An “anti-crime” ordinance, known as Proposition R, is facing criticism from experts in law enforcement who feel the November 8 referendum is a misguided play on San Francisco residents’ fears that will shift power from the San Francisco Police Department to City Hall.
“We’re spending all this money and time and effort to get an outstanding police chief, and then we’re going to tell him or her how to do his or her job? That’s not how it works,” former San Francisco police chief Tony Ribera told the San Francisco Chronicle.
The measure was proposed by San Francisco Supervisor Scott Wiener, who represents the 8th District and is also a candidate for the state Senate. He is running against progressive Supervisor Jane Kim, who represents the 6th District.
Part of Prop. R reads:
Violent crime in San Francisco is at an historic low, but the City’s neighborhoods have seen a significant increase in crimes such as home burglaries, automobile break-ins, and automobile thefts. These kinds of crimes make residents feel unsafe in their homes and vehicles and on City streets and reduce the quality of life in San Francisco.
For these reasons,Wiener is seeking the creation of a “Neighborhood Crime Unit within the Police Department,” which will act as “an accountability mechanism to ensure that as we staff the department up, we actually have true community policing.”
The Neighborhood Crime Unit would consist of at least 60 officers, or roughy three percent of the police force, who will focus their efforts on robberies, burglaries and theft, as well as “quality of life” crimes that plague the increasingly overcrowded neighborhood.
However, opposition to the ballot measure has critics questioning whether police department staffing should be left up to voters. Also in question is why lawmakers, without backgrounds in police training, should be allowed to decide on behalf of police forces.
Ribera, who currently directs the International Institute of Law Enforcement Leadership at the University of San Francisco, has suggested the ordinance would tie the new police chief’s hands, among other things. He reportedly lauded Wiener’s intent as being “good” but simultaneously suggested “Scott is not an expert on law enforcement.” He also told the Chronicle:”The priorities of the Police Department in terms of crime-fighting change constantly.”
San Francisco residents will vote on the ordinance on Election Day, November 8. If it passes, it would reportedly not kick in until the Police Department has hired more people and meets the City Charter’s mandate of 1,971 officers.
SFPD Police Chief Greg Suhr resigned suddenly this past May at the request of Mayor Ed Lee and after mounting pressure from the Black Lives Matter movement, which had targeted him for months. His absence has left the SFPD in search of a replacement.
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