San Francisco Mayor London Breed announced on Wednesday that $3.75 million of the San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) budget would be redirected to black-owned businesses in the city.
The reinvestment by the Office of Economic and Workforce Development (OEWD) and the San Francisco Human Rights Commission (HRC) is part of the Dream Keeper Initiative, a program launched last year by Mayor Breed in the wake of the George Floyd incident to redirect $120 million from the law enforcement budget into the African-American community in the city.
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The $3.75 million will not be a direct investment into black-owned businesses, but rather will be awarded to 17 black-serving community organizations by the OEWD “to provide services and achieve improved economic development outcomes for African American businesses, entrepreneurs, and the African American and Black communities in San Francisco more broadly,” and “investments focus on helping African American small businesses and entrepreneurs in San Francisco start, stabilize, or grow their businesses.”
Mayor Breed said in a statement on Wednesday that the money was reinvested to help undo decades of racial economic inequalities in the city.
“Across this country, and in our City, we’ve seen how the Black community’s economic growth and prosperity has historically been disrupted and marginalized,” Mayor Breed said Wednesday. “This funding is part our efforts to undo the harm of generations of disinvestment and economic inequities. As we work to recover and make San Francisco a better place to live, work, and do business, we have to invest our resources in a way that lifts up and supports African American small businesses owners, entrepreneurs, and the entire community.”
Many beneficiaries and fund divesters, as well as many in the San Francisco African American community, praised the plan to re-rout police funding, noting that not only will it help bridge opportunity gaps in the city, but will also help many small businesses come back from the COVID-19 pandemic.
“This funding represents an investment in the community and addressing the wealth and opportunity gaps created by years of biased policies and approaches,” noted Executive Director of the San Francisco Human Rights Commission Sheryl Davis on Wednesday. “There is tremendous talent and potential that has been stifled by our biased policies and strategies, through this process we will see the implementation of creative and innovative programs that have the potential to support and benefit all of San Francisco and not just the Black community.”
Growing concerns over redirection of SFPD funds
However, others noted that the removal of $120 million from the SFPD budget over the next two years, including the nearly $4 million being reallocated on Wednesday, is coming at the worst possible time for the city.
“Crime rates are skyrocketing,” Dennis Chin, a San Francisco neighborhood watch leader, told the Globe. “Last year, because of the coronavirus, crime went down everywhere. But not here. Robberies were down everywhere else. But here? They rose 50%. Murder? Also went up. Assault? Up. Car theft? You might as well make car alarms the new anthem for the city they go off so much from break ins.”
“Speaking as a small business owner and the father of another small business owner, I’m all for helping small businesses. Our black neighbors here are struggling after the coronavirus, like everyone, and helping them get past the coronavirus loss hurdle helps us all. Helping businesses isn’t the problem.”
“The problem is that it’s taking away money from the police, which we need now more than ever. We don’t need to experiment with giving the police less funding, not with murders and robberies and rapes on the rise.”
In San Francisco, high crime rates have been part of the reason behind the recent push to recall San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin. Tourism, a key sector for the economic recovery of the city, is also starting to be affected by the high crime rates.
Experts added that the SFPD may be asking for funds back soon if these problems persist.
“It’s happening in LA right now,” police officer William Yount said to the Globe on Thursday. “They cut funding last year after George Floyd, and now they are begging for it back as more problems come back up. If it happened to LA, which saw $150 million be cut, it will happen to San Fran, which is cutting $120 million.”
The Dream Keeper funding is expected to be divested down to community groups and businesses soon.