San Francisco, CA

San Francisco's Bottom-Up Approach to Trust-Building

Jax Hudur

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Demonstrators gather at San Francisco's Portsmouth Square to protest recent Asian hate crimeschicagotribune.com

The US park police in San Francisco has become the first field office in the federal department to inaugurate body-worn cameras for its 41 officers. The intended goal for introducing body-worn cameras is to strengthen trust between the police and the communities they serve. However, these San Francisco park officers are also quite visible as they also interact with tourists as the city is a popular tourist destination.

Known for its extensive combination of landmarks and breathtakingly beautiful architecture, cuisine, good weather, and culture, it’s wholly understandable why San Francisco’s park officers are adopting technology as a means of building bridges. Still, for a city that received 10 million visitors in 2020 alone, why has it taken for the San Francisco US park police to introduce cameras as part of their policing this late? Chief Pamela Smith, addressing the initiative, said,

“We acknowledge the trends as it relates to law enforcement and as it relates to the public. We have been and still are challenged with funding for the program. I thought it was important to have public trust and support our visitors that come to the park on a daily basis to know that we had the appropriate tools.

While San Francisco park police are trying to build trust, the city’s elected officials are eroding trust, especially with the Asian Community as protesters in Chinatown say the district attorney’s policies are making the city more dangerous for the Asian community. Nancy Yu from the Chinatown Merchants United group speaking on the Asian community’s fears said,

We want to unify the community, we want to be inclusive. We are not talking about race, but we know this anti-Asian thing is going on, but we do feel that pressure is here.”

The protesters expected Attorney General Chesa Boudin to show up and talk to them. However, the Attorney General did not show up to address the protesters, some of whom were victims of the district attorney’s catch and release policy.

San Franciscans demand the DA to do his job

The fears of the Asian Community in San Francisco are real. Earlier this month, two Asian women at a bus stop have been attacked in broad daylight and in a busy street. The women were stabbed in what the police believe was racially motivated. The victims of the attack were elderly, aged 84 and 63, respectively sustained non-life-threatening injuries and were hospitalized. Despite these hate crimes happening under his watch, the least the Attorney General could do was to meet and address the concerns of the people whose policies affect them the most. Yet, when the city takes the necessary steps to build on the little trust that already exists between the public and those who serve them, the slights of San Francisco’s Attorney General negates the little progress that is made in those few times when the city’s officials make an effort to gain trust.

San Francisco’s challenges, besides the racial hate crimes, also happens to be a drug problem as overdose deaths in the city are now at an alarming all-time high. On Friday, the 21st of May 2021, the city’s mayor announced a plan of action to create a New Street Overdose Response Team that will address the drug overdoses such as the Fentanyl linked deaths taking place in the streets. Mayor Breed said in a statement,

“The overdose crisis in our streets requires a wide range of approaches, including meeting people where they are in the moment when we can get them the help they need. By getting to people immediately and then being consistent with our follow-up, we hopefully can get them on the path to stabilization and to recovery. This, of course, needs to be paired with broader efforts to prevent overdoses from happening in the first place, and that is why we are continuing to increase the number of treatment beds and outreach efforts for people in crisis.”

It was only last year when San Francisco’s Mayor London Breed announced budget cuts to San Francisco’s law enforcement agencies and instead spent the money on what she termed as “addressing the disparities in the black community.” Policies like cutting needed funding for law enforcement agencies create danger for communities like the Asian community, whose members are getting attacked in broad daylight. 

While San Franciscans will welcome the initiative of US park officers to use body-worn cameras to address trust, ultimately, it is the policies that the Attorney General Mr. Chesa Boudin and Mayor London Breed that will create a safe space for everyone. For the moment, both the Mayor and the Attorney General seem to be busy engaging communities with policies that do more harm than good. Since the Mayor’s budget cuts did not address the disparities in the Asian community, do you think she should now restart funding the police? 

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I write about history, politics and true crime. Not to mention anything else that takes my fancy or newsworthy. "No special talents. Only passionately curious." Albert Einstein

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