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San Francisco Voters Abolish Mandatory Staffing Levels for Police

Current law mandated that the city have at least 1,971 full-time police officers.

San Francisco Voters Abolish Mandatory Staffing Levels for Police

Current law mandated that the city have at least 1,971 full-time police officers.


San Francisco voters have approved Proposition E, a charter amendment overturning a law that says the city’s police department must employ a minimum of 1,971 full-time officers.

In 1994, in the midst of the so-called tough-on-crime era, San Francisco voters approved Proposition D, which requires that minimum level of staffing. That same year, California enacted its three strikes law, which mandated at least a 25 years to life sentence for a third felony conviction.

Proposition E abolishes the mandatory staffing levels. Instead, the police department will have to submit a report and recommendation on staffing every two years to the San Francisco Police Commission, whose members are appointed by the mayor and the Board of Supervisors. The commission sets police department policies and conducts disciplinary hearings; it will be required to consider the recommendations when approving the department’s proposed budget. Commissioners include, among others, a former federal prosecutor and former public defenders.

In July, the Board of Supervisors unanimously agreed to put the charter amendment on the November ballot.

“To create a thoughtful process for determining police staffing levels, we need to remove the handcuffs that this mandatory minimum staffing requirement has placed on San Franciscans — and on our budget — for years,” board president Norman Yee, a sponsor of the charter amendment, said in a statement last summer. “It is time for us to take a forward-looking approach to public safety that will truly protect public safety for everyone in San Francisco.” (The Justice Collaborative assisted Yee’s office with the charter amendment. The Appeal is an editorially independent project of The Justice Collaborative.)