The mayor earmarked $37 million for San Francisco’s police force — while refusing to fund a district attorney’s probe into alleged police misconduct.(Commonwealth Club via Flickr Creative Commons photo)
San Francisco’s mayor is seemingly unconcerned with the possibility of police misconduct on his watch, according to a budget proposal he unveiled earlier this week before the city’s board of supervisors.
Edward Lee, the mayor of California’s fourth-largest city by population, announced an allocation of $37 million to fund San Francisco’s police force until 2017. But he declined to fund the district attorney’s ongoing probe into a string of scandals involving police officers who, among other things, have been accused of sending racially tinged text messages and forcing inmates to fight against each other.
Lee touted several public-safety initiatives when he unveiled his multi-million dollar budget on Monday, saying the allocated money “doubles down on our public safety investments to meet the needs of a growing city and the growing demands of our first responders.” But when asked why he chose not to continue funding the DA’s ongoing investigation into police misconduct, he said he was less interested in seeing law enforcement, public defenders and the district attorney’s office battle each other in court.
“I think that the DA and [Police Chief Greg Suhr] and the Police Commission need to all work closely together,” Lee said according to KQED-FM. “I do believe there is a number [of scandals] they have to look at, and they can come together to an agreement as to what that number is.”
Some 1,600 cases spanning 10 years were flagged by District Attorney George Gascón’s office for further review. Those cases, along with 1,400 others that weren’t prosecuted, stemmed from a scandal involving officers accused of sending racist text messages to each other. Those text messages were first unearthed in federal court filings in early March; other revelations, including alleged forced fights between inmates and breaches of protocol at the police crime lab, threatened to jeopardize hundreds of other prosecutions, attorneys said.
Other funding requests proposed by the DA’s office included hiring additional mental health advocates and faster processing of untested rape kits. The mayor denied those requests.
But it was the lack of funding for the misconduct probe that got the loudest amount of attention. San Francisco Supervisor David Campos told KQED he was “disappointed” that the funding had not been included by the mayor, saying that “members of the Police Department and members of the community deserve that the city allocate the resources needed to get to the bottom of what happened.”
The DA’s office says it is likely more important to look at those cases that were not prosecuted over cases that were. Attorneys at the offices of the city’s prosecutors and public defenders are currently working to sort through the cases that will be examined and those that will be set aside.
This is not the first time the mayor has taken heat for allocating money toward police while ignoring other agencies: Last month, San Francisco Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi criticized the mayor for earmarking $6 million in public funds so that police could be equipped with body cameras, while allocating a mere $50,000 for the sheriff’s department. The meager funding would afford the sheriff’s department to equip just 30 of its deputies with cameras, while the police department would be able to buy 60 times that amount, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Matthew Keys is a contributing journalist for TheBlot Magazine.