San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced a spate of police reforms, including replacing police with unarmed “professionals” on calls that are not a threat to public safety.
Such calls include neighbor disputes, reports on homeless people, and school discipline interventions, among other activities.
Breed proposed four priorities to achieve this vision: “ending the use of police in response to non-criminal activity; addressing police bias and strengthening accountability; demilitarizing the police, and promoting economic justice. These policies build on the City’s ongoing work to meet the standards contained in President Obama’s 2015 Task Force on 21st Century Policing.”
“San Francisco has made progress reforming our police department, but we know that we still have significant work to do,” Breed said in the release. “We know that a lack of equity in our society overall leads to a lot of the problems that police are being asked to solve. We are going to keep going with these additional reforms and continuing to find ways to reinvest in communities that have historically been underserved and harmed by systemic racism.”
Breed is short on specifics. She can say anything she wants to please the mob, but what does it mean in the real world?
In order to limit unnecessary confrontation between the SFPD and the community, San Francisco will work to divert non-violent calls for service away from SFPD to non-law enforcement agencies. Over the next year, the City will develop a systematic response plan to improve direct connection to community-based or City service providers, such as the CAHOOTS model of crisis response or the Homeless Outreach Team or Street Medicine behavioral health professionals. This plan will also reduce the need for armed police interventions in our schools.
I think many police officers have stories of “non-violent” mentally disturbed people suddenly becoming violent. The reason police — and not paramedics — respond to these calls is their unpredictability. Cops might not be trained very much in dealing with mental patients, but if a disturbed person pulls a gun, what’s an “unarmed professional” going to do? Probably get shot.
As for where the money will come from to pay professionals and others to intervene instead of police, no one knows. The Homeless Outreach Team and Street Medicine behavioral health professionals programs sound very worthy but would have to be vastly expanded to deal with city-wide problems. They have to be staffed with competent people. There has to be additional training.
Which city department’s budget would this come out from? Police? Human services? Not only that, but the mayor is also talking about overhauling the testing and exams taken by police to eliminate “bias” in the process. There will be department-wide investigations to root out bias and racism.
Color me skeptical, but it sounds like a witch hunt. If they can’t find bias, they’ll continue to dig until they do. In short, I don’t envy cops in San Francisco as they’re forced to live and work with these “reforms.”