Mayor London Breed Announces Launch of Alternatives to Policing Steering Committee
The Steering Committee, guided by the Human Rights Commission, will help the City research and develop alternative responses to calls regarding homelessness and behavioral health, like the City’s newly announced Street Crisis Response Teams
San Francisco, CA — Mayor London N. Breed today announced the formation of a Steering Committee to help guide the City’s process for identifying alternatives to police response for non-violent calls to 911 and 311. Ending the use of police as first responders to situations that involve behavioral health and or homelessness and other non-violent calls is part of the Mayor’s roadmap to fundamentally changing the way that the City handles public safety, which Mayor Breed announced in June.
The Steering Committee is composed of community members and representatives of organizations that work on behavioral health and homelessness, including Hospitality House, GLIDE, San Francisco AIDS Foundation, Urban Alchemy, Street Violence Intervention Program, At the Crossroads, and HealthRight360. These organizations were selected because of their commitment to centering community voices, willingness to challenge the status quo, and their dedication to exploring innovative and outcome-driven practices. The Steering Committee also has representatives from City agencies, including the Department of Public Health, Department of Homelessness and Supportive Housing, San Francisco Police Department, San Francisco Fire Department, and Department of Emergency Management.
“To address the structural inequities that too many in our City experience, in particular our African-American community, we need fundamental change and reinvestments. There is a better, more effective way to handle these calls for service that will help people who are in crisis,” said Mayor Breed. “Working to divert non-violent calls for service away from a law enforcement-based response is a profound change in how we as a City respond when someone calls for assistance. It’s a key part of addressing our structural inequities, but it’s going to take work and it’s going to take time. This Steering Committee will play an important role in designing other models of response, and getting us to a place where we are making real, concrete change, including in future budget investments.”
“Across the country, there are calls to reimagine policing, this Steering Committee represents an opportunity to create a more just and truly responsive system,” said Sheryl Davis, Executive Director, San Francisco Human Rights Commission. “This is the beginning of a process to address the system failures and inequities disproportionately experienced by people of color and people in crisis. I look forward to hearing from those directly impacted, learning from the Steering Committee and hearing the alternatives created, informed, supported and led by community.”
In an important step toward diverting non-violent calls from the Police Department and at Mayor Breed’s direction, the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) has convened an Alternatives to Policing Steering Committee. The Steering Committee will explore strategies and alternatives to policing, such as the Street Crisis Response Teams, and will offer recommendations to Mayor Breed about how to effectively transition those types of calls for service that are currently going to the police to other entities.
In August, Mayor Breed announced a plan to create a Street Crisis Response Team pilot program, which would begin the effort to fundamentally change the way San Francisco responds to 911 and 311 calls regarding behavioral health emergencies. The Mayor’s proposed budget for Fiscal Years 2020-21 and 2021-22 includes $4 million from the General Fund to pilot a Street Crisis Response Team to help San Franciscans who are experiencing behavioral health crises. If the consensus Business Tax Reform ballot measure passes in November, Proposition C revenues will enable the City to direct a total of approximately $18.5 million to the pilot program over two years, which would expand the program and create additional Street Crisis Response Teams.
The Steering Committee’s discussions will be guided by the Human Rights Commission, along with the support of a professional facilitator. The Steering Committee had their first informational meeting earlier this month, and their first official meeting will be on Wednesday, September 16. The goal of the committee is to develop recommendations that can be included in the Fiscal Year 2021-22 budget process, which begins the Mayor’s issuance of budget instructions in December 2020.
Identifying and implementing appropriate alternative responses to police is a complex process and requires input from a variety of stakeholders. Each of the members of the Steering Committee have a history of working with diverse stakeholders and will collect input from a wide array of community members. HRC was selected to handle this complex process because of their experience and success convening other challenging conversations that engage the community as well as City staff, such as ongoing discussions about reparations and reinvestment of law enforcement dollars into the African-American community.
“Alternative policing does not mean that poor people will police other poor people – we reject that. We can build the community capacity that doesn’t exist yet, and invest in existing efforts that have struggled far too long with far too little to lift up the best of what our communities can be,” said Joseph Wilson, Executive Director, Hospitality House. “This is our charge – we have to first climb the mountain to get to the valley beyond it. We know it’s there.”
“I look forward to exploring how to utilize the Street Violence Intervention Program to support de-escalation, conflict mediation, violence intervention in the communities as well as the middle and high schools impacted by violence,” said Arturo Carrillo, Director, Street Violence Intervention Program. “We need to prioritize providing opportunities for job readiness and employment but also focus on the root causes that can help make behavioral change in preparation for job readiness. I hope through this process we develop a plan for Community Policing not from a SFPD perspective, but from within the communities themselves.”
“I am honored and humbled to be a part of this team of creative and thoughtful individuals who are in the process of designing trauma informed responses to our community members who are experiencing a moment or longer periods of crises,” said Lena Miller, Chief Executive Officer, Urban Alchemy. “Society has changed and presents new challenges to the way we must respond to our citizens, particularly in light of the overwhelming presence of trauma, mental illness, and addiction that is on constant display on the streets of our major cities. Now is the time for the social innovators to create the blueprint for a more peaceful and just society for all people. I am grateful for the courage and leadership of Mayor Breed to ensure that San Francisco is at the forefront of this movement with substantive and practical steps to operationalize these values.”
“Much historical data and personal experiences of formerly incarcerated people has shown we must change our own public safety beliefs and investments regarding arresting for “corrective” punishment and practices of incarceration. Real public safety means we, must use our public tax dollars to invest in our poorest, our schools, public health, affordable housing, employment and businesses,” said Roma Guy. “Current community and leadership, elected and appointed, inspired by Black Lives Matter and criminal justice reform advocacy, has led to closing two jails at Hall of Justice, releasing and referring more prisoners to pretrial, improving jail health services and placements. Legislation such as free phone calls for the imprisoned, passage of Mental Health SF and expansion of harm reduction drug practices are examples of our early successes. The task and public responsibility of the Steering Committee is to remove 911 and 311 calls from police and establish a civilian Street Crisis Response Team. These are our beginnings. It will take all of us to continue this path for our true and equitable public safety.”
More information about the City’s efforts to develop alternatives to non-violent calls for service is available here.