Proposition M - Community Policing

Voter Guide
This measure appeared on the November 2010 San Francisco ballot.



Photo by flickr user David RN.

What it does

Prop. M would require the police chief and Police Commission to develop and implement an official community policing policy for San Francisco. Community policing is a strategy to increase interaction between police officers and community residents to proactively address neighborhood safety and livability.

San Francisco has employed certain community policing strategies for more than 20 years. For example, each police district has a community advisory board, officers are trained in cultural issues and the department has an existing foot patrol program. Prop. M would require even more comprehensive implementation, evaluation and reporting of community policing strategies and foot beat patrols throughout the city.

The measure makes two specific changes to existing police policy. First, it directs the Police Commission to adopt a comprehensive community policing policy that must contain preventative strategies, a plan for greater collaboration and community involvement, and the allocation of resources to neighborhood specific policing priorities. The policy must be adopted within six months of the measure's passage. Second, the measure directs the chief of police to create and implement a comprehensive foot beat patrol program in all police stations. It also requires dedicated foot beat patrols on Muni lines, to be determined based on community input and suspected criminal activity. Prop. M aims to institutionalize a citywide approach to community policing, but allows for this approach to be deployed within the police chief's discretion.

Prop. M would supplant any ordinance the voters approve in the Nov. 2, 2010, election that bans lying or sitting on public sidewalks, namely Prop. L. If both measures pass and Prop.M receives more votes, Prop. M would supersede Prop. L.

Why it is on the ballot

In 2007, the Board of Supervisors approved a year-long citywide foot patrol pilot program. An evaluation of that program found that foot patrols were popular both among the public and within the Police Department, and the majority of people surveyed said they felt safer as a result of foot patrols. The evaluation made several recommendations to institutionalize community policing and foot patrols, but according to proponents of Prop. M, the Police Department has not put those recommendations into practice.

This measure was put on the ballot by a majority of the Board of Supervisors. It was not enacted through the normal legislative process because the sponsoring supervisors believed they did not have the super-majority of supervisors' votes that would have been necessary to override an expected mayoral veto.


  • Both the community at large and the SFPD agree that foot patrols are a viable police strategy and a useful tool for the SFPD to reduce crime.
  • Even if foot patrols do not result in a measurable reduction in crime, they will make people feel safer. This benefits social welfare and could increase citizen participation in community policing strategies. According to Prop. M, more than 80 percent of community members who were surveyed during the pilot phase of foot patrols in 2007 reported that they felt safer as a result of foot patrols.

  • The evaluation results of the 2007 pilot program found that the SFPD could not fully implement the foot patrol program without goals, objectives, and a strategic plan. Because these recommendations have not been taken up, it is a good idea to enact an ordinance to require such a program to be institutionalized.


  • Voters should not micromanage police strategy. We elect a mayor to run City departments and appoint department heads. We have expert commissions, like the Police Commission — which includes people appointed both by the mayor and the Board of Supervisors — to help departments set policy, budgets, and strategy. Police strategy should be determined by the police chief and the Commission, in consultation with the mayor, and in response to the City's public safety goals and needs.
  • The "poison pill" that undermines Prop. L's limits on sitting and lying on sidewalks makes it impossible to support both this measure and Prop. L. It forces voters to be strategic with their vote, rather than evaluating this measure on its merits.

SPUR's analysis

We believe that community policing and foot patrols are promising tactics for addressing crime in distressed communities. However, we do not agree that Prop. M, or any police strategy, needs to be on the ballot. It is bad precedent to make policy decisions at the ballot box that undermine the ability of department heads to manage their own departments. Public safety problems and the approaches to solving them will change over time, and we should not be locked into one particular approach that appeals to voters at one point in time. Further, this measure's inclusion of a side issue with the "poison pill" about the Prop. L sit-lie ordinance is bad policy. Voters should not have to choose between them.

SPUR recommends a "No" vote on Proposition M.