First published at 12:26 p.m. on Jan. 20, 2022.
The special election for the State Assembly’s 17th District is less than four weeks away, and we’ve got four more questions for our candidates. Just like last week, we’ll pose one question each week, then post their answers here on Thursdays. We have limited their answers to 150 words or fewer.
San Francisco has long debated best practices on crime and public safety, most recently after Mayor London Breed announced in December that she would flood the Tenderloin with police to address open drug use and quality-of-life issues.
Just this week, Breed filed a ballot initiative to give law enforcement additional freedom to surveil the public, relaxing limits on the use of surveillance technology.
Meanwhile, the harms that come with unchecked policing are an ever-present reality that is slowly being acknowledged and confronted. Police reform has been attempted for years, but in many cases it has failed to bring about significant, systemic change.
Our second question:
What steps would you take as an assembly member to hold police departments accountable, while ensuring safety and protection for all Californians?
David Campos, former Supervisor of San Francisco’s District 9:
We can work our way out of the crime challenges facing California. People with economic and/or behavioral health needs commit most crimes, and both those challenges have solutions. When we create millions more high-wage jobs with a Green New Deal, we have people paying taxes — not more people in prison. When we have quality mental healthcare available to everyone through Medicare for All, we save money, lives, and make our state safer. When our schools work for every child, paths to opportunity open for everyone.
As someone who has been targeted by law enforcement because of the language I speak and the color of my skin, I know firsthand that holding police and prosecutors accountable is fundamental to safety. But we must hold the politicians accountable, too, and ensure they are working on the root causes of crime, rather than simply exploiting fear of crime for political gain.
Matt Haney, current Supervisor of San Francisco’s District 6:
Police accountability and public safety are not mutually exclusive. We need to protect civil rights, hold police accountable, and keep everyone safe. As budget chair, I oversaw a budget that invested in compassionate alternative response teams, like the Street Crisis Response Team and Compassionate Alternative Response Team (CART). Police should not be responding to welfare checks and mental health crises, and I’ll push for more state funding and expansion of these programs.
We have to make it possible to discipline, prosecute and fire bad police officers, period. This means further changes to state laws that dangerously shield bad officers from accountability, and changing use of force policies.
Training programs for police must be aligned towards de-escalation and community policing. We have made significant steps in this direction in San Francisco, helping to get more diverse officers. The state can take additional steps to support recruitment of diverse police officers by investing in a diverse pipeline, and providing incentives for diversity in hiring.
Thea Selby, member of City College’s Board of Trustees
Everyone must feel safe in San Francisco, and I will pair compassion with consequences to get us there. As your Assemblymember, I will support community policing paired with common-sense reforms to improve relationships between police and the communities they serve. At City College, our police force works closely with students, faculty and the administration to build strong connections. They use de-escalation training to better respond to crises without using force. I would take the lessons we’ve learned at CCSF and similar programs to the State Assembly. I would also work to expand funding for pilot programs that pair social workers, mental health experts, or domestic violence experts with police when they have a 911 call. Finally, I will pursue statewide policies working with the Attorney General to stop the professional drug and crime rings plaguing our city and state.
Bilal Mahmood, entrepreneur and neuroscientist
San Franciscans do not feel safe right now. The solution is to reappropriate police from where they are problematic, to where evidence shows they are necessary. At the same time, I strongly believe we must continue to push forward with essential reforms to hold police accountable. We can and should expect both safety and reform.
In the Assembly, I pledge to reintroduce David Chiu’s AB 550 for automated speed enforcement, reducing unnecessary police confrontations at traffic stops. I will also push for legislation that establishes standards for mandatory de-escalation training.
In turn, the police can focus their attention on more urgent crime cases — homicides, burglaries, home invasions — affecting San Franciscans right now. Evidence shows the most effective use of police is in deployment to high-risk areas in targeted patrols, such as in Mayor London Breed’s current Tenderloin Emergency order, which I support as well.
Some responses have been shortened for brevity. If you missed our first question, click here to catch up.