ACLU Statement on Mayor Breed’s Declaration of Emergency in the Tenderloin

The following was issued in advance of today’s vote by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors from the ACLU of Northern California:

Residents of the Tenderloin deserve a humanitarian response to the public health crisis that has been ongoing in their neighborhood for decades.

The public funds that Mayor Breed intends to funnel to police departments would be better spent by addressing the root causes of crime and significantly expanding violence prevention programs, mental health services, affordable housing, and other programs that directly address the grotesque racial wealth gap, poverty, and despair we see in neighborhoods like the Tenderloin.

Recent calls by police associations and public officials to increase police funding are part of a coordinated backlash to last year’s movement to end police violence and misconduct after the murder of George Floyd; and directly oppose the nationwide call to defund police and invest in communities. Decades of data show that increased policing, surveillance, and incarceration do not solve these issues. Instead bring long-term consequences and suffering that fall heaviest on poor, underserved, and overpoliced communities of color.

What creates safe and healthy communities is affordable housing and healthcare for everyone, a good education, and gainful employment. The failure of the government to guarantee these things has created the crisis and suffering we have been witnessing for decades. The idea that more police and incarceration equal safe and healthy communities is a false equivalency. If that were the case, with over 2 million people in cages and billions spent on policing every year, this country would be the safest one on the planet. Clearly, it is not.

The ACLU will monitor this situation closely to ensure that everyone’s constitutional rights are protected. Let us be clear that an emergency declaration does not mean that the police can violate your constitutional rights. We will not stand for any form of racial profiling, illegal use of force, or violations of due process by the police or by any City entity.

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14 Comments

  1. Alan Miller

    Some of the programs the ACLU touts may be beneficial in the long run, some not so much.  But many things that create broken people, most things, can’t be fixed through government programs — that’s a reality most people don’t want to grasp.  Improving the Tenderloin via policing is necessary no matter what social programs are implemented.  Having a lawless area that scares people away isn’t going to help anyone.

        1. Ron Oertel

          I understand that as part of the $50 Golden Gate Bridge fare these days, they’ll “check” your catalytic converter for free.  Pick it up on your way out, assuming they don’t also steal your car.

          Then again, I’m not sure that Davis (or anywhere else) provides a reprieve from that.

          The “moral” of this story is to not get yourself a Prius. Instead, get a good, old-fashioned global-warming machine.

        2. Keith Olson

          I see where some S.F. residents are saying they now leave their car windows open at night to keep them from getting broken during robbery.

          I recently stayed overnight in S.F. and the friend’s house we stayed at told us not to leave anything in our car as for sure it would be missing in the morning.

    1. David Greenwald

      “Having a lawless area that scares people away isn’t going to help anyone.”

      I agree, but the question is the degree to which policing can address that – there are areas that are high crime and generally policing isn’t the way that those problems are addressed. If it were, we wouldn’t have high crime areas.

      1. Ron Oertel

        The reality is that if you seriously enforce the law, folks won’t engage in illegal activities (to the same degree).  Or at least, not where they can be seen.

        There are societies where this isn’t tolerated.  For that matter, much of the U.S. wouldn’t tolerate it.  And they enforce the law.

        It’s only a relatively small percentage of people who cause outsized problems for others. It’s ultimately not society’s responsibility to “fix” them. (The reason this is allowed to fester is because some believe otherwise.)

        1. Keith Y Echols

          Ron, there’s so much wrong with your comment and I’m not a bleeding heart let’s help the poor victims kind of guy.

          But bottom line it’s not society’s job to “fix” the homeless.  But it is society’s job to manage them.  1. not infest public areas.  2. not be left out to suffer and die in the elements and of hunger.  There’s a degree of overlap in fixing the problem is the best way to manage it….”a stitch in time” and all.

      2. Keith Y Echols

         generally policing isn’t the way that those problems are addressed

        It depends on what your primary goal is in addressing the problem.  If it’s sweeping the streets and keeping them clean, then a heavier police presence is how you achieve that.  If it’s to fix the drug problem then no it’s not going to fix the root of the problem.

        1. David Greenwald

          That’s the problem. Last night we were driving through Sacramento and came across a tent city of homeless encampments. I suppose you can sweep that area clear of the homeless people, but unless you actually have a plan and want to put money in, you are dispersing the problem, not addressing it. I see the issue of policing similarly. I’m not an abolitionist, but merely sweeping the problem transfers it rather than addresses it.

        2. Keith Y Echols

           I suppose you can sweep that area clear of the homeless people, but unless you actually have a plan and want to put money in, you are dispersing the problem, not addressing it. I see the issue of policing similarly. I’m not an abolitionist, but merely sweeping the problem transfers it rather than addresses it.

          Cities can only deal with things locally.  And so they can only come up with local solutions.  If the homeless are swept up and they go somewhere else other than the public areas of the city…then the city has addressed it’s problem of homelessness on the streets.  No, it hasn’t fixed the root causes of homelessness.   Nor has it found necessarily a humane solution either.  Hopefully federal, state and county funds and efforts can work together to address this part of the problem.

  2. Don Shor

    The United States has the highest prison population and the highest per-capita rate of incarceration in the world. Prisons are overcrowded, leading to inhumane conditions and rampant spread of COVID, as chronicled regularly on the Vanguard. Until that issue is resolved, using prisons and jails as temporary holding zones for the addicted and homeless is probably not an acceptable policy.

    Local governments don’t have sufficient funding in general to deal with underlying issues. That requires money from the state and especially the federal governments. The mayor is addressing a local problem with the limited resources that she has available.

    The ACLU will monitor this situation closely to ensure that everyone’s constitutional rights are protected. Let us be clear that an emergency declaration does not mean that the police can violate your constitutional rights.

    Excellent. That is what the ACLU is good at. Their rather facile analysis of local budget options, not so much.

  3. Ron Oertel

    Ron, there’s so much wrong with your comment and I’m not a bleeding heart let’s help the poor victims kind of guy.  But bottom line it’s not society’s job to “fix” the homeless.  But it is society’s job to manage them.  1. not infest public areas.

    The quote above sounds exactly like what I said.

    2. not be left out to suffer and die in the elements and of hunger.  There’s a degree of overlap in fixing the problem is the best way to manage it….”a stitch in time” and all.

    I agree.  But the way I’d “fix that” is probably not the way that some others (including the ACLU) would.

    I’d suggest opening mass shelters, away from expensive urban locations.  Put up some partitions (at least) for privacy.

    I think Trump proposed using a closed-down prison.  There’s soon to be another one, around Susanville.  The doors don’t have to be “locked”.

    And offer services from those locations.

    Not sure if I’d suggest allowing drug/alcohol use at those locations. If so, it would likely increase problems there.

    Perhaps some folks ultimately need to be locked-up, to break habits.

    But if you want to continue using drugs/alcohol (to the point that it impacts others), then I’d suggest that “freedom” might ultimately not be the priority. Perhaps America has “too much” freedom.

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