San Francisco voters scrap minimum staffing requirement for police

Two police reform ballot measures passed Tuesday, adding more oversight to the sheriff's office and removing a minimum staffing requirement for the police department


By Megan Cassidy
San Francisco Chronicle

SAN FRANCISCO — Two San Francisco ballot measures seeking modest reforms for city law enforcement agencies passed decisively.

Proposition D, which would add more oversight and transparency to the San Francisco Sheriff's Office, carried two-thirds of the vote.

Meanwhile, Proposition E, which would scrap a minimum staffing requirement for the police department, scored even higher margins.

Prop. D, a charter amendment sponsored by Supervisor Shamann Walton, would create a seven-member Sheriff's Department Oversight Board, similar to that of the San Francisco Police Commission. The board would make policy recommendations and report findings to the sheriff and the Board of Supervisors.

The measure would also create an Office of Inspector General for the Sheriff's Office, which would investigate in-custody deaths and complaints against its staffers and contractors. Both bodies would have subpoena power, and the sheriff's office would be required to cooperate with investigations. The bodies could recommend but not directly impose discipline.

Walton said he created the measure in response to in-custody deaths as well as the botched investigation into the Sheriff's Department "fight club" case, in which deputies allegedly forced jail inmates to fight each other in gladiator-style battles.

If passed, the measure would cost roughly $3 million annually.

Prop. D garnered the support of all San Francisco supervisors, District Attorney Chesa Boudin, state Sen. Scott Wiener and San Francisco's Libertarian and Democratic parties.

Sheriff Paul Miyamoto had opposed the investigative portion of the measure, calling it a "wasteful bureaucracy." He argued that it overlaps with a independent investigation system already in place, operated by the city's Department of Police Accountability.

Miyamoto said that his office recently updated its agreement with the city's independent Department of Police Accountability and that the public can lodge complaints against sheriff's staff directly with that agency, rather than going through the Sheriff's Office.

Miyamoto said he would have not opposed an oversight committee without investigative powers.

The measure was also opposed by the San Francisco Taxpayers Association and the San Francisco Republican Party.

Prop. E, introduced by Supervisor Norman Yee, would eliminate the mandate in the City Charter that the Police Department maintain no fewer than 1,971 full-duty officers.

Supporters of Prop. E said the staffing requirement is an antiquated and arbitrary benchmark for measuring public safety. If passed with a simple-majority vote, Prop. E would strip the minimum staffing requirement from the charter and require the Police Department to submit a staffing report to the Police Commission every two years.

The San Francisco Police Officers Association has opposed the measure, saying the department has never met minimal staffing levels in recent history and is consistently short-staffed.

"Our response times to 911 calls are lagging because we don't have enough people on patrol," Sgt. Tracy McCray, vice president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said recently.

Yee said the measure would lay the groundwork for the types of police reforms San Franciscans are demanding. Namely, he said, it would allow the city to bring in other types of professionals to handle activities related to homelessness issues and mental health crises that don't involve criminal wrongdoing.

"It would take the handcuffs off of our policy decisions for reform efforts," he said.

Prop. E's supporters included the Board of Supervisors, San Francisco's Democratic and Libertarian parties, the League of Women Voters of San Francisco and the San Francisco Labor Council. Opponents included the San Francisco Taxpayers Association and the city's Republican and Green parties.

(c)2020 the San Francisco Chronicle

McClatchy-Tribune News Service

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