Skip to main content

San Francisco needs more police funding. But not with the trade-offs in Prop. B

The same supervisors who have failed to uphold public safety now want to further tax San Franciscans for a basic service we already pay for.

A group of police officers in uniforms stands lined up, badges prominent; image is monochrome with the badges highlighted in yellow.
Illustration by Jesse Rogala/The Standard; photo by Isaac Ceja/The Standard

By Marjan Philhour

Last November, San Francisco Supervisor Matt Dorsey introduced a charter amendment, Proposition B, that would have addressed our city’s police understaffing crisis by reestablishing police staffing minimums, raising the minimum number of officers on the force over the next five years and establishing a $16 million police staffing fund to help recruit new officers. He worked closely with the San Francisco controller, the Mayor’s Office and the police chief to ensure the measure would empower our police without breaking the bank. It’s exactly the sort of thing our city needs.

Or, it was. A few weeks after Dorsey introduced the charter amendment, Supervisor Ahsha Safaí introduced a “poison pill”—a hostile amendment that would make Dorsey’s proposed plan contingent on a “future tax measure passed by the voters.” The amendment—or “cop tax,” as it has come to be known—also reduced Dorsey’s minimum staffing number by over 100 officers and was supported by Safaí’s allies on the Board of Supervisors, including Richmond District Supervisor Connie Chan, who in 2020 campaigned on dismantling the police. (For transparency, I am running against Chan for District 1 supervisor and ran against her in 2020.) Once the cop tax was introduced, Dorsey withdrew his support of Prop. B, as did Supervisors Joel Engardio and Rafael Mandelman, who co-sponsored the original proposal. 

Under the Chan-supported version of Prop. B, if we want more police on our streets, voters would have to approve an unnamed mystery tax at some undetermined future time. The same supervisors who have failed to uphold public safety in the past now want to further tax San Franciscans for a basic service we already pay for. Chan wants to charge us a premium for the right to feel safe on our streets and in our homes.

This is wrong. Public safety is not a luxury. It’s a core part of a functioning city, and in San Francisco, we pay to staff our police department with hard-earned tax dollars. We should not have to pay an additional fee to live in this city or leave our homes at night. 

Tying police funding to a future, unnamed tax is even more irresponsible given our city’s woeful police staffing shortage. Fully staffed, the San Francisco Police Department requires 2,182 full-duty sworn police officers. Today, we have 1,580. At the end of 2024, 300 more officers are eligible to retire. If they do, we will have little more than half the law enforcement required to protect San Francisco. The fact that Chan wants to make police staffing contingent on further taxes while we struggle to keep officers on the sheets is shameful. 

Sadly, though, it is not surprising. Supervisors like Chan have obstructed public safety for years. She has consistently opposed or delayed initiatives necessary to keep the police department operating. In 2020, in an online District 1 candidate forum, she said it was time to “dismantle” the police department. In 2022, she voted against a provision that would expand the SFPD’s access to surveillance cameras, and at the end of last year, she delayed a budget hearing on the deployment of license-plate reading technology that would help police apprehend criminals—technology already used by the San Francisco Municipal Transportation Agency to assess parking tickets. Since her election to the board in 2020, Chan has failed to support our police, has been weak on crime and has refused to uphold public safety. 

In a stunningly tone-deaf and galling maneuver, however, Chan is now promoting Prop. B, using it to falsely claim that she is in favor of public safety—all while ignoring the cop tax that she voted to add to the amendment. District 1 residents are now receiving mailers featuring a smiling Chan, claiming that Prop. B “does not raise homeowner taxes” and will “make San Francisco safer.” These mailers are deliberately misleading, obstructive to policy and offensive to residents of the Richmond. 

Chan’s bait-and-switch tactics, however, are paper thin and fooling no one. Under her watch, violent crime and personal property theft are on the rise. In the Richmond, where I live, countless residents have been victimized. Last year, our beloved shopkeeper at Richmond Market was killed by someone trying to steal two beers. (I live a block away; Richmond Market was the first place I let my kids walk to on their own.) At a recent event in the Richmond, more than half the people raised their hands when I asked how many had had their vehicles broken into.

San Francisco does not need to be like this. Supervisors like Connie Chan have undermined public safety for too long. Now, they’re supporting Prop. B, with its poison pill “cop tax,” but don’t be fooled. Prop. B is simply BS.

This piece has been corrected to reflect that Chan was elected to the board in 2020.

Marjan Philhour is a small business owner and community advocate who has worked in federal, state and local government. Philhour served on her local PTA and co-founded the Balboa Village Merchants Association. She is a 2024 candidate for the Board of Supervisors.

We’d like to hear what you think about this or any of our opinion articles. You can email us at Interested in submitting an opinion piece of your own? Review our submission guidelines.