After two decades, San Francisco is a city divided

Police Officer Elizabeth Espinoza makes a wallet note in San Francisco’s Mission District. “I’ve been nervous about being tased in the face so many times,” she said. “I’ve even had people grab me and pull me around.”

In San Francisco, as in the rest of the world, a half century of economic growth has created a deepening social divide that is often neglected in the debate about police violence. The line between activists on the left and conservative mayor Ed Lee is particularly deep, typified by the local division over the role of a 2015 audit that the mayor used to demote the department’s enforcement of drug law. The police department, meanwhile, is battling a powerful faction on the right for control of the city’s purse strings, and an increasingly ineffective police department — constrained by recent budget cuts, high overtime spending and a hiring freeze — has complicated policing duties that were once de rigueur in the progressive city. “You’re doing so much infusing the Police Department and the bureaucracy, and not everything is going our way as far as a clear strategy,” said Mayor Lee. “And I think part of the police budget and enforcement agenda requires that we have a broader plan.”

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