Mob of doctors, nurses demand removal of police from San Fran hospital – ‘makes patients of color feel unsafe’

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SAN FRANCISCO, CA– In hospitals all over the country, it is common to see police officers present, especially in larger hospitals located in major cities. 

These officers are there to ensure the safety of the doctors, nurses, staff and patients alike. Most of the time people, especially the nurses, feel a small sense of security knowing help is in the next room. 

However, on August 22, an organized group of doctors and nurses turned on those officers who have always been there to protect them. 

In front of the Potrero Ave. entrance of San Francisco General Hospital, a mob of doctors and nurses, dressed in their scrubs “protested”, demanding that city healthcare clinics and hospitals require the removal of the sheriffs officers from the hospital, claiming their presence makes patients of color feel “unsafe”. 

According to Missionlocal, the organizing coalition is made up of healthcare workers, community members, and activists dubbed DPH Must Divest.

This “protest”, comes in response to a letter that the Director of Public Health, Dr. Grant Colfax, sent in July which promised to re-evaluate the presence of the sheriffs officers in the hospital.

This letter came after an apparent investigation was conducted, which concluded that black patients encountered more use-of-force incidents in the emergency room compared to other races. 

According to Missionlocal, Colfax’s letter said that of 111 emergency room use-of-force incidents, 70 percent of them were directed at Black patients, who accounted for only 24 percent of ER visitors.  

Daniel Madrigal, an environmental public health worker, who attended the protest on his lunch break said: 

“If we see racism in security responses, we need to denounce that,” 

Schyneida Williams, the engagement coordinator for the UCSF Black Women’s Health and Livelihood Initiative, spoke in her speech today about the supposed racism that is targeted at black patients. 

Williams said:

“For so many years I’ve heard of experiences of intimidation from people who come to this hospital to get care and particularly being met with sheriffs,” 

She continued:

“I think there are alternatives.”

Following the death of George Floyd, on June 7th, the first person to send a petition to city leaders was Dr. Maisha Davis, a Black physician who works at a clinic in the Fillmore. Davis claims that elderly black patients are fearful of the officers in the hospital. 

Following Davis’s letter, Asmara Gebre, a black midwife, sent her own letter and petition to city officials. Gebre went on strike on July 8 after calming she saw six deputies engage inappropriately with black patients.

Gebre said:

“I am not contracted by the Sheriff’s Department,”

She continued:

“I am sick of this f*cking racism.”

Both Davis’ and Gebre’s petitions have gathered more than 1,500 signatures. 

As stated earlier, most people, especially nurses feel much safer having officers in the building. These nurses banned together, and created their own petition, rallying against the removal of the deputies from the hospital.

This petition gained a bit more traction, gathering more than 4,000 signatures. These nurses have said that many times officers have intervened and protected them from harmful patients, also stating they would strike if the officers were removed.

Christa Duran, a registered nurse in the emergency department at San Francisco General said:

“I feel afraid for my life. I feel so upset [by the letter],”

Davis claims to understand both sides, and said:

“The goal is to make sure everyone feels safe,”

Davis suggested that funding could be used to increase the use of the existing “Behavioral Emergency Response Team”, which is meant to defuse situations involving mental health patients. 

Davis told Mission Local:

“There’s a reductionist way people look at our movement in terms of divesting. It’s not that we want to take away, it’s that we want everyone to feel safe,” 

Anyone who has ever been in an emergency room with a mentally ill patient that begins to act aggressively, knows that “deescalation strategies” will not cut it most of the time. 

The rally ended with a nurse urging people to call the Budget and Appropriations Committee on Monday to continue this push, saying:

“Divesting is vital. It’s well past time that DPH has done this,” 

This is the same city where Mayor London Breed has proposed a budget that cuts $120 million from law enforcement to instead ‘give it to the black community’.

The money will be used for investments in the city’s African American community. Mayor Breed says redistributing the budget stems from the decades of policies that have undermined the Black community’s ability to thrive in San Francisco.

Mayor Breed said:

“As a Black woman who grew up in poverty in this city, police brutality was all too common. It was something we expected, and our complaints were usually ignored.

Two months ago, the murder of George Floyd shook this country to this core, in a way that I have never seen before.

With this budget, we are listening to the community and prioritizing investments in the African American around housing, mental health and wellness, workforce development, economic justice, education, advocacy, and accountability.”

The mayor plans to cut the police budget $40 million in 2021 and 2022. Another $20 million will be cut from the San Francisco Sheriff’s Office. The police department said most of the money would come from not filling open positions and the purchases of new vehicles will be suspended.

San Francisco Chief Bill Scott responded to the news of the budget cuts in a tweet. He said:

“We knew that there would be pain and sacrifice associated with these budget cuts, but we also know they’re necessary to fulfill the promise of Mayor Breed’s and Superintendent Walton’s reinvestment initiative to support racial equality.”

Chief Scott also stated the budget cuts are ones that the department can handle and won’t have a negative impact on its ability to serve the community effectively. He said:

“It’s important that we not view this funding redirection as a zero-sum game.”


 

Where is all the money going? Over $120 million would be directed to mental health and program to help black homeless people.

Thirty-five percent would be used for education, youth services, and job programs.

Five percent of the money can be used to redirect police calls from non-criminal activity. For instance, social workers would respond to call involving homeless people and those individuals needing mental health intervention.

Chief Scott stated the budget cuts will divert non-emergency, low-priority calls for service from the police department redirecting those funds to public offices that are better equipped to handle them, such as mental health crises.

Mayor Breed said:

“For those who truly believe that Black lives matter, it’s important that we listen to Black voices. It’s important that we allow Black people to lead this movement.”

Chief Scott also tweeted:

“All San Franciscans benefit from a more just and equitable city, whose diverse communities are healthy and well supported … and where the best, most appropriate public services are enlisted to respond to behavioral health problems and other non-emergency issues that face our city.”

The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office responded to the budget cuts and said:

“The San Francisco Sheriff’s Office is collaborating with the Mayor’s Office to reduce our budget and redirect funds to support and address historic inequities in San Francisco’s Black community.

We need responsible redirection that still allows us to continue our work to interrupt the cycle of incarceration caused by the underfunding of education, youth development, and economic opportunities.”

The City of San Francisco has a budget of $13.7 billion for 2020-2021 and $12.6 billion for 2021-2022, the two-year budget is expected to a $1.5 billion deficit using reserves, preserving jobs and making minimal cuts to services of the city.

San Francisco has been able to avoid lay-offs since the pandemic began.

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The budget cuts are expected to continue to avoid lay-offs, but the unions for city workers have to agree to delay any wage increases in the next two years. Mayor Breed states that police and firefighter unions have agreed to delay wage increases.

San Francisco Breed said:

“I’m hoping other unions will agree to do the same. I don’t think this is too much to ask. Our entire city is suffering now, and we all need to do our part to share in that sacrifice. If the unions don’t agree to delay their raises, the we will be forced to lay people off. We will be forced to cut city services.”

October 1 is the deadline for San Francisco’s Board of Supervisors to make a decision on Mayor Breed’s proposal with any adjustments before having her sign it.

It’s like they’re trying to compete with Berkeley.

That’s where, in yet another ridiculous move in response to “defund the police” movement, the Berkeley City Council has moved to slash the police budget by 50%. They’ve also reportedly pulled traffic enforcement officers off the streets.

Traditionally known for its far-left radical culture, Berkeley has been the hotspot for civil disobedience and questionable policies since the hippy movement of the 1960’s. This move seems to solidify its spot among the top spots for head-scratching actions.

In an 8-0 vote (with one abstention), the council passed a motion that cuts personnel and other budget categories in half, essentially firing half of the police force and slashing the remaining force’s training funds.

Berkeley is just the latest in a string of cities joining the defunding movement in the wake of the George Floyd incident in Minneapolis. Seattle is looking at defunding measures, as are other major and minor cities caught up in the hysteria.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported that the meeting started off on a contentious note, including a vote of no confidence against Berkeley Police Chief Andrew Greenwood.

The newspaper reported:

“At a June council meeting, when asked about how the Police Department responds to Black Lives Matter protesters, Greenwood said, ‘Firearms. We can shoot people. If you are being attacked with lethal force, if we don’t have less-lethal that can drive it back, then we’re absent a tool. That’s my concern. I’m not trying to be overly dramatic and I apologize.’

“Greenwood’s comments did not sit well with council members, including Cheryl Davila, who said the chief’s comments were ‘not merely a gaffe, but inexcusable.’ However, Davila’s motion did not get council support, as no other members voted for it to come up for a body-wide vote.”

In a town controlled by its university, UC Berkeley Law Professor Franklin Zimring weighed in, calling the proposed budget cuts a “wish list” that would incur significant costs, the Chronicle reported.

Zimring is known for his left-leaning tendencies, including a book he published blaming guns for the rise in mass shooting rather than holding the shooters accountable. So it is a bit surprising that Zimring urges temperance when it comes to slashing the police budget so dramatically.

According to Breitbart, Zimring said:

“What would be unprecedented is not the nature of the wish list, or even its magnitude, but whether it happens at any scale close to the numbers flying around in policy conversations in a lot of cities right now.”

Zimring went on to explain:

“It’s an iron law of public employee negotiations that those kinds of transitions cost money. Fifty percent is the end of a very, very, very long rainbow.”

In addition to the sweeping and drastic budget cuts, all traffic stops by police will no longer be allowed either.

According to the Chronicle, a special section of the Department of Transportation will be set up to maintain traffic order. Details of this new department structure have not yet been released, but it is unlikely employees of this new division will have any legal authority beyond enforcement of traffic laws.

While this new structure may seem innocuous, even helpful, at first, the policy actually removes an important tool for law enforcement, as many traffic stops result in arrests for other crimes the drivers have committed previously.

Historically, traffic stops have been a large source for discovering wanted felons who are on the loose and placing them behind bars. By removing traffic stops, the Berkeley City Council is placing the city and surrounding area in great danger by not only allowing the violation of laws originally put in place to protect drivers and passengers but also by taking away a valuable method for law enforcement to remove criminals from the street.

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Here’s Law Enforcement Today’s original report on Berkeley’s intent to take traffic stops away from police.

 City Council leaders are discussing a move which would end traffic enforcement of any kind by the police. 

The new plan moving forward would have unarmed employees from their public works division conduct the task.  The reasoning behind the plan is to decrease the public’s interactions with police.

Berkeley Councilman Rigel Robinson, the author of the new plan said:

“If we’re serious about transforming the country’s relationship with police, we have to start by taking on America’s most common interaction with law enforcement – traffic stops. 

“Driving while black shouldn’t be a crime.” 

The move also comes as the city council recently removed a large portion of funding from the police department.  Recently, the new budget cut  $9.2 million from the agency, a 12% reduction overall.  Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin said the reduction was “a down payment on reimagining public safety in Berkeley.” 

During the council meeting when the budget was approved, the mayor said:

“The overwhelming message (from the public) is that we do need to defund the police and we need to reinvest money from our police department budget into other community priorities, including expanding mental health, outreach and treatment, services for our homeless, housing and services that specifically address the needs of our Black and brown communities.”

What was not specifically addressed is exactly how much the reduction in the police budget would affect the number of officers for the city. 

During a July 14th meeting, the city council will discuss exactly how the plan will work which would prohibit police from conducting “routine” traffic stops and pass that responsibility onto unarmed public works employees. 

Police would no longer be allowed to stop vehicles for any type of traffic infractions, starting next fiscal year. 

People who are in support of this point out deadly interactions between police and the people they pull over.  It appears that their belief is that the police, not the person who is pulled over, who are the reason the stop turns deadly. 

Darrell Owens, a co-executive of a local housing and transit activist organization said:

“There’s this cultural fear among Black people that it’s the traffic stop that’s going to get them killed.  Why does it always escalate into these violent situations?” 

A researcher at Central Connecticut State University said that data has not shown any evidence of racial bias on the part of the police overall in the country.  However, he believes that the issue with traffic stops is when officers use what is considered to be minor traffic offenses as a way to search vehicles. 

His belief is that these types of stops are done at a greater rate with minorities. 

What none of these people take into consideration is what leads up to a deadly interaction with police.  First and foremost, obey the laws if you do not want to get pulled over by police.  If you are speeding, weaving in and out of traffic, have a cracked windshield, or any other type of issue with your vehicle, you run the risk of getting pulled over. 

Second, if the person who gets pulled over by the police acts complies with the lawful requests from the officer, the likelihood of police resorting to use of force is reduced.  These should be common sense points for most, if not all, law-abiding citizens. 

What is also not taken into consideration as it relates to traffic stops, aside from those cases were the police are actively watching specific people and have probable cause to make the top due to past criminal behavior,  it is virtually impossible to determine someone’s race when the officer decides to pull over a vehicle, especially at night.

Seeing inside a vehicle to determine a person’s race at night, without Superman powers, is virtually impossible. 

Another fact is that there is simply no such thing as a ‘routine’ traffic stop.  

Thousands of traffic stops occur all of the country on any given day and none of them are the same.  Officers pull over vehicles not knowing (in most cases) if the person they have stopped is a threat or not.

When a police officer stops a vehicle, the person being stopped has the advantage. The officer has no idea of knowing if the person simply committed a traffic violation or was fleeing from a violent crime.   

Diagnosing an issue, as the Berkeley City council has done, without facts and merit are dangerous and may end up in costing their public works employees their lives.

They are not taking into consideration what the root causes of deadly encounters with the police are, which is, of course, the violence presented by the person pulled over.

Another matter not being considered is that under most state laws, a person would not be obligated to stop for a non-sworn civilian.

But hey, what are pesky little things like laws and Constitutional rights?

 

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