Voters in San Francisco to decide on minimum police staffing charter amendment on March 5

Voters in San Francisco, California, will decide on a policing-related charter amendment, titled Proposition B, on March 5, 2024.

Proposition B would amend the city’s charter regarding minimum police officer staffing levels and establish a fund for police officer recruitment and staffing. However, these provisions would not go into effect unless voters approve a new tax or amend an existing tax in the future to fund the provisions.

Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who represents District 6, drafted the charter amendment. When the amendment was in committee, it was amended by Supervisor Ahshas Safai. Safai’s amendment had to do with requiring voter approval of a new tax or amending an existing tax to make the changes outlined in the amendment effective. This measure was put on the ballot by the San Francisco Board of Supervisors on Nov. 28, 2023.

If the amendment is passed by voters, and if voters approve a new tax or amend an existing tax to fund these requirements, the minimum requirement of police officers would change from 1,700 to 2,074 in the first five years after the amendment takes effect. The amendment would require the city to budget enough money to pay for at least the number of police officers employed during the previous year, and the police commission would also be required to set a minimum number of full-time police officers, which may not be reduced by more than 5% per year unless two-thirds of the police commission votes for a larger reduction. Proposition B would also create a fund for police recruitment that would last for five to ten years. The fund would be used to recruit and hire full-time officers, the development and administration of hiring strategies, and funding hiring incentives for new police officers.

San Francisco Supervisor Ahsha Safaí, writing in support of the amendment, said, “Prop. B would require San Francisco to set and achieve a minimum staffing level of 2,074 officers over the next five years and direct City Hall to be open and transparent with voters about how we pay for it … The first step is simply, to be honest with the residents of this city — to prove to them that we are indeed capable of achieving a minimum police staffing goal while being fiscally responsible about making it happen.”

Supervisor Matt Dorsey, who initially drafted the amendment but opposed it after it was amended by Supervisor Safaí in committee, said, “Proposition B is a confusing mess of political gamesmanship that actually prevents San Francisco voters from mandating a fully staffed police department — unless and until they pass ‘a future tax measure’ to ‘generate sufficient additional revenue’ to recruit and hire more officers … San Francisco is a $14.6 billion enterprise. We can afford a fully staffed police department. A fully staffed SFPD should be a baseline expectation for the taxes you already pay — not a fee-for-service add-on.”

Ballotpedia covered 16 local law enforcement-related ballot measures in 2023. Eleven were approved and five were defeated.

At the election on March 5, San Francisco voters will decide on a total of seven local ballot measures, in addition to one state ballot measure.

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