A group of people sitting on chairs in front of a painting.
From left: Joe Eskenazi, Matt Cagle, Matt Dorsey. Photo by Yujie Zhou, Feb. 16, 2024.

Would Proposition E make San Francisco safer? 

The campaigns for and against the measure offered two diametrically opposed answers to that question on Friday, with Supervisor Matt Dorsey and Matt Cagle of the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California speaking at a discussion at Manny’s. Mission Local managing editor Joe Eskenazi was the moderator. 

Proposition E intends to make some “reasonable changes to San Francisco-only policies that make San Francisco, in many ways, a soft target for organized retail crime, and organized and criminal enterprises that engage in street-level drug dealing and other things,” said Dorsey, the District 6 supervisor, who served two years as the San Francisco Police Department’s communications director. 

Cagle, an attorney who specializes in surveillance and invasions of privacy, said, while everyone wants a safe San Francisco, there is “a really important piece of misinformation that the proponents of Proposition E put out, which is that this is about cameras or no cameras, or this is about being for or against public safety.” San Francisco police have had access to surveillance cameras for more than 20 years, he said, and that has not prevented or addressed violent crime. 

Crime across San Francisco fell by 8 percent last year, although violent crime did increase slightly, by 3 percent.

Proposition E is one of the highest-funded measures on the March ballot, as both Mayor London Breed and mayoral candidate Daniel Lurie have rushed to put their signatures — and financial backers — on it. Nearly $1.5 million has been poured into the campaign from both sides, with tech executives leading the way for the proponents and outspending the ACLU, the opposition’s sole funder, seven to one

Read Mission Local’s in-depth review of Prop. E

Why are we voting on this?

In 2018, Police Chief Bill Scott, who is supporting the measure, criticized the kind of policymaking at the ballot box that Proposition E represents, writing, “it is not a national best practice to promulgate policing operational policies relating to equipment usage and regulation by voter majority.”

“This responsibility to set and make policy adjustments, and the responsibility to manage the operations of the Department, should rest with the Police Commission and the Chief of Police, respectively,” he continued.

Given that, why should San Francisco voters be voting on Proposition E? “Why can’t the police department get these policies through?” asked Eskenazi.

Dorsey called the current procedure — which requires a careful negotiation between the department, the Police Commission and the police union — “a whole process where all these policies have to go through and get voted on.” And he took aim at the Board of Supervisors, where he sits. “I think City Hall has demonstrated that it is not taking public safety seriously,” he said. 

YouTube video
Matt Dorsey and Matt Cagle’s hour-long discussion at Manny’s. Video by Laura Wenus, Feb. 16, 2024.

Cagle found skipping the process a mistake.“What [Proposition E] does is it imposes anti-democratic restrictions on our elected leaders,” he said, noting that any changes to Proposition E would need the approval of a supermajority of the Board of Supervisors, a requirement that lapses in 2027. “We have wealthy, powerful interests who are taking advantage of everyone’s legitimate fears about public safety” and “shift power from the people and their elected leaders directly to the police department,” he said. 

“If voters vote for this, it is, by definition, a democratic process,” Dorsey countered. “As voters, you all get to step into the shoes of the legislature, to make decisions about how policies are going to affect our city.”


Under Proposition E, the police chief could bypass the Police Commission and directly authorize installing public surveillance cameras.

The police department would be exempted from a 2019 local law requiring oversight over surveillance technology, which Dorsey called “misguided.” “When we’re talking about a police department that exists to investigate crime, I think it’s just duplicative and onerous,” he said. The legislation requires all city departments to disclose their usage of surveillance technology and seek the Board of Supervisors’ approval for new technologies. 

Proposition E “is a proposition that guts huge parts of this ordinance passed by the elected leaders,” responded Cagle. 

Asked if the intention of Proposition E is to live-monitor all cameras, or to use them as evidence-gathering devices, Dorsey replied, “potentially both.” 

“Then where are the police coming from to watch these cameras?” Eskenazi asked.

Cagle said that would be a waste of police staffing when “hundreds of hours of police personnel time” that “could have been spent on interdicting drug crimes, listening to business owners, listening to community members” are used watching feeds. 

Dorsey said crime prevention is also part of the goal. Throughout the evening, he referred to people  “engaging in criminal enterprises” who view San Francisco as an easier target. Eskenazi pointed out that those intent on committing crime might also view San Francisco as a place with more money and commercial activity than other nearby cities. 

Police chases

Proposition E would allow police officers to pursue a person fleeing in a vehicle for either a felony or a “violent misdemeanor.” The current law allows chases for violent felonies only, but also allows officers to use their own discretion and pursue a suspect if they believe there is an imminent public safety risk. 

Eskenazi noted that he had spoken with both police and prosecutors who could not define a “violent misdemeanor.” 

“Violent misdemeanor is not defined in the California Penal Code. So there’s no guidance there for when car chases or car pursuits can happen,” said Cagle, calling the proposal “hastily drafted.”

He also stressed that more frequent car chases would pose a public safety risk to San Francisco, one of the most densely populated cities nationwide. According to California Highway Patrol data, more than a third of police chases by SFPD in recent years led to injury or death. 

“Putting innocent lives in danger,” said Cagle, “is not the solution” to breaks-ins or snatched purses. “We at the ACLU think this is one of the more radical parts of this measure, and that it just unleashes these police car chases that are not making the community safer,” he said.

Dorsey disagreed, saying it was “thoughtfully drafted” and “gives a measure of flexibility.” 

“But it’s only a measure,” he added, “and it does also put it on the officer who must weigh the seriousness of the crime and the likelihood that the pursuit will prevent the crime or lead to apprehension and against potential dangers to the community and officers.”


Proposition E would lift the requirement on use-of-force reports, requiring written reports only when a firearm is involved or the subject is injured. In other cases, written reports would be replaced by body-worn camera footage. 

Dorsey said it would only reduce written reporting of “lower-level uses of force,” and would save police officers time on paperwork when San Francisco is “facing an historic level of police understaffing.”

Cagle maintained that body cameras alone are insufficient, and that written documentation of use-of-force incidents is essential to know whether police officers follow procedures. “It’s incredibly difficult to get one clip of body camera footage,” he said, citing his own experience as an attorney. “You may never get it. You may have to sue to get it.”

Cagle also said that Proposition E could potentially add paperwork burden. The measure proposes to reduce the time patrol officers spend on record-keeping and reporting work to less than 20 percent of their time on the job. However, Cagle noted, the police department does not currently track that time, meaning a new regime of tracking system for administrative tasks could be added to officer’s work.

Dorsey did not respond directly to that challenge.

While acknowledging that Proposition E may require modifications in the future, Dorsey said, “when we are uniquely restrictive in policies that are helping organized criminal enterprises engage in criminal enterprises in my city …  it’s putting us at a disadvantage.”

Cagle encouraged Dorsey and others to make changes through the legislative process instead of an up-or-down vote by citizens. “Cynical politicians and powerful interests are spending hundreds of thousands of dollars, more than $1 million, on this campaign to make all of us think that this is the solution to our public safety crisis,” said Cagle. 

And ultimately, this “is to take away oversight, to take away transparency, to turn back the clock to an era when people could be stopped with surveillance technologies that nobody knew how they were working.”

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REPORTER. Yujie Zhou is our newest reporter and came on as an intern after graduating from Columbia University's Graduate School of Journalism. She is a full-time staff reporter as part of the Report for America program that helps put young journalists in newsrooms. Before falling in love with the Mission, Yujie covered New York City, studied politics through the “street clashes” in Hong Kong, and earned a wine-tasting certificate in two days. She’s proud to be a bilingual journalist. Follow her on Twitter @Yujie_ZZ.

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  1. Gobbledegook !!

    Abraham Lincoln got his Gettysburg Address message across in 272 words.

    The Declaration of Independence is 1,337 words if you count the Title and is clear as a bell.

    Java the Hud’s Prop E ?

    I’m past 5,000 words read and highlighted and outlined and followed links …

    An Ordinance this long must set a record.

    I’m smart as hell for a hillbilly, a Standard Deviant above most we say.

    Anything I can’t understand is meant to be confusing and I VOTE NO on EEE !

    I think the Key Evil is …


    Under (h) it reads …

    “DEM through a written agreement, may delegate its authority and responsibility under this Chapter 19 to DT or another non-law enforcement department.”

    Does that mean that with the faster car chases and more freedom to beat and shoot w/out paperwork that we’re gonna sell SFPD to ‘Bad Boys’ or whatever ?

    Wonderful Paris rainy weather for Manny’s Trash Pickup this morning.

    Skippy and I cleaned around the Slave Cages from the Kink videos at the Armory.

    They surround the Massive Armory which presently is the worst kept sidewalks in the entire Mission and billionaire owner, Ben Wepner can afford to remove thes slave cage abominations.


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  2. Dorsey was previously employed as a spokesperson for the police department. He should not be allowed an opinion on this issue.

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  3. The ACLU representative admitted there were serious public safety issues in the city.
    Genuinely – What is the ACLU in favor of that would improve safety ?

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  4. I’m curious about why you say that Chief Scott supports this measure. In other reporting, I have seen him quoted as saying that he thinks the current policy is in line with best practices and he doesn’t support the change. Could you either provide a citation for this, or make a correction if this was an error?

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