SF supervisors approve controversial ballot measure to fund hiring of new police officers

Wednesday, November 29, 2023
SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- It will be up to voters to decide how to get more police officers on the streets of San Francisco. A controversial amended measure passed by a narrow vote of 6-to-5 by the Board of Supervisors on Tuesday. It now moves to the March 2024 ballot.

The city wants to boost minimum police staffing to more than two-thousand officers within five years, filling the department's 300 open jobs, by offering hiring bonuses and improving recruitment efforts.

But they can now only do that if voters approve this amended measure.

Everyone at City Hall seems to agree that San Francisco needs a lot more police officers. But they disagree strongly on how to get the money to hire them.

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It's so contentious that the supervisor who originally introduced the plan ended up voting against amended measure.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey says he first introduced a measure to boost the number of police officers in San Francisco.

"And make sure we are fully delivering on a fully staffed police department. And we were doing it right out of the gate. We would have been solving the problem in the next budget cycle," said Supervisor Dorsey.

But then, Supervisor Safai introduced an amendment to Supervisor Dorsey's measure.

"Currently, the proposal as it was anticipated, didn't have a funding source. So going into $800 million deficit which we are facing in our city, the question was, how we are going to pay for a recruitment fund to increase our minimal police staffing thru that recruitment fund," said Safai.

"This was a poison pill amendment that came in at the last minute. That said, 'we're going to adopt this, but only if voters adopt a new tax that creates additional revenue for it," said Supervisor Dorsey.

City leaders weighed in.

"This measure is messy and it doesn't do anything to immediately fund and hire police," said Supervisor Joel Engardario.

"This is the worst-written piece of legislation I think I've seen in my 15 years on this board," said Supervisor Hillary Ronen.

"There has been some misinformation promoted about this measure," said Supervisor Ahsha Safai.

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The Board of Supervisors approved adding the measure to the March 2024 ballot.

Supervisor Dorsey says his original measure was "hijacked" and has since become a tax hike or a tax hike scheme. He withdrew his support and voted against the amended measure.

But Supervisor Safai says that people are getting the wrong idea and his proposed amendment does not involve new tax hikes.

"Right now, no one will be voting on a tax. It says we can go back in the future and modify an existing tax. We could go and say we're going to re-purpose some of the money we have, some of the previous taxes and we can apply it to this new concept of an aggressive recruitment strategy," said Supervisor Safai. "We could look at the CEO tax. It's $160-$190 million dollars a year."

Instead of focusing just on hiring more police, the amended measure would also include more deputies, firefighters, and 911 operators-what he believes is true public safety reform.

"We want to have a public safety package, but we have to have a way to fund that and be economically responsible in this economic crisis that we are in," said Safai.

Mayor London Breed says we should not tie police staffing to raising taxes.

In a letter to Supervisor Dorsey earlier this month the Mayor stated: "We should not require our residents and businesses to pay more taxes to provide the police officers they rightly expect to see on our streets."

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