Foto tomada por Julian Mark cuando se encontraba acostado en el piso, pues los oficiales de la SFPD arrestaron a Mark, un periodista profesional, junto con otros 23 manifestantes el miércoles por la noche por violar el toque de queda. Photo taken from the supine position by Julian Mark, as SFPD officers arrest 23 protesters Wednesday night for curfew violations and detain Mark, a credentialed journalist.

Supervisor Shamann Walton says he’d like to see at least $25M redirected from police to black community causes


One hesitates to use seismic analogies in San Francisco of all places, but it really does seem that the ground is moving beneath our feet these days. 

“Defund the police” used to be the motto of people who were wearing bandanas over their faces well prior to a global pandemic. Now, in the wake of George Floyd’s death — and with the city’s most dire budget on deck since the Hoover Administration — our moderate mayor wants to do it. 

On Wednesday, Los Angeles Mayor Eric Garcetti proposed axing perhaps $150 million off the LAPD’s budget and redirecting a chunk of that to black community causes. One day later, Mayor London Breed reached out to District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton about doing something similar here. 

There have, to date, been no dollar totals discussed or details released about who’d be getting money or how this process will be handled. But Walton says — “and they’re probably gonna kill me for putting a number to it” — he’d like to see “at least $25 million, if we are really trying to change some of the systemic issues oppressing black people here in San Francisco.” 

Of note, the San Francisco Police Department’s net budget total in the present fiscal year is in excess of $674 million — and has, under Breed’s tenure, grown by some $60 million (The LAPD’s budget hovers at around $1.8 billion). 

Now, this is all ethereal at this point. But the notion of cutting police budgets, especially during a period of national unrest, isn’t something you’d have expected past big-city leaders to even say, let alone do. 

Last week a young female protester told Mission Local that a garrulous cop at Pier 50 bragged to her he was being paid $192 an hour to process her arrest. The question of why there’s money for this when so many visceral San Francisco problems go unaddressed may finally have been answered: There isn’t. 

So, again, this is seismic. And yet, earthquakes occur when the ground moves in different directions — and San Francisco is, indeed, moving in different directions, at the same time. 

Or at least trying to.

On June 1, Walton, Breed, actor Jamie Foxx, and thousands of demonstrators took a knee outside San Francisco City Hall to protest Floyd’s killing by Minneapolis police and, writ large, the nation’s sorry legacy of police officers harassing, beating and killing people of color with a degree of impunity. 

The elected leaders and the crowd demanded that things change in this city, state, and nation. 

And, at that exact moment, a Board of Supervisors committee was eviscerating a pair of mayoral appointees to the Police Commission whom it would be exceedingly difficult to categorize as agents of change. 

The committee suggested the full board on June 9 reject Breed’s Police Commission nominees Nancy Tung and Geoffrey Gordon-Creed. 

Placing Nancy Tung and Geoffrey Gordon-Creed on the Police Commission might’ve made sense in a world where most San Franciscans’ first thought at the word “police” was “Why can’t someone do something about my car window being broken?” 

We no longer live in that world, and these appointees have the feel of a paddle wheel on the side of an ocean liner. They were made to suffer for it during a seven-hour meeting, not just from our elected officials but from scores of public commenters, emboldened to be extra vindictive and profane due to the virtual nature of the event. 

Tung was always facing a rough road to confirmation. She ran for District Attorney as the field’s “law and order” candidate, took a donation from the reactionary Police Officers Association and was the only DA hopeful who unequivocally said she’d welcome the POA’s endorsement. She supported Proposition H — which the POA put on the ballot in hopes of eluding the Police Commission and writing its own Taser policy — and opposed moves to shutter Juvenile Hall. (And these are just the substantive issues, separate and apart from any and all political machinations for elevating a District 6 resident who ran a strong race against DA Chesa Boudin).

Then Minneapolis cops killed George Floyd. 

During the June 1 hearing Tung said that the officers who shot Mario Woods in 2015 should not have been prosecuted. Fair enough: District Attorney George Gascón thought the same; the legal standards at the time rendered all but the most egregious or incompetent police shootings allowable under law. But Tung also felt those officers should not have been fired. 

And that’s relevant. Because the SFPD’s position on car break-ins or property crime or dope-dealing, or quality-of-life issues isn’t the provenance of the Police Commission. Rather, the commission sets policy and is the only body that can fire cops — period, full-stop.

Police policy and personnel matters can be gratuitously arcane and Mission Local’s Julian Mark is often the only member of the media sitting through languid, life-consuming meetings. 

But the Police Commission is one of the city’s most consequential bodies. Establishing strong policies and holding accountable officers who do not abide by them is exactly what didn’t happen in Minneapolis — or just about every other American city. 

Establishing just policies and holding accountable cops who don’t adhere to them sounds pretty relevant at this juncture, yes?

If the purpose of the San Francisco Police Commission isn’t to pursue a reform agenda — what is its purpose?

Photo by Kerim Harmanci.

Assuming neither appointee drops out of consideration altogether, it seems extremely unlikely Tung has the votes. Gordon-Creed — who on June 1 did not appear familiar with key developments in laws overseeing police use-of-force and was not well-informed on the details of recent lethal police encounters in this city — does appear to have a potential path forward, however.  

Behind closed doors, we’re told, the former Deputy City Attorney has told supes he does not think at all highly of the POA.

Yes, the optics of bouncing a Chinese American female and advancing the white male are suboptimal. But the Board’s three Chinese American members don’t seem to feel the pressure to tap dance around this — and this Board of Supervisors, by and large, doesn’t seem much enthralled by identity politics.    

Gordon-Creed is seen as “as good a mayoral appointee as we’re going to get” by members of the board. 

But it remains to be seen how true that is. Because these are interesting times, and this is, again, a strange dichotomy.

San Francisco’s mayor has nominated a pair of highly qualified, highly competent, highly honorable — but highly conventional — attorneys to the body charged with making rules for the police and holding officers to those rules. 

And, at the same time, she’s set in motion the highly unconventional, even radical, possibility of defunding the police department and redirecting potentially significant amounts of money to invest in addressing the root causes of crime — inequities in education, employment, housing, healthcare and so much more.

Metaphorically, the quake has hit San Francisco — and, as ever, the shaking was always worse in the black community. When we rebuild, will we erect a stronger, better, more equitable city? 

Time will tell.   

Update, 11 a.m.:

Update, 12:20 p.m.: Nancy Tung said the yes-or-no nature of the question regarding whether the officers who shot Mario Woods dead did not leave for sufficient nuance. Tung noted that these officers were actually found to have been acting within policy, so firing them would have been problematic.

What’s needed, she says, are new policies — but that can’t be applied ex post fact.

“Do I think officers should be shooting people on the street willy-nilly? No. Do I think racist police officers should be on the police force? No. Do I think the police department should have policies emphasizing de-escalation? Yes. Do I think there should be more community policing, footbeats, and more longevity within specific stations? Yes.”

But, she noted, “Do I think officers should have the same legal standards applied to them as anyone else under investigation in the criminal justice system? Yes. That’s a matter of fairness in the system.”

Tung says she intends to “see it through,” and will not drop out of the appointment process prior to Tuesday’s confirmation vote.

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Joe Eskenazi

Joe was born in San Francisco, raised in the Bay Area, and attended U.C. Berkeley. He never left. “Your humble narrator” was a writer and columnist for SF Weekly from 2007 to 2015, and a senior...

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11 Comments

  1. I’m baffled at how she is playing the identity politics game. She’s acting like she isn’t the most powerful elected official in San Francisco. If she wanted to improve the lives + conditions of Black folx she can do it. She has the executive power. She’s just performing right now. If Breed actually cared about Black lives, she wouldn’t be proposing massive cuts to public health + social services. She would be housing the homeless. She could house everyone right now. The question is, is she willing to take a possible hit in her electability among the wealthy to stand up + fight for the most marginalized?

  2. As long as The City’s powers-that-be are happy to approve the POA’s union contract, and they have been, than we won’t have any meaningful police reform. This could very well be the latest in a cycle of protests followed by complete inaction from top to bottom. I hope that the progressive, veto-proof supermajority on the BoS will pass new legislation and put up ballot measures to end this cycle. But I also don’t have much hope for it either. They have been the ones content to tinker around the margins like not appropriating any money for Tasers, instead of dealing with the Police Commission that approved Tasers in the first place. Not to mention that this is the commission unable to implement the Obama-era Justice Department recommendations for police reform. The BoS rubber-stamped the last round of Police Commission appointees with little concern for implementing reform, and now wonder why none has happened yet? And where is our reformist DA? Boudin is completely MIA, even though we elected him for just this moment in history. Perhaps the best thing we can do is follow Minneapolis and just junk the current system entirely and rebuild it from the ground up.

  3. We need a police department that is high touch,
    on foot and community engaged, not racing by car post-facto in droves to the site of something that has already happened. But how do we get there in this bizarre and detached “virtually social” universe we’re creating where everyone is addicted to outrage and “otherism?”

    The city has a roughly $10 billion dollar pension obligation and its only function at this point seems to be finding ways to fund that by expanding the tax (property, business) base and outsourcing everything to a web of crony non-profits and shady contractors.

    Addressing a Police department largely made up of people who live elsewhere and do not “get” us anymore than the toxic bro’s migrating into the Mission from the Marina? Considering the amount we pay officers they should be up to much more work and a lot less complaining. But the Mission itself is in dire need of growing up (Tragic tree fights and stale tribalism are tiresome) and constructively engagement. Adult to the front please.

    1. Maria,

      Yours is a wonderful voice for people with views such as my own.-

      Pass a Charter amendment to elect our Police Chief!

      Split the force between Patrol Specials who walk the beats and
      man the Koban and a City-wide Special Ops element who respond
      to terrorists and investigate murder.

      First item on my agenda?

      Take all control of the hiring of new cops away from the cops.

      They’re the one’s hiring thugs from the Bad Cops’ ‘Underground
      Railroad’ and it should be stopped.

      How about we raise our own?

      Kinda like the pigs raised the dogs in the barn in Animal Farm.

      I have this curriculum that goes K-12 developing recruits for such
      a force.

      Thank you for your voice,

      h.

  4. There are several issues the city of SF needs to address.
    The fact that tents are errected all over the Tenderloin and South of Market. Those person living on the street should be provided centralized camping / housing locations that provide shelter , food , sanitation , basic health care , and 24/7 security.
    As for the cops and city workers they should all have a max cap on monthly overtime to not exceed 10% of their base pay.
    Regarding African Americans it would be Racists to put forth policies based on race, rather all policies should be based on economic and color blind need.

  5. Getting down to the root of the cause is a great start.
    Addressing those is mind boggling. How much slavery has stepped away from black people needs to be addressed as well. These included at least: The culture, the language, sense of dignity. Black people weren’t allowed to use their own language, and not taught English properly enough to be empowered as a result after 400 years, so much identity was lost.
    The accumulated trauma over 400years only got larger.
    How does a nation that’s been traumatizing people for profit go about healing?

  6. The proposal to defund or even dismantle the police departments in this country is penny wise and pound foolish.

    Yes, we DO NEED reform on how law enforcement interacts with the respective communities under their jurisdictions. We also desperately need to invest in our communities EQUALLY.

    Education, affordable housing, and health care must be on the same level as law enforcement and greater then the partisan adventures that only deplete the coffers of our tax dollars and do little if anything for these communities.

    1. M.P.R. Howard,

      About 30 years back I was a Special Ed Teacher.

      Worked with cops in a program of behavioral intervention.

      Through camping in the woods.

      Got the certificate hanging on wall next to my computer.

      After my college diplomas and Navy discharge it is my most valued certificate.

      Program Director was Walt Scott.

      We took groups of dozen to twenty into woods.

      Made them risk their lives.

      Program was designed thataway.

      “At some point in the hike they have to trust their lives to others
      on the exercise.”

      It was called: ‘SFPD Wilderness Program’.

      Other than ‘Operation Stray Cat’ at Clemson, best program I’ve experienced.

      Even tho they did misspell my name on the ‘Certificate of Completion’.

      lol

      Go Giants!

      h.

      We took kids

  7. You need to break the cycle, police immersed every day in the worst events happening.

    Teachers used to get a sabbatical. That would work very well for peace officers.

    Every five years they turn in their badge and gun and select from a group of worthy nonprofit energies, or one of their own selection with approval. And for one year they work with the citizens On a whole different level.

    Their pay should be an average of what they had earned in the prior five years, so they don’t lose money due to shifts or overtime. This will pay off in the long run.

    Will know soon enough if breaking the cycle works. Certainly worth a try

    1. Ah, Michael,

      YOu’ve stumbled upon another of the ideas I’ve been channeling
      for years.

      Let’s do an SF International First Responder Exchange Program.

      Send 100 of our people in exchange for 100 from Japan and Italy
      and everywhere else they have earthquakes.

      2 year tours.

      After 10 or 20 years we’d have thousands of foreign forces able
      to leap to our defense (and us, to theirs) …

      Forces that had learned our streets and water mains and the like.

      Go Giants!

      h.

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