We Are San Francisco: 'Staffing Police' with Matt Dorsey
Ben Kaplan 00:00
Ben Kaplan 00:02
BART Rider. Hey San Francisco. I'm Ben Kaplan and this is the podcast where we define who we are and who we want to be. We are diverse. We are innovative, we are inclusive. We are change makers, problem solvers, activists, leaders, citizens. We are open minded, optimistic, because hope for a better tomorrow and you and you and you got to get in the hole. This is the podcast. That's more than a podcast for Cisco. They are the world champions. We are San Francisco.
Ben Kaplan 00:40
Hey San Francisco. Today I'm chatting with supervisor Matt Dorsey. Supervisor Dorsey generated headlines because of his proposed police full staffing Act, a charter amendment that would mandate minimum levels of police staffing, and create a dedicated police recruiting fund. Since our interview, and amendment was added to Dorsey's plan by supervisor Ahsha Safai. That would condition police full staffing on raising taxes. That's like saying we're going to tax you once just to have a police department and then twice to have an adequately staffed Police Department. Amazingly, that version of the amendment passed a contentious Board of Supervisors vote and will appear on the march 2024 ballot. So now supervisor Dorsey opposes his own plan. That's politics for you. Supervisor Dorsey is also unique because he never intended to be a politician. He spent more than 14 years in the city attorney's office and two years as Director of Strategic Communications for the SF Police Department. Matt has also been very open about his struggles with substance abuse and his HIV positive status, life experiences that he says help them better empathise with some of the city's most vulnerable. So is San Francisco doing enough to solve its police staffing crisis? And what can we do about it? Let's find out with supervisor Matt Dorsey.
Ben Kaplan 02:05
Matt, it's been a busy week for you. Because one on Monday you had a big public safety Townhall. And on Tuesday, you introduced a charter amendment that deals with how we fund and support the police. So first of all, Are you exhausted? No, actually, I'm glad that we finally were able to introduce a charter amendment that I had been working on for many months, I actually started the process back in March of asking the city attorney to start working on it. I was working closely with the City Comptroller and the mayor's office and the police chief about how we can get to a fully staffed Police Department in a reasonable amount of time, I want to make sure that we have a policy that is achievable. That's not going to break the bank. It's good government.
Matt Dorsey 02:52
So that when we were ready to take something to voters, it was well formulated and thoughtful and effective. So to me, this is you know, invigorated that we could finally get this across the finish line into introduction. Now, it's not the finish line. Obviously, that's will hopefully happen on election day. But I'm, I'm encouraged. And I would say you know, it's been a busy week, but it's also an energising week, I feel good about where we are, as you know, as a policymaker who is trying to lead some change and trying to forge solutions to a police understaffing crisis that is very alarming to me, and in my view, should be alarming to anybody who's paying attention. We've never been in a situation that we're in right now with police staffing. And that's largely because of most of the public disorder and lawlessness that we're seeing out on the street. And before we get into the details of the actual proposal, I want to sort of take a step back, and we have a lot of listeners who are maybe longtime San Francisco residents, but they are new to getting engaged. They want to be part of this movement. And so I want to just take a step back and say, Why and explain why a charter amendment is important. Why should just not the board of supervisors or the mayor just say, hey, let's fund more police? Let's find some recruiting pool many things that you propose, and we'll get into the details. But why is this step necessary? And why do we need to take it to the voters? Well, the charter is basically the constitution of the city. This is the the strongest step that electorate can take to compel an action by city government. But it's important also that voters understand especially the way that California's democracy is set up going back to the progressive era a century ago.
Matt Dorsey 04:45
Voters are the government's you know, anybody who is a resident that has the you know, agency of the vote in California, you have as much
Matt Dorsey 04:58
right to govern Uh, as as I do as a member of the Board of Supervisors, when it comes to the power of the vote in a charter situation or constitutional amendment or a ballot measure. The reason that I think we have to go to voters with a charter amendment is twofold. One, I do not have confidence in City Hall to solve this problem. The reality is that unlike COVID, which was an unforeseeable crisis, the police understaffed and crisis has been foreseeable since the Clinton administration. And the reason I always cite the Clinton administration was for those that a certain age who remember when Bill Clinton was running for president in 1992, he made a commitment that he was going to hire 100,000 Cops and make sure that there was federal funding for local governments to hire more police, it ended up being more than 100,000, I think it was closer to 125,000. All have grown as police officers hired during that era are now coming up on retirement edge. So we have known for a long time that there is a demographic cliff coming. And during times when we should have been doing more to go in the right direction, to be more aggressive in our recruiting. We were not acting sufficiently and by we I really mean City Hall.
Ben Kaplan 06:16
And two things that you said are really striking to me. But just your description. And your point. One is one you said you don't trust City Hall, to follow through on this, which is striking, coming from someone who works at City Hall, who is in fact in the Board of Supervisors. And for I think a lot of people knowing how important the Board of Supervisors is, but at the legislature of San Francisco. Why as someone who's now an insider, as someone who works with colleagues, and you're an approachable, friendly guy, I know from personal experience, why do you not trust your colleagues? That's a striking thing to say,
Matt Dorsey 06:50
because we had an unforeseeable crisis that we didn't solve. And I don't think we're acting boldly enough to solve it. But it's an open question whether I'm gonna get six votes, I hope that I can. But we could be doing this, we should have had a plan to move more aggressively, years ago. So now we have what I will tell you just back in June, we had a resolution that settlement, you know, the seven of us at the Board of Supervisors agreed upon urging the Police Commission and the Department of Human Resources to enact a price match guarantee for police recruitment bonuses, and nothing happened with it. It's one of those things where, you know, sometimes even when the board of supervisors is acting, urging departments and the police commission to do something, you know, it falls on deaf ears. The importance of a voter enacted charter amendment is that it has the full force of law. And that is why as a matter of public policy, voters can step into the shoes of the legislature for the government that is theirs, and take action. They can prioritise this in a way that, you know, elevates the conversation above the sort of vested interests in concert. You know, there's a lot of powerful interests at budget time that all want to, you know, they're there lay claim to finite city dollars. Voters I think have the right and and right now, I think we have a need for voters to identify police staffing as a priority, and to make sure that we are solving this over time in a way that's responsible in a way that will work and that will finally deliver on the promise of fully staffed Police Department. A world class city deserves that. But especially a city like San Francisco, our city's economy is so invested in being a city that is welcoming to retail shoppers, commuters, tourists, conventions, businesses, we can't afford to not solve our public safety challenges. And that starts with a fully staffed Police Department,
Ben Kaplan 09:01
supervisor, Dorsey. The second thing that's striking that you just said, relates to foreseeing or having unforeseen crises, because you compared the public safety crisis now to the COVID crisis. And COVID is often cite as an example of government working together, getting through the red tape cooperating putting the public first not special interest, not ambition for future office. It's a good example of that. But what you said is that we can actually do all of that when the crisis is unforeseen. We're in essentially, we have less good information than we work together. But if we have better information, and in fact, this dates from the Clinton administration, according to your recent comments, suddenly with better information, shouldn't government be better?
Matt Dorsey 09:47
It's a complicated political scenario in San Francisco. It's some of the people who have strong voice in City Hall are not always reflective of the city at large. I think that happens in politics that the interests that have the ear of elected officials aren't really necessarily the interests of the electorate at large. That's another reason why I think direct democracy like a charter amendment is important, especially at moments like this. Your point, though, is about how government can work together more effectively is, is a really good one. The interesting thing about not just the emergency declarations through COVID, but even the mayor's emergency declaration, around the drug overdose crisis, there was the tenderloin emergency initiative a few years ago, that that was actually something that inspired me to ask for this job that I never even thought I would want the loan half. But the most of the emergency was to clear our own rules and regulations and processes out of the way, you know, and I think when we get to a better place, I hope that maybe this is something I'll work on in my second term. We need to take a hard look at why government is so complicated, that we have to pass emergency declarations just to speed things up. I mean, most of what we're trying to do is make our own processes higher and contracting. You know these things just more efficient. Because right now, they're they're highly inefficient. I will say this, there's a lot of good reasons that inefficiencies are built in, you want checks and balances, you want a participatory democracy. But I think anybody who's familiar with city governments in San Francisco will tell you, there's sometimes too much process and and processes can be abused and bogged down. That's, you know, a Cornerstone, among the problems of our housing crisis is just process. Let
Ben Kaplan 11:54
me paraphrase what you just said, which is that, why is it the case that when we like really need to get things done, we get rid of a lot of rules and process? If we want government to really get things done, like, all the time, like seven days a week? Shouldn't we simplify things? Why is it required? And is that what's needed in that moment of crisis or that moment of need? Yeah, I'll
Matt Dorsey 12:18
give you an example of, you know, San Francisco, just in last six months, amended a provision of its administrative code that applies to contracting that prohibited contractors from states that have objectionable laws around LGBTQ plus issues, reproductive choice issues and voting rights issues. And it was it was a well intended law that was intended to incentivize other states to be more enlightened in their policies. What happened instead was that we, over a period of a couple of years, prevented our own city, from engaging or contractor with companies based in fully 25 states.
Ben Kaplan 13:07
So if the best company that has the best result at the most efficient price that can do it in a timely fashion, basically, we check all the boxes, you're the company, but you happen to be in one of these 25 states, we're not choosing you because of something that you have nothing to do with, which is a certain policy position made by politicians in your state, and you just happen to, you know, reside there, we're not going to choose you even though you're clearly the best, right? So we're
Matt Dorsey 13:33
making competitive bidding less competitive. And that's only one example. If you look at some of the contracting provisions that are in our Administrative Code, we have requirements that we can't do. We can't do business with companies that import Indonesian hardwood. Indonesia banned exporting hardwood 30 years ago, we have principles about the McBride principles that we won't do business with companies that don't respect the McBride principles. That's something that goes back to the Good Friday Agreement in the Clinton administration with Northern Ireland. We had a prohibit prohibition on companies doing business with Burma, during a 10 year period when the nation of Burma did not exist. We put these things over time into our Administrative Code, and then we never go back and clean them up. One other good example is we don't do business with companies that don't all that don't offer domestic partnership benefits. We're sitting here today 10 year domestic partnership benefits was intended to be something before that we had marriage equality for same sex couples. It was intended to be something that levelled the playing field for those from the LGBTQ plus community. We have had marriage equality in the United States for a decade, but that domestic partner benefit requirements still resides there. So eventually we're gonna have to go back and clean this up. But right now there's higher priorities. I think police staffing is number one But there's a lot of things that we need to clean up in our in our contracting and government processes. I think COVID In the current situation that we're in, highlights a lot of the inefficiencies that we need to circle back on because we need to govern better and more effectively. And right now, I think we can all agree, we're not governing as effectively or well as we should be. Now, I
Ben Kaplan 15:20
want to ask you about this. Were you ever a West Wing fan? The reason I bring this up is there's a famous episode. That's called a proportional response.
Martin Sheen 15:28
What is the virtue of a proportional response? Why is it good? I mean, this is what we do. Yes, sir. It's what we do. It's what we've always done. Well, if it's what we do, if it's what we've always done, don't they know? We're going to do it? They did that. So we did this. Mr. President, am I right, or am I missing something here? No. So you're right, sir. Then I ask again, what is the virtue of a proportional response? It isn't virtuous. Mr. President, it's all there is. It is not all there is just what else is a disproportional response.
Ben Kaplan 15:57
But the question that episode raises is when do you need to be disproportional? Like it's a level six crisis and you need to respond with a nine or a 10? Because it's that important. And so the question is because you raise it, you know, like, Should we be bolder on public safety? Should we be bolder on police staffing? What I'm asking and part of the charter amendment, we'll get into the details is that we need to be a lot bolder in recruiting police. In fact, we need to be competitive with other bonuses that other northern California police departments are offering to get people. So they don't come to San Francisco, and they go to their city instead. So do we need a disproportionate response? Is this enough of a crisis that it's not like, we just need to be like, measure what everyone else is we're going to do we actually need to do more than what is expected. Because we've got to solve this now. And we've got to be bold,
Matt Dorsey 16:47
I would actually argue that, that this is proportion, we can be bold in proportion that I think we have to be honest about the situation that we're in with police staffing. Our recommend our independently recommended staffing level for the police department is 2182 full duty police officers those that means police officers who are ready to go right now at full capacity, not on leave or in any sort of, you know, injury or temporary modified duty when
Ben Kaplan 17:16
people hear that number just as background, just to understand is that just based on population of San Francisco is that based on the nature of our seven by seven cities that Patreon like the urban dynamics of our traffic patterns and where people live? Where does that number come from? It
Matt Dorsey 17:33
was independently researched. It actually was a product of a process that began several years ago under the leadership of former supervisor and board president Norman Yee. To look at the workload of the San Francisco Police Department considering calls for service crime data population, tourist numbers, San Francisco is a little bit of an outlier among cities because our residential population is quite small compared to the number of visitors and commuters our city gets there really isn't an analogue in American cities anyway, about where the residential population is only a small portion of, you know, we may have 800,000, you know, I had change residential population. In a good year, like 2019, we had 26 and a half million tourists coming to visit. That's like the state of Texas coming to visit one city. You know, that's kind of typical. We, uh, we had, back when we hosted the Superbowl. I remember, I was working in the city attorney's office at the time, and I was pointing out to people, San Francisco already hosts the equivalent of 16 Super Bowls a year just based just the convention. So we have here all of that needs to be policed. So the police, the number of people that we need to have policing our city needs to be sort of figured out, quantify needs to be quantified in a thoughtful
Ben Kaplan 19:01
because you're saying that 2100 plus number is in the context of everything. It's not purely just like, what's our residential population, but we got 26 million people come in, you're gonna need some more police officers than just the population would indicate the process
Matt Dorsey 19:14
that former supervisor, Norman the lead was a thoughtful methodology to determine how big our police department should be. And right now that number is 20 182 full duty police officers. What we have instead is less than 1500. We are about 1/3 below the recommended static level. And I want people to really understand the proportionality of the problem. One a third of the police department we are supposed to have as a world class major city is that to their and the thing that is more worrisome to me is that as we sit here today, the number of police officers right now who are eligible for retirement is 350 We could be at a situation in a year, that we are at half the capacity at a moment when we don't have a lot of people in Gen Z who want to really be police officers, we are in a highly competitive environment for law enforcement personnel, more than I have ever seen in my career, and I have been around law enforcement agencies for virtually all of my career, going back to my first job out of college working for the district attorney. So we're in a real problem here, we're in a competitive environment, and we're not competing well. So that's why I think charter amendment is so important. And that's
Ben Kaplan 20:39
why what your point when I sort of brought up proportional disproportionate response, what you're actually saying is, we're at a level nine or 10. Now, even if we're proportional, we have to be taking bold action, because or else we got to, you know, do the Spinal Tap thing and turn it up to level 11 Or something. You're saying, like, if we don't think we're in crisis mode, now, we are kidding ourselves. And also, second point there is that this could get worse in terms of staffing because of patterns in retirement, and, and maybe even one other point. And I've talked with folks about this, and the police chief about this, which is that the legacy of George Floyd, and rightly so a lot of people very upset about that, and then spurred whole movements. The legacy for the police, though, for the police's point of view, was actually not the defund the police movement directly, like they lost funding in that way. It was actually that it killed recruitments. Because no one wanted to be a police officer, if one you have a sense of that police isn't fair and to not a lot of people like the police right now. And when and we're only starting to rebound from that. So multiple factors, we got retirement age coming up, you have recruiting and people entering the academy, low starting to rebound that had effect. But of course, to your point, that wasn't just San Francisco that was everywhere, which is why we're in a competitive environment.
Matt Dorsey 21:57
Yeah, I think too. I mean, there's a lot of factors going on here. But there is one thing that I would say, especially in light of the murder of George Floyd, San Francisco had the local equivalent of George Floyd back around 2015 2016. There were a number of high profile cases. Mario Woods, how 100 unito uses a force that were very inflammatory to sad disco communities. It ended up putting the city in a situation where then Mayor Ed Lee needed to identify a leader who was going to lead the San Francisco Police Department through reforms and the city invited the US Department of Justice in the Obama administration, to do a top to bottom review of SFPD the most comprehensive review and the department's history to identify all of the needed reforms. There were 272 police reforms recommended Chief of Police Phil Scott has been a leading the department through that. And this work has been you know, I think unheralded. It's one of those things that outside of San Francisco people will recognise they understand sepsis goes really leading change. I think it's underappreciated within San Francisco, how much work San Francisco has been doing on police reform. When George Floyd happened, there were only two cities in the entire nation that had adopted the eight can't wait use of force reforms. It can't wait is the set of eight use of force reforms recommended by campaigns or which is police reform advocacy organisation, the only cities that had adopted it were San Francisco and it was Tempe, Arizona. Now there's two dozen cities, most of them have adopted San Francisco's policy. And San Francisco was actually the first. So this is a department dense city that has always been reformed minded. And that's why I would say to people, and I get that there's a lot of people who, you know, younger people who don't want to be police officers, to those who think policing is bad or not good enough. It doesn't, you know, do you don't want to do it because policing can be better. I would challenge those folks to be the change. That is actually one of the the creative slogans of the San Francisco Police Department. Our city has been very progressive on policing policies. We're not without problems. But you know, police reform, I think, is something that is a blueprint for the nation. And I if you look at the cities now that have adopted San Francisco's use of force policies, I think that's undeniable.
Ben Kaplan 24:39
Your first point was that we need a charter amendment because we can't trust City Hall to follow through on the staffing levels we need. We need to take it to the people and make the strongest, clearest statement of what we the people want in San Francisco. What was your second reason why this needs to be a charter meme and not just something else that we enact? Well, I
Matt Dorsey 25:01
think that the first point was that it needs to be a charter amendment so that we could have a clear voter mandated policy there weren't. So it was really, the first reason we needed is we need to have a plan that we have to adhere to, and that we don't have any wiggle room to fit. In other words, I want to make sure that we've got a good policy. But there's a political dimension to this, too, that is equally important, or perhaps even more important, and that's that voters need the opportunity to send a message to the whole nation, that public safety is back in San Francisco. And I think we can start solving our narrative that this is a city that undervalues and doesn't appreciate the work of law enforcement personnel who are coming here to work, we can solve that narrative, we can fix that problem on election day. And one of the things that I am saying to everybody I'm talking to about this, politically, is I want this to be this election for this charter amendment to be an emphatic bookend to the doom loop. And I want it to send a national message that public safety is back in San Francisco, if you are a young person who wants a career in law enforcement, San Francisco is where you can have a great career in a police department that is leading the cause of reform. This is where we should have the world's best police department. Because we're a world class city, you
Ben Kaplan 26:24
alluded to something there that I think is unique to your background, which is you've been a comms person, which is like a communications director, a PR person, you were that for the police department for significant portions of your career. And so I think you're a good person to ask about this, which is, you alluded to like what we're communicating nationally, internationally about us really from like a branding perspective, or a messaging perspective. And I remember, first time I met you, we kind of geeked out on how do you roll this out and PR plans and all kind of do did we were like PR geeks for like a minute. But given that background, is that a real problem for San Francisco? Because you sort of alluded to this, like, Hey, there's this narrative about us that's out there. We're a symbolic city for a lot of people on both sides of the political divide, who want to portray San Francisco a certain way. But is that perception or put on our PR, hats messaging? Is that a real problem? Because it actually has economic impact impact to residents all kinds of direct impact, even though Oh, you're like perception out? We got a bit of bad PR, no big deal. Is it actually a big deal?
Matt Dorsey 27:30
It's a big deal. You don't know I will say this, I am glad that San Francisco punches above its weight class well above its weight class for a city of our size, in terms of being a global brand. And everybody in the world knows San Francisco and we are getting some bad press. It is highly visible kind of lawlessness that plays out in Market Street, its commercial commercial areas. I will say, you know, I want to put some context in this. I think some of the media concerns about public safety in San Francisco can be overstated. The reality is that among major cities, most major cities in the United States would trade their violent crime problem for our property and drug crime problem in a heartbeat. That being said, we have some very serious property and drug crime problems. And we better not minimise those because it is really hurting our city's reputation for being an inviting city for tourists, conventions, commuters and shoppers. There's a lot of reasons that people don't want to come back to work there or have a convention here or come to visit, because their car is going to be broke broken into they don't feel safe. They're seeing horrible street conditions, public drug dealing, a level of acting out in active in dip addictions, from people who were struggling with substance use disorder in numbers that we've just never seen before. Most of this is not unique to San Francisco, but San Francisco has got particularly bad right?
Ben Kaplan 29:04
I would add that we don't even know yet the bill, we're gonna pay for this perception. What I mean by that is some of the when you talk to like the travel SF folks or others, conventions are planned three years, five years, seven years in advance. And so some of the ones that were Yeah, we've had some conventions go away, but maybe it's perceived as a little bit limited. That's because those were locked in a long time ago. There's a lagging indicator in here. And we haven't even paid the price for all of that yet. So we don't want this to sit around and fester. And five years later realise that like where did half of our convention business go? We've got to reverse that quickly. Let me ask for the specific charter amendment. There's four parts to it. So our audience knows and we have an active audience that wants to get involved break down the four parts wire their four wire to the six, what are the four things that all work together as part of the amendment
Matt Dorsey 29:58
so the first thing is to we establish a minimum police staffing level at 20 182 officers. That's an independently recommended number. We know why it is that number, there's reports to justify it, it makes no sense that we're not making an effort to get to that number given the challenges we're facing. So I'm asking voters to reestablish a minimum police staffing number, unlike a prior charter amendment back in the 1990s, that put a number into the charter at that time, it was 19 171 police officers, but there was no provision of the charge to change it over time. I want to make sure that that that provision of the charter amendment includes a process to make adjustments over time, because population can change, tourism can change, civilianisation can enable us to get that number lower. We also may seem see things listen with a fail one. One thing I don't know, is fentanyl may have changed the game in ways that we're not even fully aware of, we may need more police officers than we thought, you know, in a few years, we'll we'll come to know that. So I want to make sure that provision enables us to be flexible in years to come. So that's part number one. And
Ben Kaplan 31:09
one important note, and you've pointed this out to me in the past is that that is a minimum level. But that doesn't mean we couldn't do more. It's not saying like, Oh, it's like that's it, right. So this, these are minimum levels you're setting yet
Matt Dorsey 31:22
it's the minimum level. And it would always be the prerogative of the mayor or board if they'd want to do more than that. But I think this is something that is workable and achievable, given the challenges that we're facing. And remember that the challenges are not just on the recruiting side, but there's also a retirement. So we've got retirements that are driving it down, and we've got to sort of build up from that. So we've got our work cut out for us, meaning we've
Ben Kaplan 31:47
got to run even hold on to where we are and then we've got to accelerate to actually make progress. Yeah, we
Matt Dorsey 31:54
got we got our work cut out for us. Even if we just wanted to keep our head above water, what we really need to do is be bolder and get we need to deliver on the promise of a fully staffed police department and this charter amendment is a referendum Do you want a fully staffed police department or not? Because that's,
Ben Kaplan 32:08
that's number one. Point 2.2 Of the four points. Point two
Matt Dorsey 32:12
is to recognise that we have to be thoughtful about how we're going to get there over time, I don't want to have a charter amendment that's going to set us up for failure right out of the gate. So it's going to be a graduated target level over five years. In year. Number one, our minimum staffing level will be 1800 police officers that 1900 police officers, then 2020 100. And by year five, we get to 2182, that gives us a chance to do this in a way that's effectively that's making good on our commitments to voters without breaking the bank. So I think that's a good government responsible approach. Step three is to make sure that we're setting ourselves up for success. What we have right now is you know, even when we budget the the numbers of police officers that the San Francisco Police Department can hire, we're not setting the department up for success. The recruiting budget of the San Francisco Police Department is $250,000 a year.
Ben Kaplan 33:10
You're saying recruiters are all efforts to advertise market attract whether that's local kids that we want to turn into future police officers or recruit existing police officers from other localities. It's 250k Overall, overall, and right
Matt Dorsey 33:25
now we are we're getting out competed by a lot of jurisdictions even you know, here in the Bay Area, the city of Alameda has a $75,000 recruiting bonus. Cal matters just did a story about this. What the city of Alameda is doing to fix its police understaffing crisis is working is so we have a blueprint of a city just across the bay that is solving its understaffing problem. And that's why item number three and my charter amendment is to create a competitive full staffing font, that fun will be set at $75,000 times the number of officers we are short of the minimum staffing level for that year, it's going to be capped at $30 million. But we have to be competing better with other jurisdictions. And right now we'll meet it as set the high watermark, all I'm proposing to do is to match it. I do want to give the department flexibility. However, if if this can be recruiting bonuses, and if that works, go get them go solve this problem. But you know, there I want to make sure that there is flexibility because outreach, there's programmes that the department can pursue to make sure that the people who are applying have a better chance of succeeding at making it making the cut as it were one thing I'll tell you just anecdotally, the department does a fair amount of work trying to recruit local officers and that's one thing that this fund is going to specify that it's going to emphasise recruiting from local basically the San Francisco based recruiting and also you want to make sure that we are doing everything we can to have The police department that reflects the diversity of our city, that is something that comports with President Obama's Task Force on 21st century policing. And that's something that this charter amendment is going to affirm. But there's one problem that local kids who want to be police officers are running into. And that's there's a very stringent driving requirement to be a police officer, you know, you have to be good at driving a car. And if you're, if you're growing up in Chinatown, or the mission, or you know, there's lots of folks here in this dense city
Ben Kaplan 35:31
that haven't had a need for a car, let alone to drive a car yet. So we're basically
Matt Dorsey 35:35
said, you know, what it's, it's this is, you know, we can't really change the standards, because it's the state Post Standard. That's the, you know, Peace Officer Standards and trainings, requirements. But, you know, we may need to fund a programme that works with some of our local applicants to make sure that they have driving skills to just give them a head start as it were, in being able to qualify as police officer. Right now, we have a lot of local people who want to be police officers who just don't have the driving skills. Why? Because we live in a dense city, we're transit first city, you know, it's shouldn't be a surprise, we can fix that. But we're, we don't want to $50,000 a years do it. So we got to put some skin in the game here. That's what I'm asking voters to do. So that's item number three. So number one,
Ben Kaplan 36:22
minimum police staffing to graduated targets, let's do this in a responsible way over five years three, let's have this recruiting full staffing fund with some flexibility. And fourth part, what is the fourth part of this tournament,
Matt Dorsey 36:36
the four and apart it's a budget emergency safeguard, and I think this is an important sort of good government provision that should be in any sort of ballot box budgeting, charter amendment set asides are going to be candid here, it's not really the way to run and go, you know, ideally, we wouldn't be in a situation like this, if we were doing a better job here at City Hall of addressing these problems, meaning, you
Ben Kaplan 37:01
shouldn't have to say, I'm reserving this here and reserving this there. And if it was fully functioning, well oiled machine, we would just all come together, decide what priorities are funded. And we wouldn't need like reserves here and there to do all of this that might be rigid when situations change is what you're saying. Exactly.
Matt Dorsey 37:18
And one of the things about the budget emergency safeguard is it gives us the ability, if we have a budget emergency, where in a given year, if there is a deficit of $250 million, or more as determined by the Comptroller, we can freeze the level the increment is let's say, We're at 1900 officers and we have a budget emergency, it would stay at 1900 officers, but it would just postpone for one year. Um, so we will still get to a fully staffed police department. But I want to make sure that we're not sort of like finding the hands of the city, if we are in an emergency. All that being said, in year number one, we're making a commitment to voters that we're going to do this because in your number one, we can't afford to not solve this problem. Again, a city is invested in safety and being a welcoming environment for commuters, tourists conventions, you know, retail shoppers, we have to solve this. And we can't afford not to,
Ben Kaplan 38:18
to wrap up lightning round, hear what some other folks may say? And what is your response to that. And also for listeners who support this and wondering what to say their friends, one, folks may say in other parts of the government that are not police, you are favoriting police and we might not like this because police gets all the support, it's got to come from somewhere, is someone else not gonna get support? And that's going to result in a cut. What is your response to those folks? Some unions may line up to make that case? Yeah,
Matt Dorsey 38:49
I think it's important that people read the room. We're not losing conventions, because we don't have enough librarians, you know, and that's not No, I don't want to diminish any public sector work because we have a lot of departments that need more staffing. But right now, we are in a situation where we have been going in the wrong direction, sometimes deliberately going in the wrong direction about police stuffing, and now the chickens are coming home to roost. And we are seeing how this is playing out with public drug dealing public drug use street conditions problems, retail theft, levels of sort of low level lawlessness, that are really damaging our city's ability to recover economically from COVID. We're lagging behind other major cities, it's hurting our conventions. We've got to fix this we can't afford not to. And that's what I would say to anybody who feels this is unfair. And then the other thing that I would say, Listen, there's a way that you can benefit from this to become a cop, honestly, like this is it. I wouldn't blame local governments for being in a situation where they're competing with other local governments. We're in a situation that is a demographic issue where there's a lot of that disproportionately large generational cohort of law enforcement officers who are coming up on retirement age. We're in a generational era when younger people don't want it be in that situation. This is what the market is presenting us as a challenge. That's not unique to San Francisco. But I'm a representative of my city. I want to make sure we're doing every bid to compete with Alameda, every other city in northern California or around the country. I'm not going to give on $75,000 per shortfall. I care as much about San Francisco as the city of Alameda City Council cares about their say.
Ben Kaplan 40:37
And another point that folks may make is that, is it just more funding that we need? Or do we need to make the police department a lot more efficient, people will point to well, because we were understaffed, we had to pay a lot for overtime. And overtime really isn't very efficient, because that's it's basically you're paying more for less. But are there a lot of other efficiencies that we just need to make Police Department? Do you know, more policing, and people might point to, oh, for instance, there's a lot of administrative duties of a police officer that take away from like doing the things that only a police officer can do. Maybe we need to have more admin people there easy to recruit free up police officers to be on the streets in the most time sensitive, dangerous work. So what is your response to we need to make this more efficient, as opposed to just spend more
Matt Dorsey 41:26
what I was saying is an understaffed Police Department is inherently inefficient? Like we are actually the reason that I think 20% of the police department budget goes to overtime, is precisely because the police department is understaffed. It as you said, you don't we are when it's fleece overtime, we're spending more money for less policing. It is inherently inefficient. Leno of a few months ago, when we had the budget supplemental it was 20 some odd million dollars of fun, additional funding on top of what was already budgeted for the police department for overtime. I said, Look, I'm gonna vote for this, I will support it. But I don't feel proud about it. I don't think this is the way government should be governing itself. We shouldn't be in a situation where we need this much overtime, just to keep our heads above water on the basics of police deployment. Unfortunately, that's where we are. And that's what an understaffed police department gets you it gets you costly inefficiencies, like overtime. The other thing with overtime is it also puts officers in a situation where we're running folks ragged. And that's not something you want to do. When it comes to situations where people could be acting, and have to make life and death decisions about the use of force. This is not the way to run a government, we can do it. If we have a fully staffed Police Department. That's what a city should have. So I would say that the the efficiencies are will be found in a fully staffed Police Department. The other thing that I would say and and I just want to sort of talk a little bit about this, because I know that there's a lot of paperwork in police it one reason that there is has a lot to do with police reform. It's important that officers document their uses of force. Explain why, you know, there's body camera footage, there's a lot of good things that we don't want to abandon. But there are some good reasons why policing is a little more involved than it has been in years past. I don't want to give up on that. Because I think those that perform work that reflects the police reform work that Chief Scott has been leading and then reflects, you know, really the ones that in generational kind of reforms that President Obama led with his task force on 21st century policing. I want to make sure we're fulfilling the promise of that a fully staffed Police Department will fulfil the promise lease are formed to so I think that's something that I don't know if it matters as much to people. I'm sort of a law enforcement. You know, nerd most of my career, I was in the city attorney's office. So I watched what happens when a police department loses the confidence of the people it serves. It's D legitimising to government and police reform is about making sure that government is more responsive and that the police department knows the communities that serve it. If we're understaffed. What it means is we've got the police department that's responding to 911 calls of crimes in progress, and not enough of just walking the beat, getting to know your community doing the things that are fully stuff police departments should do.
Ben Kaplan 44:36
It's an interesting point because people talk about the difference between the warrior mentality and The Guardian mentality and the warrior mentality is this like, yeah, we're like, you know, we're going into combat Our job is to be real tough, versus the Guardian mentality is we're meant to guard a community. We're there to support and the issue is that when you're understaffed, maybe it's like you kind of have to go and warriors type jobs because you're just trying to like, make it everywhere. And a lot of the things that we would love to see as the guardian, like the community, building the support, the building bridges that we think would be important for a community to trust is police. You're understaffed. Those are the first things that you kind of don't have time to do, because you're just trying to chase down crime and criminals and other things. And so if we believe in that Guardian mentality, we might want to staff our police department better.
Matt Dorsey 45:26
It's this is a great point. And I'm glad you brought that up. The Guardian mentality is really a cornerstone of 21st century policing. It's a whole it's a mind shift. And it is what SFPD has been working on under GI Bill Scott's leadership. One One good example, I know that everybody wants to flip beats. But one thing to understand San Francisco gets about 80,000 Priority A 911 calls a year, Priority A is a crime in progress, immediate and present threat to life or, you know, serious property kinds of damage. But generally, these are violent crimes in progress. If you have a football officer who is you know, hidden walking in a neighbourhood, that officers really not going to be available for a 911 call, unless it's happening right in front of him or her. You know, you can't have an officer on a foot beat, sprint five blocks to respond to violent crime. You know, I don't care how good good shape you're in. We don't even have the luxury of having the basic kinds of foot patrols that we should have in a city like San Francisco. That's what understaffing gets us. We are setting our police department up for failure. And we're seeing how it's playing out in the kind of public disorder that is driving, you know, our conventions away and making our tourists never want to come back because their cars are being broken into and you know, they're seeing things on the street as sort of a humanitarian disaster playing out with drug addiction and drug dealing. It's it's D legitimising to government. And it really is something that we have to do better on.
Ben Kaplan 47:05
I think you have a unique background to respond to this. Of course, supervisor, Matt Dorsey is offering this charter amendment. He's a police guy, you know, he's in it with the police. He spent his career with the police on those kinds of issues, of course. And the perception is that that if you're pro police or pro police staffing, that you are not very empathetic. Yeah, there's obviously there's a lot of issues in San Francisco related to substance use disorder related to mental health related to homelessness. And if you're just like, let's get the police in there, let's get our you know, kick everyone out. And who cares about them. That's what this is. And I want to just read one thing from your official bio, on the San Francisco Board of Supervisors website, just your background, and it talks about your supervisor, Dorsey, this is in your bio is also the only openly HIV positive member of the board of supervisors and the only current member to acknowledge his history was substance use disorder, does that make you more empathetic do sometimes people miss read your intentions and what you are supporting? So
Matt Dorsey 48:04
I think, you know, when I was appointed to the Board of Supervisors, I think what got the headlines was that I was being appointed to the Board of Supervisors after two years, the police department, the reality is that most of my career was in the city attorney's office, which is the civil lawyer to every city department. And that is the role that I think most informed my perspective. Now that I am on the board that was elected in my own right last November. I never expected that I would never get to a point where I wanted this job, let alone that I would have this job when I went to work for Chief Scott back in January of 2020. It was just a few weeks before the emergency orders for COVID-19. And there was a meeting that I took part in every month. That was with the office of the chief medical examiner and officials from the Department of Public Health to preview the monthly report on how many people died of drug overdoses the month before. And I'm a recovering addict. I have spent my most of my adult life in recovery. I've had setbacks along the way, including a relapse, the short one but an alarming one during COVID, month after month to sit in the monthly death call meeting. And to look at a number of people who are losing their lives to drug overdoses knowing that I am one bad decision away from being in that it moves me to want this job. And I know I'm not alone in the recovery community in feeling that at a time early on COVID Everybody was paying attention to that public health crisis. And here's the public health crisis going on. That's twice as good. It says, and it felt like no one's paying attention to that. It felt to me reminiscent of the AIDS crisis back in The 80s and 90s, that the stigma of who's dying was masking the horror of how many are dying. And that's why I just made a decision that, you know, maybe I could bring a perspective and a voice to what we're facing that was different than necessary. I'm trying to do that. I will say, you know, I go to a lot of recovery meetings. And there was a meeting that I was in every week when I was interviewing, basically for the appointment when I was talking to Mayor breed about whether I should be appointed to the District Six supervisor seat, and I was sharing in that meeting for a couple of weeks that I had, during my weekly check in that I have some anxiety about uncertainty in my career, I'm interviewing for a job and not sure how it's gonna work out. And when I was appointed, the meeting, that that, you know, meeting that we had a recovery meeting was only a few days later. And I think everybody in that meeting, we know we know each other, we may not even know our last names, but we know our stories. Everybody was like, that was the job you were interviewing. And after the meeting, I got a call from one person who is you know, also in recovery, who's been to hell and back. And he said to me, he said, he was so excited. He said to me with more joy than I had ever heard it his voice. Now we've conceded. And I know he's choke up a little bit about that, because it reminds me that for those of us who've been through it, when we look at what's playing out on the street, we know that nobody is beyond redemption, and there is a better life on the other side of addiction. And that's true, whether you're an individual who's struggling with addiction, or whether you're a city that's struggling with the drug crisis, we can do better, and our humanity has really invested.
Ben Kaplan 51:52
According to supervisor Matt Dorsey, San Francisco City Hall, an institution where he works can't actually be trusted to ensure that our city's police is properly staffed. So he wanted to take it to the people. But now, thanks to politics as usual, the bill has turned it into a plan to increase taxes for basic foundational city services. Does anyone at City Hall outside from supervisor Dorsey and a few allies realise we are in a crisis? A crisis is not a time to be timid. A crisis is a time to rally the troops circle the waggons and demand politics not as usual. If we're in a crisis, do we want a proportional response? Or do we demand a disproportional one? Do we have the will to solve this problem now? Not five years from now. So here's how we've got to reset the $14 billion city budget and get rid of all of the wasted spending on programmes that clearly don't work. That would free up hundreds of millions and even billions of dollars to accelerate our public safety timeline. And accomplish all of this in the next two years. Instead of five, seven or nine. For those who say even waiting two years is too long. What if we joined forces to improve the efficiency of the police department? Right now? Let's free up more time for every officer on the force so they can devote more hours to stopping criminals and responding to resident incidents at record speed. We can do this by launching an immediate effort to streamline the administrative burden on every officer, not with arbitrary mandates by actually creating the equivalent of the supermarket express checkout line for routine everyday incidents. Do you think the massive police PayPal pile there might be some redundancy and inefficiency we can remove? If new officers are hard to recruit, let's attract easier to recruit police admin staff specifically to assist with all of the paperwork. If we think that police video analysts can help us arrest and prosecute criminals better, let's recruit more than the handful we currently have. This is the moment do we have the well? Let's take some inspiration from supervisor Matt Dorsey is empathy and use it to empathise for all San Francisco residents who have been victims of crime or walk their neighbourhoods in fear. Ask not what San Francisco can do for you. Ask what you can do for San Francisco. To join the movement, visit WWE San francisco.org/join And remember, we are San Francisco
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