SF Public Defender Mano Raju Applauds SF Police Commission Budget Vote – Echoes Public Call for Fundamental Change
“I was very glad to see our San Francisco Police Commissioners unanimously voting to reject the police budget at 2:30am this morning after 9 hours of public comment, over 99 percent of which featured San Franciscans of all ages and backgrounds demanding SFPD be defunded and disbanded.
However, we also learned in the meeting last night that so far, the police department is only being asked to cut 3 percent (or $23 million) of their nearly $700 million budget. Moreover, these cuts would come from vacant positions alone, leaving unaltered the number of officers on the streets and SFPD’s policing methods and structure; in other words, it would be business as usual.
Meanwhile, as caller after caller pleaded with the Commission for meaningful, urgent change, records of discipline proceedings against Sergeant Justin Erb for killing Jessica Williams, an unarmed black woman in a car in 2016, were finally made public and told a grim story. The Department of Police Accountability (DPA) initially recommended Erb be fired for shooting and killing Williams in violation of numerous department policies, but Chief Scott wanted to impose no punishment at all. The Commission disregarded both recommendations and imposed a 45-day suspension in a split vote. Two commissioners who voted for that brief suspension instead of termination are still on the Commission; Commissioner Dion-Jay Brookter and Commissioner Damali Taylor.
DPA is only as powerful as the commissioners allow it to be. Commissioners who reject the recommendations of the independent oversight body have no place on the Commission when the public they represent so clearly wants violent officers out of SFPD.
The public call for transformative change is urgent. The rejection of what amounts to an invisible budget cut is the very least we must do to answer this call. The real work must now begin, in the form of fresh leadership on the police commission, and concrete ideas and implementation of plans to reinvent and reduce policing in San Francisco, led by the values we all hold, and the communities most impacted.
Mayor Breed and Supervisor Walton’s calls to re-direct funding from the SFPD to support the African-American and other marginalized communities is an important first step. A much smaller, much altered police department and policing model is what San Franciscans are calling for and the current moment demands nothing less.”