This is the second part of a Fox News Digital series about "defund the police" politicians and crime in the areas they represent.
From coast to coast in 2020, liberal politicians pledged support for defunding police departments following the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis. San Francisco Mayor London Breed was among the politicians in major cities that joined the chorus of leaders diverting funds from police that summer, only to reverse course the following year.
"We will redirect $120 million from law enforcement to support these priorities over the next two years," Breed said in her announcement on July 31, 2020. "Let me repeat that. This is $120 million."
The plan redirected $120 million in funds from both the police and sheriff’s departments in the city over two years to fund initiatives for Black Americans in the Golden City. The San Francisco Chronicle reported at the time that the reallocation of funds was intended to be "a gesture of reparations for decades of city policymaking that have created or exacerbated deep inequities for San Francisco’s African American residents."
Breed was far from alone in making moves to defund police. Political leaders stretching from the U.S. House of Representatives, such as Rep. Ilhan Omar, to local city leaders supported calls from activists demanding that funds allocated to police departments be divested to public safety initiatives, such as mental health and youth services.
San Francisco was among cities across the country that saw some crimes increase in 2020 compared to 2019. Homicides increased by 20% that year compared to 2019, and by 17% in 2021 compared to 2020. While crimes such as rape and robbery decreased in 2020, burglaries increased by 47% in 2020 when compared to the three previous years, data complied by SFGate shows.
The city was also rocked by smash-and-grab crimes last year, most notably during the holiday season, that carried into 2022; by a continued drug use epidemic that led to more accidental drug overdose deaths in the city in 2020 than the number of people who died from COVID-19 that same year; and by polls over the last two years showing residents becoming concerned with public safety and reporting that their quality of life has gotten worse.
San Francisco's data on homicides follows a national trend from 2020. FBI data show murders increased by nearly 30% in 2020, marking the largest single-year increase in killings since the agency began tracking the crimes.
Experts who have spoken to Fox News Digital pointed to the defund movement, the pandemic and its lockdowns upsetting daily life in unprecedented ways, and the Ferguson effect for the rise in crimes in 2020.
"Certainly, the protests and riots mid-2020 after the death of George Floyd followed a pattern of spiking violence that we've seen following past viral police incidents, such as the deaths of Michael Brown and Freddie Gray. This pattern has been termed the ‘Ferguson Effect’: police pull back while violent crime spikes precipitously," Hannah Meyers, director of the policing and public safety initiative at the Manhattan Institute, told Fox News Digital earlier this year of the national murder increases in 2020.
What followed the defund movement has been widespread reports of police departments being understaffed, struggling with low morale and facing a tough recruitment process to bolster the force. Police leaders have often pointed to the defund movement and anti-police rhetoric as being to blame for gutting morale.
"Most police departments are not these ginormous agencies. And it's already tough to attract people to those small departments," Betsy Brantner Smith, a 29-year police veteran, told Fox News Digital earlier this year. "Then, you introduce [the] defund the police [movement] and vilification of police, and it makes it very difficult."
The San Francisco Police Department has reported more of the same as the national trend. As of August, the department is down about 300 officers. Just last month alone, 50 officers left the department, with only eight to 10 recruits ready to fill the gaps.
Between April 2020 and April 2021, resignations increased by 18% and retirements by 45%, Mission Local reported this year.
In December 2021, Breed reversed course on defunding and announced an emergency request to the city Board of Supervisors for more money to bolster the police department and address crime.
"I’m proud this city believes in giving people second chances," Breed said at the time. "Nevertheless, we also need there to [have] accountability when someone does break the law… Our compassion cannot be mistaken for weakness or indifference… I was raised by my grandmother to believe in ‘tough love,’ in keeping your house in order, and we need that, now more than ever."
The San Francisco police union president said Breed's announcement in December was evidence that the defund the police movement had been a "mistake."
"Mayor Breed’s announcement yesterday to deploy more police officers to address the unacceptable level of crime in portions of our city, namely the Tenderloin, is an acknowledgment that the push to defund the SFPD was a mistake," Tony Montoya, president of the San Francisco Police Officers Association, said in a statement at the time.
Last month, the Board of Supervisors approved the city's $14 million budget for the 2022-2023 fiscal year, which included provisions to fill about 200 vacant police officer positions and to add funding to officer retention bonuses.
San Francisco has been coping with a multi-edged sword on crime, which was compounded by a now-ousted liberal district attorney.
San Francisco voters recalled DA Chesa Boudin in June in a rejection of what critics said were "pro-criminal policies that are masked as criminal justice reform."
"When there are crimes you're not enforcing, it promotes a culture of lawlessness," Heritage Foundation legal fellow Zack Smith told Fox News Digital when speaking of crime in cities with by liberal DAs. "And it also causes police officers to stop arresting for those crimes or investigating those crimes, because what's the point? Why are they going to waste their limited time and resources arresting or investigating crimes that they know that the district attorney has said he or she is not going to prosecute?"
Breed announced that Brooke Jenkins would replace Boudin earlier this summer. The newly-minted DA has since vowed to "restore" order to the city, including by cracking down on holding drug dealers accountable and addressing repeated anti-Asian attacks.
"My office is working hard to make our neighborhoods safer, advocate for victims, and work to implement strong, practical criminal justice reform. As DA, I will listen to the concerns of San Franciscans and will do what's necessary to make sure all of our communities feel safe," she tweeted last week after officially throwing her hat in the ring to hold onto her position as DA in an upcoming special election.
Breed’s office did not immediately respond to Fox News Digital’s request for comment.