Supervisor to propose withholding money from SFPD budget to prompt reforms

SAN FRANCISCO (BCN)–San Francisco Supervisor John Avalos today announced a proposal that would withhold $200 million from the Police Department’s budget until police make measurable changes in their use of force following multiple recent fatal officer-involved shootings.

Avalos made the announcement this morning on the front steps of City Hall. Joining him were leaders of community groups demanding justice for the people killed by police.

“Clearly we have a crisis that needs addressing,” Avalos said, referring to the recent killings by police of Mario Woods, Amilcar Perez-Lopez, Alex Nieto, Luis Gongora and Jessica Williams.

The Rev. Richard Smith of the group Justice for Amilcar Perez-Lopez joined Avalos in demanding metrics to determine whether police are changing how they use force.

Smith said if police had kept track of the escalating violence, Perez-Lopez’s death may have been averted.

“Action could have been taken,” he said.

Avalos and the other leaders want police to use the “minimal” force necessary rather than a “reasonable” amount of force.

Jessica Williams was the most recent person fatally shot by police in San Francisco. The May 19 shooting prompted Mayor Ed Lee to ask for and accept police Chief Greg Suhr’s resignation last month.

The series of shootings by police prompted five people, known as the Frisco Five, to go on a hunger strike to demand Suhr’s resignation.

Avalos said the money would likely be held from police salaries since that makes up most of the Police Department’s budget, but said that police would have discretion on where the money comes from.

He said if the proposal passes the Board of Supervisors, it would probably be six months before any of the $200 million is released. After that, a hearing could be called at any time to release the money if acceptable changes have been made.

Avalos said he thinks he will be able to get the votes necessary, but he only named five supervisors who expressed support for the proposal. He would need six votes to pass the measure.

Supervisor Malia Cohen issued a statement about the proposal saying she is still evaluating how it would impact the number of police officers on the street and the number of recruits.

“I agree with Supervisor Avalos that the SFPD needs to be held accountable for delivering use of force reforms, but it is my hope that we do not politicize a process that requires trust and collaboration from all sides,” Cohen said in a statement.

The proposal is meant to give supervisors leverage to make the use of force reforms happen. Avalos said there could be give and take on the metrics, but the bottom line is the use of “minimal” force.

Acting police Chief Tony Chapman told Avalos by phone that he opposes the idea, according to Avalos. San Francisco Police Officers Association president Martin Halloran said he also opposes the idea.

“Supervisor Avalos is attempting to hold the Police Department budget ransom until his demands are met, not knowing the full ramifications of his proposed actions,” Halloran said.

“Hopefully the rest of the Board of Supervisors will have the good sense not to play along with this stunt. I expect the Mayor to veto any budget that plays politics with public safety like this,” he said.

Avalos will formally announce the proposal at Friday’s Board of Supervisors’ budget and finance committee hearing on the Police Department’s budget. The proposal could go to the full board for a vote July 19.

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