Our district is populated with working families, and safety is always a chief concern. A rise in home values has led to adverse incentives for property crime like car theft, package theft, and break-ins. Drug dealing and gang-related incidents have become more noticeable, along with reports of domestic violence and sexual assault. Small businesses are being vandalized.
Recently, a toddler who was just weeks shy of his second birthday was struck by a stray bullet while his family was driving southbound on Interstate 880. Suspected gang members in two cars had exchanged gunfire while driving northbound on I-880. He was taken to UCSF Benioff Children's Hospital, where he was later pronounced dead. Last year, there was a string of brash public robberies from San Francisco to Hayward to San Jose. Witnesses were traumatized. Some of the robberies were accompanied by gunfire, and store employees were assaulted. Tens of thousands of dollars worth of merchandise was stolen. Recently, a legally blind woman was sexually assaulted in a Bay Area parking lot. Police investigators released surveillance images and video clips to the public in the hopes of eliciting a lead. Police work is very important in bringing perpetrators to justice.
At the height of the sectarian violence in Iraq, a militia known as the Mahdi Army was rampaging through the streets of Baghdad. A local resident picked up the phone and called the police, asking for help. The dispatcher responded, "The Mahdi Army are not terrorists like you," and hung up. Obviously, no one in our district would ever want this lack of responsiveness after dialing 911. That's why slogans like "defund the police" are detrimental to public safety and police-community relations. Here is the slogan I prefer: "Residents should respect law enforcement, and residents should be respected by law enforcement."
I don't believe in defunding police departments, but I do believe in such policies as greater funding for advanced de-escalation protocol training. A reduction in the police force is not the answer. Instead, I will go in the opposite direction and see how the police force can be maintained at a level that ensures adequate public safety. I will also encourage efforts to expand community policing initiatives, facilitate neighborhood watch groups, and enhance community-police relations and communication through popular platforms like Nextdoor.
At the same time, it is essential for police departments to thoroughly investigate misconduct in order to maintain public trust. For example, the Santa Clara County Sheriff's Office has been the subject of a pay-to-play concealed weapons investigation, as well as a separate investigation into its role in multiple cases of serious inmate injuries that have exposed the county (and, by extension, its taxpayers) to millions of dollars in legal liability. Such allegations can undermine public trust in law enforcement institutions during a time when their services are especially needed.
The police should not be expected to solve problems beyond the scope of their core function. For example, if a mentally ill individual is having an episode, then the first responder should be a mental health professional rather than a police officer. Of course, this may not always be feasible, such as if the individual possesses a deadly weapon. But the overall approach is that law enforcement should be supplemented with other first responders who may be better suited to handle certain situations.