Atop the Salesforce East Tower in the Ohana Room Sat., July 13, 2019, approximately 100 community members gathered together with SF SAFE staff, San Francisco Police Department (SFPD) leadership, officers and other safety stakeholders for the Citywide CPAB Symposium.
This year marked the tenth anniversary of SF SAFE working with San Francisco’s Community Police Advisory Boards (CPABs). Consisting of community volunteers from the nearby residential and business communities, CPABs meet regularly at each SFPD station to discuss and troubleshoot local safety issues.
In celebration of this year’s milestone, SF SAFE hosted its first official Symposium. Guided by the theme, “Ownership + Dual Investment = Partnership,” the Symposium’s overriding aim was to create a platform for dialogue between the CPAB members and the SFPD, while also providing an opportunity for networking and sharing best practices.
Following a delicious lunch during which CPAB members were able to explore the Ohana Room’s state-of-art facilities and plush greenery evoking Hawaiian culture, SF SAFE Executive Director Kyra Worthy kicked off the Symposium’s program agenda with a warm welcome and a heads up on the interactive nature of the event.
On the heels of Worthy’s welcome, San Francisco District 10 Supervisor Shamann Walton addressed the audience. After thanking Worthy and everyone there for their commitment to their communities, Supervisor Walton went on to emphasize the importance of safety being a community-police collaboration.
“It truly takes a village and a community to keep our community safe across San Francisco,” he said, adding, “The work of SF SAFE is so important because there’s the proactive role that we all have to play to keep the community safe, but then there’s also the response…and so when we talk about a response when something in the community happens, or when tragedies happen, or when an incident happens when people feel less safe, the first response is always the community response. There’s a role that community has to play in keeping our community safe…Law enforcement cannot do it without the community.”
“This work of keeping the community safe is not the easiest thing to do. Having people who are dedicated, like the folks in this room, is a very important piece of that puzzle,” said Supervisor Walton.
Mawuli Tugbenyoh from San Francisco Mayor London Breed’s office followed up Supervisor Walton’s remarks with his own take.
“I just wanted to say thank you on behalf of the mayor…for your dedication and commitment to keeping San Francisco safe, keeping your neighborhoods safe…The work that you guys do every day is so important. The tools that you guys learn here today are so valuable; but even more valuable are the ideas that you guys bring to the table.”
Alluding to his many years in the safety arena, Tugbenyoh added that “some of the best ideas we’ve gotten have been from the community,” while underscoring SF SAFE’s key role in getting those communities organized and moving those ideas forward.
Next up, SFPD Chief William Scott was greeted by thundering applause when he sat before the audience for a Q&A led by Eric Sollman from the Richmond District CPAB. Leading the discussion, Sollman kicked off the session by asking Chief Scott: “What do you see as one of the greatest pressing issues for the SFPD and what can we do to help facilitate a solution?” The chief highlighted crime and wanting to keep the city safe as being overriding concerns, adding that, “The resources that it takes to address the issues—I never feel we have enough…I think our most pressing issue is juggling those resources to get the job done.”
Sollman then asked Chief Scott: “If there’s one area that you could dedicate more resources to, what would that be?” “Operations has got to be first and foremost,” responded the chief. “We have made a lot of effort and strides in terms of increasing the number of foot beat officers in the city over the last year and half, but that came at the expense of something else. There are a lot of other things that have to get done…The officer on the beat, responding to the 911 and 311 calls, that is the backbone of the department,” he said. Later he added, “I think the most important thing that we can do is push problem-solving down to the street level,” additionally noting that the foot patrol officers can tackle issues on a grass roots community level, aided by their relationships with the community.
Next, Sollman asked: “How can we be of service to the police department…Where do you see that relationship?” “Engagement and problem-solving,” said Chief Scott. “Is it better to have a few minds of the command staff or a thousand minds focusing on a problem? I would say a thousand minds. And that’s where the relationships with the CPABs and community organizations come in, because when problem-solving works at its best, everyone is going to have input.”
Sollman and Chief Scott briefly touched on the issue of homelessness—“I think we have a good system, at least to respond,” said the chief—before asking the chief about future areas he would invest resources into which he feels would have a good level of return, particularly relating to the community. “Technology can enhance those problem-solving partnerships that we have,” said the chief. “With better technology, I think we can be a lot more effective.” He also added, “The other thing is facilities,” while highlighting that many SFPD stations and buildings are aging and require upgrading.
During Sollman and Chief Scott’s Q&A, other topics discussed included: Recruitment (“Those are issues that we’re working to figure out; retaining and how we can increase our numbers coming into the academy,” said the chief); funding for the department (“The mayor’s office has been extremely supportive,” said the chief. “The support is there, our challenge has been getting the recruits through the doors. It’s a very competitive market out there.”); and the most surprising thing about San Francisco for the Los Angeles transplant (“A lot of good food. It’s a great city…The best part of this job is the people that I meet,” said the chief).
As they ended their session, the chief took a moment to give props to SF SAFE’s citywide “Park Smart” campaign, saying the department “saw an immediate drop” in car break-ins largely due to the crime prevention effort.
Chief Scott then took a number of questions from the audience of CPAB members, which spanned the gamut of topics ranging from the value of foot patrols, to the effectiveness of blue light security phones, to language barriers in certain districts, to joint policing with BART.
After Chief Scott wrapped things up by taking a moment to acknowledge all the captains and the lieutenants in the room, Worthy took the mic and asked the audience to break into groups to discuss the topic: “What is one of the biggest challenges you’ve brought to your CPAB meeting and how did you work together to solve it?” Groups then reported back to the audience as a whole re: their discussions.
Another stand-out moment during the Symposium occurred when SFPD Bayview Station Captain Troy Dangerfield and SFPD Park Station Captain Una Bailey posed questions to the CPAB members that were examples of some of the inquiries police routinely get from the community. CPAB members answered the questions and were assisted by police when needed.
Later, Chief Scott returned to the front of the room to answer additional questions from the audience and underscored his belief that “policing actually starts with the community.” The chief wrapped up his remarks with a call to action for the CPAB members: To identify and work together to find solutions to problems. “Let’s fix the problems together,” said the chief, before thanking everyone.
Other SFPD leadership joining Chief Scott at the CPAB Symposium that afternoon, in addition to the aforementioned, included Commander Daniel Perea, Captain Gaetano Caltagirone, Captain Carl Fabbri, Captain Laura Knight and Captain Robert Yick, to name a few.
One attendee, Susan Parker, graciously weighed in with her take on the CPAB Symposium immediately following the event. “Thank you for organizing a really engaging symposium today. It was clear that a lot of thought and effort had been put into it. I very much appreciated Chief Scott’s candor, as well as his presence throughout the afternoon. At previous summits, the chiefs have often delivered a speech and then left. Having him stay demonstrated the value he places in us as CPAB volunteers. Please pass my appreciation along to the SF SAFE staff that [helped] pull today off so seamlessly.”
SF SAFE Executive Director Kyra Worthy had this to add: “On behalf of the entire SF SAFE staff, I want to thank each and every person who dedicated their Saturday afternoon to attending our CPAB Symposium. Everyone’s insights contributed exponentially not only toward a highly productive gathering, but also toward the bright promise of future success working together to achieve resolutions to the issues we explored. Thank you—until next year!