Mayor London Breed visited the Tenderloin on Tuesday to push a potentially contentious $27 million bill to fund police overtime that the Board of Supervisors is expected to take up next week.
Surrounded by Police Chief Bill Scott, District Attorney Brooke Jenkins, Urban Alchemy CEO Lena Miller and members of the Board of Supervisors, Breed forcefully defended the $27 million public safety proposal and accused members of the Board of Supervisors of slow-walking the bill.
"We need you to be better than that; we need you to put politics aside," said Breed at Urban Alchemy Oasis Park at Hyde and Turk streets. "We have no other choice. We need change."
The $27.6 million budget supplemental, which requires eight votes to win approval, would fund overtime hours for police patrols along with retired officers who supplement beat patrols through SFPD’s Community Ambassadors Program.
According to the Mayor's Office, 25 retired officers who had undergone training and were slated to begin this week can't be hired unless the board passes the budget supplemental. The police department has seen overtime hours surge in recent years amid a dwindling number of sworn officers.
Scott pointed to a police staffing analysis that found the department needs around 2,182 sworn officers to satisfy its workload. The police department has about 1,600 sworn officers currently, and "the only way we temporarily bridge that shortcoming, that gap is through overtime," Scott said.
At the Tuesday press conference, Breed also urged the board's budget appropriations committee to approve a grant increase that would pay for additional Urban Alchemy street ambassadors in the Tenderloin and Mid-Market areas. The committee will hear that item, along with another grant increase to fund Downtown "Welcome Ambassadors," at a meeting Wednesday.
Last week, public safety advocates had urged Supervisor Connie Chan, who chairs the board's budget committee, to hear the police overtime item this week due to the perceived urgency of increasing foot patrols in neighborhoods beleaguered by crime.
The overtime bill is expected to be heard at a March 15 meeting alongside another $25 million budget supplemental to fund additional street-cleaning positions at the Department of Public Works.
On Tuesday, Breed took a dig at Supervisor Dean Preston, who represents the Tenderloin and is a vocal critic of the police, and supervisors whom she called "obstructionist" for failing to put the overtime bill on this week's agenda.
"Sadly, your supervisor of the Tenderloin isn’t here today, and that’s a real problem," Breed said.
Preston was the first supervisor to come out against the $27 million supplement, calling it "preposterous" in light of an increase to the police department's budget granted last year. Preston is one of a handful of supervisors who could derail the budget supplemental when it goes before the board.
The police overtime bill is co-sponsored by Supervisors Catherine Stefani, Joel Engardio, Matt Dorsey and Rafael Mandelman. Supervisors Myrna Melgar and Ahsha Safaí have also voiced support for the overtime bill.
Neither Chan nor Supervisor Shamann Walton responded when asked whether they would support the overtime bill; Board Chair Aaron Peskin said he was confident the board would provide the police department with "necessary funding" but didn't say directly whether he would vote for the bill.
"I don't play politics with public safety; I look forward to an honest policy conversation at the upcoming hearings," said Chan in a statement on Tuesday. "I will continue to hold departments accountable and provide the critical oversight needed to ensure our public dollars are working for all San Franciscans."
In a text message last week, Supervisor Hillary Ronen said she was undecided about the overtime request but suggested the department was overspending while neglecting the Mission District, which she represents. Mission residents and merchants have sounded the alarm in recent weeks over crime and street conditions, along with a troublesome sex trade on Capp Street.
"If we grant these additional funds, are they going to continue overspending, or do they have a plan to live within their annual budget of around [$800 million]?" Ronen said.
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