Recap of Public Safety Discussion at Reset SF Launch Event on 9/25/10
Laura Graham and I had the opportunity to facilitate the Public Safety Discussion Group last Saturday. Since she was the lead and I was the scribe, I promised I would post our notes and outcomes from this session so others could read our summaries and post comments and/or edits.
I thought Public Safety (PS) would be a fairly black and white topic - dealing with disaster preparedness, adequate budgets to fund our safety forces, perhaps some discussion on foot patrols, and maybe civil sidewalks. Our big takeaway from the group was that PS cannot be adequately addressed without looking at the City budget and funding the appropriate programs. For example, we can't be physically safe if violence-prone mentally ill people don't get the help they need, or the tools aren't available to get them off the streets.
We had a diverse group of people - from a fireman to a retired parole officer to a psychologist and many neighborhood residents - which led to a spirited discussion on PS. There were definitely two points of view: (1) That there are not enough services and the homeless and mentally ill shouldn't be criminalized, and (2) if you're going to hurt others, whether you are mentally ill or not, you need to be put in a situation where you can't harm others. And while this latter opinion might not be the perfect solution, it was considered a better alternative than letting them harm others.
There was a lot of discussion about Laura's law. It was also agreed this wouldn't be the great save-all some think it will be, but it does provide another tool to be used when appropriate. The group thought it was more important to fund current laws so we didn't need new ones, and that the City needed to do a better job on solutions; i.e., a third option - such as non-correctional options (community justice courts, collaborative courts, etc.)
And last, the City's budget is in trouble and a lot of money is used to provide services for nonresidents. While the group is sympathetic to them, many felt that it was a burden on the budget and didn't allow good treatment for residents.
There was a lot more detail, which I could provide later, but this was the basic summary.
Overall, it was an insightful morning and a good way to spend a Saturday morning.