Severe staffing shortages at the San Francisco Police Department, paired with the local prosecutor’s “criminal-first agenda” is creating a dangerous situation on city streets headed into the summer months, union president Tony Montoya said after one of his officers – left patrolling alone in Chinatown – was violently tackled to the ground by a homeless man until bystanders intervened.
“I’m very concerned,” Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, told Fox News. “If it’s not safe for the police officers right now, what should the general public feel?”
Security camera footage released by the union showed several bystanders rushing to pry the homeless man off the female officer before police backup arrived. The officer, whose name has not been released, is of Asian descent and the incident is under investigation as a possible hate crime. She was left patrolling the area alone, without her partner due to staffing shortages, the union said.
“You have hastily and poorly written legislation that is causing people to leave the profession early, not want to enter the profession,” Montoya told Fox News over the phone. “There’s a lot of media coverage, especially more so this past year on law enforcement, and people are saying, ‘I don’t want to subject myself to that type of scrutiny,’ or family members are discouraging them from applying.”
Mayor London Breed introduced a new budget proposal Tuesday that set a goal to have at least 1,224 full-duty police officers patrolling the city at any given time. That number is currently in the mid-900s and continues to drop with officers retiring, leaving for other police departments or simply leaving the profession, Montoya said.
“Here locally the cops just do not feel supported – by our command staff, which is 22-person strong right now,” he continued. “And they don’t feel supported by their elected officials. So if you add all those factors in, it’s not really great material for a recruiting poster.”
Furthermore, Montoya said he believes there is “absolutely” a high risk that the suspect could be released back onto the streets – especially if he has a history of mental health issues or drug addiction under the “criminal-first agenda” perpetuated by San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.
“If you look at the policy of our current district attorney’s criminal-first agenda, there’s a very high likelihood that this person will get released before facing any consequences for his actions. You see that day in and day out here in San Francisco,” Montoya said.
The suspect has been identified as 33-year-old Gerardo Contreras, who was initially booked into San Francisco County Jail.
Montoya accused Boudin of having an unwillingness to charge people, specifically violent repeat offenders.
“We’re now seeing the results of his policies in the form of public safety. And it’s not safe out here,” Montoya said. “Whether he wants to divert this person to so-called mental health court or an addiction to drug court or if he summarily wants to release the person on some form of supervised probation – all those things sound great, but a lot of those services are failing the people they intend to help. There is really no supervision. There is no follow-up. There is no accountability.”
That has been evidenced, Montoya said, specifically as the San Francisco Bay Area dealt with a string of high-profile attacks against elderly Asian people earlier this year. They included an 84-year-old Thai man who was fatally assaulted while on his routine walk through his San Francisco neighborhood in February, and again just last month when two elderly Asian women were violently stabbed at a bus stop in San Francisco in May.
Montoya said the suspects in both cases were never prosecuted for prior arrests.
Boudin’s office did not immediately return a Fox News request for comment Tuesday.
The increase in anti-Asian attacks sparked public outcry from activists earlier this year, and the San Francisco Police Officers Association has partnered with the Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce and the Asian Americans & Pacific Islander (AAPI) community to create the Crimes Against Asians Reward Fund that officially launched in April to aid in the investigations of these cases.
“I implore elected officials to hold other elected officials accountable for their jobs, and that’s not happening right now for our district attorney,” Montoya said.
Montoya said the most recent incident occurred in House Speaker Nancy Pelosi’s, D-Calif., district.
As the Senate continues negotiations on federal police reform in the wake of George Floyd’s murder by a police officer in Minnesota, Montoya teamed up with the president of the Los Angeles Police Protective League and San Jose Police Officers Association to send a letter imploring Congress to “invest in better policing.”
Meanwhile, Breed on Tuesday introduced a budget proposal for the next two years that aims to spend $1 billion on addressing homelessness in San Francisco. Despite calls to defund police, the proposal dedicates $65 million for violence prevention and safety – including funding to maintain police staffing levels.
But it also includes investments to grow nonofficer teams to respond to homelessness and mental health crises, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
“Let’s be clear, keeping our city safe also does require law enforcement,” the mayor said Tuesday. “That means making sure we have officers on our streets, walking the beat and responding to crimes.”
Breed committed to put two police academy classes stripped from the last budget cycle back into the new budget cycle for the FY 2021-2022.
The goal is get 50 to 55 recruits per academy class, but Montoya said the department plans to delay the start of the next class originally set to begin this June due to a lack of qualified applicants. The failure rate is 70% to 75%. Out of the 38 recruits last class, only eight advanced to field training.
“We’ve been having trouble for years trying to recruit people, and I think conservatively it could take upwards to a decade before we can recover,” Montoya said. “Unfortunately, more people are leaving than they are walking through the door.”
A staffing study commissioned by the city of San Francisco found that a minimum of 2,176 officers are needed at any given time to keep up with the demand of policing in the city. The study, conducted by Matrix Consulting Group and released this March, analyzed the police department bureau by bureau and found that patrol staffing in particular was “severely inadequate.”