San Francisco's Black Community To Receive $120 Million From The Police Budget: Here's How It Will Work

Photo: Denisha DeLane / Shutterstock
San Francisco Mayor London Breed

On Thursday, February 25, San Francisco Mayor London N. Breed announced a fiscal plan, dubbed the Dream Keeper Initiative, that will, in effect, defund the police, redirecting $120 million from law enforcement to initiatives that will support the local Black community.

What is the Dream Keeper Initiative and what will it fund?

According to a press release issued by Mayor Breed's office, the initiative's name was inspired by a line from "Harlem," a poem by Langston Hughes — “What happens to a dream deferred?”

"With this coordinated approach," the statement explains, "the Dream Keeper Initiative aims to break the cycle of poverty and involvement in the criminal justice system for the families in its City programs and ensure that new investments, including in youth development, economic opportunity, community-led change, arts and culture, workforce, and homeownership, are accessible to San Francisco’s families who are most in need."

In year one of the two-year plan, $60 million will be redirected from the city's law enforcement budget and invested in the following 10 areas:

1. Youth development and education: $3.6 million*

2. Arts and culture: $2.1 million

3. Accountability and systems change: $6.6 million

4. City employment pipelines: $4.8 million

5. Workforce training and development: $6 million

6. Guaranteed income: $7 million

7. Culturally affirming spaces: $2 million

8. Business and entrepreneur support: $3 million

9. Health and well-being: $14.9 million

10. Housing and homeownership: $10 million

*The figures above are approximate.

Mayor Breed first began speaking of her plans to defund the police in June 2020, following the killing of George Flloyd.

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At the time, the San Francisco Police Officer's Association came out against the calls to cut police funding. But by July, San Francisco Police Chief Bill Scott issued a statement of support for the plan on Twitter.

"We knew that there would be pain and sacrifice associated with these budget cuts," he wrote, "but we also know they’re necessary to fulfill the promise of Mayor Breed’s and Sup. Walton’s reinvestment initiative to support racial equality.

He was also sure to note that the budget cuts were manageable, saying, "While the cuts are significant, they are cuts we can absorb and that will not diminish our ability to provide essential services. It’s important that we not view this funding redirection as a zero-sum game."

Local news outlet KQED explains that the funding "comes from roughly $80 million in cuts, over two years, from the San Francisco Police Department, reducing its nearly $700 million annual budget by almost 6%. The remaining $40 million is from Sheriff's Department cuts."

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How was the Dream Keeper Initiative developed?

Breed felt it was important to engage the Black community in order to get feedback on what was most important to them. To do so, she and Board of Supervisors President Shamann Walton asked the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) to lead "an extensive and collaborative process with the community to identify and prioritize funding needs."

From there, they and developed the report used to "guide the reinvestment."

"To make these decisions, we've listened to the African-American community about what's worked and what hasn't and we are committed to actually delivering on the promises that are made but all too often aren't kept," Breed added.

Sarah Owens, a spokeswoman for the mayor's office, told KQED, "It's a complex process with a lot of moving pieces. More information will be coming,"

Owens sees the plan as a great way to help people from a wide variety of backgrounds and ages throughout the local community.

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"Really, the vision of the Dream Keeper Initiative is helping the full range — from children to their parents to their grandparents — and really providing holistic comprehensive services," she said.

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Based on the most recent census data available, San Francisco’s Black community accounts for less than 6% of the city's total population.

While that number has declined steadily over the last five decades, 37% of San Francisco's homeless population is Black.

And the San Francisco Chronicle reports that in 2019, "roughly 45% of police use-of-force incidents in San Francisco involved African Americans, while the group makes up just 5% of the city’s population — though not all incidents involved city residents."

"I grew up in poverty. I've had to live in poverty over 20 years of my life. And the frustration that came from living like that and then seeing so many of my friends who had been killed or in jail or on drugs — that is my motivation," Mayor Breed shared. "Because just imagine if we can change the outcome of African Americans in San Francisco. What an incredible thriving city we truly will be."

Breed is hopeful for a bright future for the city of San Francisco and for their Black community.

What will happen in year two?

Plans for the second year will be made based on careful observation of what happens over the first.

The statement from the mayor's office explains that results seen from the investments made during the fiscal year 2020-21 "will inform the allocations for the second year of reinvestment funding, as well any ongoing funding in future years."

“This initial investment to improve outcomes for the Black community and overturn years of disinvestment and inequitable resource distribution is just the first step in righting the wrongs of history,” said Supervisor Walton.

“We now have to continue to prioritize communities that have never had a chance to build true wealth and this is a first step towards true reparations for the Black community here in San Francisco. We are proud of this work and looking forward to doing more.”

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Tomás Diniz Santos is a writer living in Orlando, Florida. He covers news, entertainment, and pop-culture.