Grassroots uprising calls for defunding police

Hundreds of callers submit hours and hours of testimony on police budget and police staffing levels.

The grassroots movement to defund the SF police has made its presence felt this week as hundreds of callers have flooded two supes committee meetings demanding that law-enforcement budgets be dramatically reduced.

A large organized constituency is calling for the mayor and the supes to cut spending on SFPD

The Budget and Appropriations Committee July 8 heard more than eight hours of testimony on the police budget, with a vast number of callers – I didn’t count, but given that each caller had one minute, we’re talking more than 300 easily – saying that substantial cuts are needed.

Mayor London Breed originally has proposed to reduce the police budget by $23 million, a move the Police Commission has rejected. That’s a pretty modest reduction in a $703 million budget – only about 3.2 percent, when some other departments are facing cuts of up to 15 percent.

As Sup. Shamann Walton has noted, if the mayor goes along with a 15 percent reduction in the police budget, that’s $100 million.

The organized movement is pushing for much more.

Caller after caller said that much of what the police do could be better done with civilians who have different training.

Then today, at the Rules Committee, two measures got extensive comment. One, by Walton, would create a form of civilian oversight for the Sheriff’s Department. Some callers agreed that was a positive step – but many more said that the city needs to reduce spending on sheriffs. That could be possible if San Francisco closes some of its jails.

The other item involves a City Charter amendment that would eliminate the minimum requirement for sworn officers on the force. Testimony on that items also went on for hours, as hundreds of speakers said that it’s time to shift funding from police with guns to a different form of community interaction for many of the calls that now go to 911.

Some of the uprising was organized by the local chapter of Democratic Socialists of America, which has increasingly shown its political clout in local elections. Some of it is community-based anger at the way the cops have been treated for decades. I think it’s clear that people are sick of the pattern we’ve seen: SFPD leadership makes promises of reform. The mayor says we’re making progress. More and more millions of dollars go to the department.

And nothing really changes.

It’s going to have to start changing, now.