Keeping our Neighborhoods Safe

As the only candidate in the race for Richmond District Supervisor with the endorsement of all three major public safety organizations — San Francisco Police Officers, San Francisco Fire Fighters, and San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs — I wanted to take a moment, with just 99 days to go until Election Day, to lay out a vision for keeping our Richmond District neighborhoods safe.

First, as I hear about daily from residents, car break-ins and petty theft are simply out of control. We need more officers engaged in community policing, and we should end the political grandstanding that has led to critical shortages.

Our own family members visiting from out-of-state last summer had their vehicle broken into within minutes of arriving in San Francisco. The Richmond District could use a more visible police presence to help with the surge in crime we have witnessed in recent months. We need officers who live here in San Francisco, who are engaged with the community, and who have the time and resources to investigate these crimes. This requires appropriately resourcing the San Francisco Police Department and building out the larger force we clearly need.

Some members of the Board of Supervisors have blocked efforts to accomplish this. In my view, a fully staffed police force is essential to public safety and also leads to better policing because we ensure officers are rested, fully supported, and have the time they need to follow up leads and prevent rather than just respond to crime.

I am strongly supportive of Supervisor Scott Wiener’s recent call to investigate the open-air bicycle “chop shops” that have popped up throughout the city. These are places where stolen bicycles are processed and sold for parts. Part of our responsibility in making San Francisco a more bicycle-friendly city is in discouraging bicycle theft. And we have to engage with the rather extraordinary air of lawlessness that surrounds these shops.

We must continue to push for reforms and 21st Century community policing initiatives. Let’s help Acting Chief Toney Chaplin enact critical reforms and make sure our next Chief is the best in the country.

I have worked with countless fantastic men and women in the SFPD and San Francisco Sheriff’s Department. I was gratified to see our newly installed Richmond District Captain Paul Yep promoting opportunities to have ‘coffee with a cop’, and always enjoy his updates on public safety published to Nextdoor and other platforms.

As fantastic as these public servants are, there is always the possibility an officer will engage in abuse of power, and we should continue to shape a use-of-force policy that fits the values of our community and keeps the public as well as police officers safe. As a woman with brown skin and a daughter of immigrants, I am committed to a policing strategy that has at its core a presumption of innocence regardless of background or race.

Officer-involved shootings are relatively rare events, and human life is absolutely precious. It is worth our time and our resources to prevent these shootings and, if we fail, to get the resulting investigation right. Because these issues have become so politicized and so polarized, it is only human nature for any person involved in a traumatic incident like this to see the situation through a strongly distorted lens. As we’ve seen, the use of video can help with understanding what really happened.

So, independent investigations make a lot of sense to me, and they will go a long way towards reducing the rate of tragic incidents like those we have seen in recent years. I am thankful to Supervisor Malia Cohen for placing Proposition D on the ballot last June. Prop D, which passed, requires the Office of Citizen Complaints to investigate every police-involved shooting. This common-sense initiative passed with little opposition, demonstrating the capacity of our City to briefly come together to enact needed reform.

Public safety and police oversight are core responsibilities of local government. We can’t play one off the other.

We rely on our local government to both provide for public safety and enact reforms, as needed, to curb abuses of police power. Unfortunately, in an extraordinary Board of Supervisors meeting on July 19, a half dozen members of the Board of Supervisors attempted to scuttle Supervisor’s Cohen highly regarded police reform and accountability initiative in order to prevent it from coming to the ballot. This move, engineered in an unusually politicized atmosphere, set our City back. Coming at the same time as dramatic limits on city spending for police staffing, we are seeing an unprecedented lapse in the fulfillment of core responsibilities of government. Thankfully, grassroots pressure on these Supervisors appears to have been enough to roll back this effort, and we should get a chance to vote YES on Supervisor Cohen’s measure in November.

With my supporter, Sheriff Vicki Hennessy *
With my supporters, Sheriffs’ Captain Paul Miyamoto and Board President London Breed *

As I mentioned, my campaign is the only Richmond District campaign endorsed by all three major public safety organizations: San Francisco Firefighters, San Francisco Police Officers, and San Francisco Deputy Sheriffs as well as by trusted leaders of the police reform movement including Supervisors Malia Cohen and London Breed*. These endorsements don’t mean that I’ll side with any particular group on every issue — I will always put the residents of San Francisco and the Richmond District first — but rather that I’m willing to take a seat at the table with these leaders and craft solutions that will work for all of us.

At times here in San Francisco, our elected leaders don’t listen enough. I think it is time for that to change.

Marjan Philhour is a candidate for San Francisco Board of Supervisors in District 1 (the Richmond District). She can be reached at * Titles for identification purposes only.