a data-driven process. 

The city recently underwrote just such a process, and it resulted in the suggestion of hiring some 265 more cops — an outcome Yee said is “a fair analysis.” 

One week after Yee introduced his potential ballot measure, Minneapolis police killed George Floyd, triggering worldwide protests and thrusting the notion of “defunding” police departments — reallocating their responsibilities and resources — from the fringes into the political mainstream. 

Crucially in a post-George Floyd world, Yee’s legislation would do away with the city’s Charter-mandated minimum of maintaining 1,971 sworn officers. Without this Charter Amendment or one like it, the city cannot lower SFPD staffing levels. 

For this reason, the Police Officers Association is notably displeased with Yee’s legislation. 

The SFPOA opposes Supervisor Yee’s reckless Charter Amendment. This is nothing more than an open invitation to eliminate police officers and reduce safety in our neighborhoods,” POA president Tony Montoya wrote to Mission Local last month. 

“Combine our current crime crisis with our new District Attorney’s criminals’-first [sic] agenda and the last thing our residents need are fewer officers.”

Click graph for larger version

As Yee’s potential Charter Amendment would affect staffing levels — and, potentially, on-the-job safety — he is mandated to engage with the POA in good-faith “meet and confer” sessions. 

This can be a time-consuming process, but time is a luxury Yee does not have. The deadline to submit his Charter Amendment for November’s ballot is July 21. 

If Yee’s Charter Amendment does not make the November ballot, the next opportunity to place a Charter Amendment on San Francisco’s ballot won’t come until 2022

Heavy-duty alterations to the police department – a step that many are calling for – are hard to imagine without some manner of Charter Amendment and public vote, and the public appetite for this in 2022 may not be what it is now.

Messages for the POA have not yet been returned. But, based upon Montoya’s earlier statements, the union appears incentivized to prevent this Charter Amendment from going before voters in 2020. 

In fact, Mission Local has learned that the POA was asked on June 10 to submit its queries and proposals about the potential Charter Amendment in writing. As of June 19, it does not appear that document has been received by the city. 

Should either Yee or the POA feel the meet-and-confer process has run its course, an impasse can be declared. This leads to an involved process potentially requiring mediation or arbitration — neither of which is conducive to a July 21 legislative deadline. 

If Yee deigns to submit the Charter Amendment to the voters without reaching a compromise with the POA, the city could potentially be sued to keep it off the ballot — or, failing that, to undo it after an election. 

Asked for comment, Yee replied “We’ll keep going forward with the process and do our best to reach an agreement.”  

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  1. Karl

    Just one more example of the overreach and corrupting influence of public sector unionism.

    The number of public employees, e.g. cops, should not be enshrined in the City Charter.

    In 1960, SF had a population of 740K with less than 7,000 public-sector employees.

    Today, SF has a population of about 900K with over 37,000 public-sector employees.

    A population increase of only 22%, but an increase in public-sector employment of over 429%.

    In addition to addressing systemic racism and long festering economic inequity, the current crises are an opportunity to profoundly rethink our runaway/bloated public-sector and return it to a reasonable and sustainable level.

    • joanne

      Thanks for the stats, Karl. Perhaps this issue would be better evaluated after the defnnding issues are resolved; i.e. it would be good to know what percentage of police work is going to be removed from their present responsibilities and also see what the population of the city actually is, as I have heard many areleaving the city because of rental prices and and an expected ability to continue working at home. I have some serious doubts we need more police but it needs a justifiable argument.

  2. JC

    This issue will essentially resolve itself. There is already a move by the mayor to stop the SFPD police contract with wage increases frozen for the next 2 years. With the defund the police mania in full swing and an already hostile progressive political climate here, throw in the contract repudiation and hundreds of SFPD will retire early, leave for other agencies, and recruitment will come to a screeching halt. Should make plenty of people happy here but it won’t last long. Sooner or later it will catch up to a city already plagued by a broken down criminal justice system, a out of control homeless problem, drug, property and quality of life crimes already decriminalized, and a inevitable violent crime wave that’s sure to follow. lock your doors.

  3. h. brown


    The cop shop is poorly led.

    We need to not fire any of them.

    Give 50% of the work thru attrition to Patrol Specials.

    Which would end up being patrolled by retired SFPD.

    Who would finally get to meet the people they have always
    been designated to protect.

    Avalos in D-11 once again with honor.

    Nguyen in D-7 cause he’s a real defender of the Public.

    Peskin in D-3 cause even as a watered-down Peskin 1, he’s the best there.

    Preston in D-5 because we haven’t had a real rep there since Gonzalez

    Ronen in D-9 since she’s best thing there since Ammiano!

    Gascon for DA in LA cause they can hear us and haven’t won a title since ’89!



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