By Brian Cox
Dear Budget and Appropriations Committee Members:
Today, you will vote on whether to take $27MM from the general fund to pay San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) officers for overtime they claimed they have already worked. The SFPD has justified its request by consistently pointing to “severe staffing shortages.” This self-assessment is based on experts SFPD pays to say it needs more officers but has been rightfully challenged by experts not paid by the SFPD. The public, this Committee – and indeed the entire Board of Supervisors – should be skeptical of devoting more resources to a Department that is paid more but works fewer hours, receives generous annual pay raises, and last year received a $50MM budget increase last fiscal year.
For 100 years, the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office has provided dedicated and passionate legal representation to people who are charged with a crime and unable to afford an attorney. Our mission is to protect and defend the rights of our clients and community through effective, vigorous, compassionate, and creative legal advocacy. The Integrity Unit exists to fight police misconduct and police overreach that has long been directed to Public Defender clients and communities of color.
Instead of investing more precious public resources in SFPD-a department that has a long history of overpolicing and using excessive force on people of color, has received a 31/100 from the Police Scorecard Project, has cost San Franciscans tens of millions of dollars in lawsuit settlements, continues to racially profile people of color, and deploys officers who lie under oath – rather than wasting taxpayer dollars on unnecessary police overtime that doesn’t even treat the sympton1s, this Committee should invest in evidenced-based solutions that address the underlying causes of crime: a lack of housing, jobs, infrastructure, and healthcare. This Committee is well positioned to properly interrogate the need for additional funding, a role that is made even more crucial because this Department seeks regularly to avoid public oversight8 and outside scrutiny.
Accordingly, I request that this Committee not approve the additional funds and instead require that SFPD use savings from unfilled positions and unused academy classes to fill this gap considering SFPD’s claimed challenges in recruiting new members.
Brian Cox is Director of Integrity Unit for the San Francisco Public Defender’s Office