Date of Graduation

Spring 5-21-2021

Document Access

Project/Capstone - Global access

Degree Name

Master of Arts in Urban and Public Affairs


College of Arts and Sciences


Leo T. McCarthy Center for Public Service and the Common Good

First Advisor

Sarah Burgess

Second Advisor

Ed Harrington


In response to the murder of George Floyd in May 2020, the Black Lives Matter movement issued a statement calling on cities to Defund the Police. The event sparked a nationwide reckoning that has reshaped the narratives and strategies for remedying the racial bias and police brutality apparent in the criminal justice system. The shift in police reform efforts embraces notions guiding police budgeting decisions. Today's advocates are transforming their approach to police reform to include budgeting decisions by promoting a municipal practice known as police budget reform. This Capstone explores the feasibility of successful police budget reform under current administrative structures by asking, what influences municipal capacity to reform police budgets? Using San Francisco and its police department's budget as a case study, this thesis demonstrates how informal perceptions and binding agreements create barriers to reallocating police funds. Four significant factors—San Francisco's pro-labor sentiment, a city's perception of police budget reform, collective bargaining for public safety, and the role of the mayor—most influence a city's ability to alter the status quo of police budgeting practices and outcomes. The findings are presented here in hopes that police budget reform may be better understood by policing academics and Defund the Police advocates navigating the new landscape of police reform and avenues for success.