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Bay Area Headlines: Thursday, 6/11/20 PM

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San Francisco Police Disengage / Follow Up on SFMTA v SFPD Twitter Tussle / Affirmative Action On The Ballot / Zero Dollar Bail Ends For Now

San Francisco Police Disengage

San Francisco police will stop responding to neighbor disputes, reports on homeless people, school discipline interventions and other non-criminal activities as part of a police reform plan announced Thursday. Mayor London Breed said officers would be replaced on non-violent calls by trained and non-armed professionals to limit unnecessary confrontation between the police department and the community. The city will develop the plan over the next year and follow models like the CAHOOTS program in Eugene, Oregon, Breed said. That community-based crisis program employs social workers and mental health workers to respond to disturbances where crimes are not being committed.

Follow Up on SFMTA v SFPD Twitter Tussle

In case you haven’t heard, the San Francisco Police Union got into a Twitter tussle with Muni, raising public safety questions. Muni tweeted, Tuesday, that it wouldn’t carry officers to demonstrations protesting police brutality anymore. The police union tweeted back, telling Muni officials, “to lose our number,” and to look elsewhere for help when it comes to fare evasion and removing unwanted passengers. 

So will the police stop helping Muni? No. SFPD told us:

“We respect and honor the actions SFMTA is taking to advance the cause of racial justice and equity. SFPD's commitment to the safety and First Amendment rights of those we serve remains undiminished.”

So what about Muni and the special service buses they provide to the police?

For the moment they have stopped. But only on a tweeted promise. Muni officials must enshrine these changes into their policies or the city charter, before any of this becomes permanent.

Zero Dollar Bail Ends For Now

California courts are ending a policy that set bail at zero dollars during the coronavirus pandemic. The California Judicial Council voted, Wednesday, to end a policy setting the baseline bail at zero dollars for people accused of nonviolent crimes.

According to the Council, that practice kept twenty thousand people out of jail during the pandemic. But the statewide policy will now end on June 20. To help keep jail populations down, the Council noted, state prisons will begin allowing transfers from local facilities by June 19.

But that could present its own set of problems. California prisons have already been the site of over three thousand confirmed coronavirus cases. Some of that spread has been linked to transfers of incarcerated people between state facilities. And the state Department of Public Health says prisons and local jails are a factor behind recent coronavirus spread in at least four California counties.

Still, the Council’s decision to bring back cash bail received praise from law enforcement leaders. But Bay Area public defenders and community groups criticized the move, arguing reduced bail caused no significant increase in crime.

Voters will get their say on the bail policy debate in November. A measure to replace the current cash bail system with case-by-case risk assessment will be on the ballot.

Affirmative Action On The Ballot

The California Assembly has decided to let voters choose whether to repeal the state's ban on affirmative action programs. The vote on Wednesday came after an emotional hours-long debate that highlighted tension between the state's Asian and black communities. Democratic Assemblyman Evan Low, who is of Chinese descent, said he received more than 3,000 emails and phone calls opposing the repeal. He criticized the Assembly Black Caucus for not contacting him to discuss the issue. But he ended up voting for it, citing his commitment to social justice. The state Senate must still approve the measure before it would go to voters in November. Students of Asian descent have been overrepresented at the state’s prestigious public universities.