Proposition E — November 2020

From the San Francisco November 2020 Nonpartisan Voter Guide.

In 1994, San Francisco voters passed a charter amendment requiring the Police Department to always keep 1,971 full-duty officers on the force. This amendment would eliminate the mandatory minimum and instead assign the Police Department the task of evaluating its staffing needs based on workload. The police chief would submit that report to the Police Commission every two years, which in turn would hold a public meeting on that assessment and make the final determination about what the staffing level should be.

At the time of the 1994 measure that set the staffing floor at 1,971, supporters said the city ought to have a similar number of officers per capita as other big cities, which at the time it didn’t. Since then, the city has grown but has not always adhered to that mandatory minimum of full-time sworn officers. And a consulting firm’s analysis of the department’s staff released this year suggested a need for more officers and civilian staff — 2,176 officers alone, with a recommendation for a total staff count of 2,668 including civilians. 

Opponents of Proposition E, like the head of the police union, say it doesn’t make sense to do away with a minimum requirement when close examination shows the city needs more officers, and that nothing is stopping the city from hiring them with the minimum in place. Proponents of the measure argue that doing away with the minimum would allow the city to staff the department based on neighborhood needs or reallocate police funding toward community initiatives. The city controller’s analysis notes that a single full-duty sworn officer costs $155,000 a year.