Police department budget up 4.4% since 2019, despite SF officials making bold promises to defund

ByStephanie Sierra, Lindsey Feingold, and John Kelly via KGO logo
Friday, October 14, 2022
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Mayor London Breed was one of the first politicians to speak out in support of defunding the police as widespread calls for reforms swept the nation following George Floyd's murder.

SAN FRANCISCO (KGO) -- Mayor London Breed was one of the first politicians to speak out in support of defunding the police as widespread calls for reforms swept the nation following George Floyd's murder.

MORE: Despite 'defunding' claims, police funding has increased in many U.S. cities

"We chose to change how this city and how this country treats our young Black men," Breed said during a July 2020 press conference.

Breed announced $120 million would be cut from the San Francisco Police and Sheriff's Departments to reinvest in programs that help Black and Brown communities. But according to an ABC Owned Television Stations analysis that looked at over 100 city and county budgets nationwide, at the time Breed made that July announcement, the department was already sitting on a $62.4 million budget increase.

RELATED: 'Worst is yet to come:' SFPD may be short around 825 officers by end of year, ABC7 I-Team uncovers

Local spending on police increased in 90% of locations we looked at from fiscal year 2019 to 2022. The San Francisco Police Department budget increased overall by 4.4% from 2019 to 2022, although SFPD saw a larger increase in fiscal year 2019-2020 before the budget dropped from that high point for the next two fiscal years.

That overall percentage is below the increases reported in Oakland, where police funding rose 17.9%, and in San Jose, where police funding increased 17.6%.

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"It was a painful sacrifice," Police Chief Bill Scott said of the $120 million cuts. "I said that then and I still say it now, but I understood it."

In a recent interview with Chief Scott, the I-Team found no active duty police officer positions were cut from that decision, despite calls from the community and elected leaders to do so.

RELATED: SJPD got more than $41M budget increase as department faced calls to defund police, data shows

In the wake of widespread protests across the city, several San Francisco Board of Supervisors also pledged to defund the police. In late September 2020, Supervisor Dean Preston got heat from reform activists for voting for a budget that doesn't fire police officers.

Yet the next day, Preston tweeted "We remain committed to defunding the police." He added, "We do need to reallocate more significant money from the police department."

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In December 2021, Breed pivoted as the city faced a rampant rise in property crime and looting.

"More aggressive with the changes in our policies and less tolerant with all the bulls*** that has destroyed our city," Breed said during a press conference at city hall.

Chief Scott said the department was struggling to meet the demand as policing was highly scrutinized.

RELATED: Despite calls to defund police, Oakland PD's budget increased nearly 18% since 2019, I-Team found

"You got to remember where we were two years ago. I mean we were in a bad way in this country, in terms of policing incidents," Chief Scott said.

The initial calls from city leaders pledging to defund the police never really happened.

"We haven't been able to reduce the police budget," said San Francisco Supervisor Hillary Ronen. For fiscal year 2021-2022, the budget is over $27 million more than it was in fiscal year 2018-2019.

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This year the San Francisco Board of Supervisors approved a $50 million increase in SFPD's budget.

"I would say the majority of increases of our budget is salary increases," Chief Scott said.

But records reviewed by the I-Team show the most notable increase is in overtime -- where funding allotted doubled to $24 million.

Chief Scott said there is "about a 648 officer shortage... We definitely need the overtime to stay afloat with the staffing crisis we have right now."

But Ronen argues that excuse is 'getting old.'

RELATED: San Francisco's DA says new policies will start to clean up streets in 'few months'

"I'm a little sick of them blaming everything on understaffing when we just increased their budget by $50 million, and we gave them an unprecedented number of police academies," Ronen said. "You no longer have the DA in charge that was their scapegoat for everything under the sun."

Public records show the city has seven street crisis response teams that respond to mental health calls. If there's an influx of calls, the San Francisco Fire Department is assigned to be the backup, removing any responsibility from SFPD. The reduced workload isn't cutting a dent in overtime spending.

In terms of overtime spending to date, Chief Scott said the department is over budget, but has nine months to fix that issue. And for the need to hire more officers, he said, "Ideally yes. And if we were able to do that, we'd be doing that. But when we're unable to meet our hiring needs, we still have a workload that we have to deal with."

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