Reimagine Public Safety

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June 16th, 2020

Letter to Richmond City Council & Mayor Butt


Dear City Council Members and Mayor:

We, the undersigned, urge you today to take bold action to reimagine public safety and shift city resources toward restorative justice systems, mental health services, and support to the Black community in Richmond. For the past few weeks, our council has debated how to balance the 2020-2021 budget. This has happened amidst the backdrop of national and local calls to defund the police. Today, we are urging the council to turn that vision into reality, by instituting the following:
Approve a motion to reduce the Richmond Police Department budget by 20%

Place an immediate moratorium on additional spending for the Richmond Police Department which includes capping spending for equipment, capital improvements, and overtime spending.

Create and fund an ad hoc committee composed of community leaders and key stakeholders to develop a plan to transition critical services and functions outside of the scope of the police department to a transformative justice, restorative and comprehensive community safety program. This committee should include Black youth and adults affected by over-policing, have its own budget of $50,000 for community engagement and technical assistance, have access to any city data it needs, and be tasked with returning to council with a plan in less than six months.

Like many other Black communities and communities of color, Richmond has been over-policed and under-protected. Our city over-uses police, having them respond to a wide range of situations that would be better served by another system. For instance, in the last year, Richmond police responded to 1,596 situations where someone made a 5150 call – a mental health crisis where someone could hurt themselves or someone else. This is an average of more than 4 of these calls per day. The police respond to calls about blight, noise complaints, drug overdoses, protests, loitering, a suspicious person, truancy, homelessness, public intoxication, attending public events and neighborhood council meetings, and others. We believe our community can come up with a better approach to responding to these situations, and it will make us safer.

There are models and promising examples that Richmond can learn from and adapt to our community. CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) provides mobile crisis intervention 24/7 in the Eugene-Springfield Metro area. Each team consists of a medic and a crisis worker, and the service responds to a wide range of situations, including homelessness, intoxication, disorientation, substance abuse and mental illness problems, and dispute resolution. CAHOOTS responds to 17% of 911 calls and demand for CAHOOTS services increased by over 58% from 2014–2017.

San Francisco has announced plans to redirect funding from police toward the African American community. Minneapolis has committed to disband its police and create a new system for safety. Richmond must also reimagine public safety and reinvest in the Black community and restorative systems.

We are in a moment where the meager resources we have for critical services like libraries and youth programs are being threatened. The City is considering repealing and reducing tenant protections and youth programs. Yet our city has the 40th largest police spending per resident out of 475 cities in California. This year alone, the Richmond police budget made up over 40% of the city’s general fund, totaling over 71 million dollars.

Our solution is simple. Take the funds out of the Police Budget and create alternative systems to respond to: mental health, overdoses, homelessness, blight, and more. When we talk about defunding the police we mean reinvesting directly in our communities health and well-being.

The City Budget is the embodiment of our public values. With your decision this month on the budget, you will show us what your values are.

Sincerely,


Organizations:
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Communities for a Better Environment, Richmond
East Bay Democratic Socialists of America
Lift Up Contra Costa
Othering and Belonging Institute
Rich City Rides Community Organization
Richmond Progressive Alliance
Richmond Revolution
Safe Return Project
Women in Politics
Save Richmond Public Libraries

Individuals:
Lateefah Simon (BART Board President*)
Claudia Jimenez
Jessica Peregrina Ramirez (Concilio Latino*)
Najari Smith
Eli Moore
Randy Joseph (Community Police Review Commission*)
Nicole Valentino
Jovanka Beckles (former City Council member*)
Cecilia Lucas
Mike Parker
Consuelo Lara (WCCUSD Board Member*)
Diane Wear
Pam Stello
Jeanne Kortz
Michelle Puckett
Bertha Pearl
Lourdes Lozano
Tania Pulido
Yenny Garcia (Community Police Review Commission*)
Jamilah Bradshaw
Laura Thomas (founder of Saverichmondpubliclibraries.com*)
Adam Edgell
Lilia Edgell
Riley Edgell
Sylvia Hopkins
Jeanne Kortz
Steve Early
Suzanne Gordon
Laura Mangels
Alyssa Kang
Valerie Jameson
Sophie Van Ronsele
Dorothy Gilbert
Alyssa Kang
Gayle McLaughlin (former Richmond Mayor*)
Bridget Scadeng
Tarnel Abbott
Yaqueline Valencia
Debbie Bayer
David Reinertson
Luci Riley
Ruben Vargas
Ruben Vargas Jr
Hermilla Vargas
Laura Lombera
Jonathan Vargas

* Organization named for identification purposes only

George Floyd and Policies that Insist Black Lives Matter

By Claudia Jimenez 

The death of George Floyd is deeply painful to me. I cannot stop feeling angry. Another beautiful Black life was taken by the police in America. We all should be angry, we all should be feeling that our society needs to change. It is not ok to have to bury our brothers and sisters because they are being killed just for the color of their skin. It is unacceptable that white police officers kill unarmed Black people in front of a camera without fear of reprisal.  

While we are protesting against police brutality and a broken system that has given too much power to police officers, we should also be outraged by policies that also harm Black people.

In Richmond, the mayor is proposing to repeal rent control and just cause for eviction using this pandemic and budget crisis as an excuse. In a city where 60% of Black residents are renters, this is a direct attack on Black communities. Two city council members and the mayor also voted against strengthening the city’s eviction moratorium, another move that will be felt the most by Black residents.

A sign says \

Photo by Eric Ruud

The mayor is also proposing to take away funds that will go to support kids and youth in the city, a move which will disproportionately affect Black children and youth. He wants to close libraries in order to balance a $30 million dollar budget deficit when libraries are a necessary community resource in Richmond. This divestment in services will hit our Black and brown families in Richmond the hardest. 

It may be a step for progress that a wide variety of people are writing emails and posting social media messages that proclaim Black Lives Matter. Some of these people, especially in political leadership, have historically backed agendas that harmed Black lives. What remains to be seen now is if words are backed up by actions which demonstrate that the lives of Black residents in Richmond do matter. 

We should be angry and protest what is happening. We should be on the streets, we should be outraged, and we should turn that fire inside of us to take the collective next steps that create a strong platform. One demand is that our city remove our tax dollars from criminal systems that are killing precious Black lives and pour those resources into restorative systems.

As Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez just said "So if you're out here asking for an end to unrest, you better be asking for healthcare as a human right, you better be calling for accountability in our policing, you better be supporting community review boards, you better be supporting the end of housing discrimination, you better be standing up to for-profit real estate developers that are intimidating people and trying to evict them from their homes—that's what you better be calling for.” "If you are calling for an end to this unrest... but you are not calling for the end to the conditions that created the unrest, you are a hypocrite."


Housing for All

Author: Claudia Jimenez

I am a Richmond resident. It is hard to believe that while many cities and even the state of California are championing Rent Control, tonight the mayor of Richmond is proposing a ballot measure to repeal rent control. In this time when many cities are passing moratoriums to allow families to be safe and keep their homes, the mayor Tom Butt is considering removing protections for more than 3,000 Richmond families and individuals. The pandemic has shown how devastating it can be when our incomes are not enough to cover rent or mortgage payments. Rent control is a fair policy to make sure rents don’t rise so fast that people lose their homes. It hasn’t been a perfect policy. Like any policy, it has needed adjustments in the first few years. But it has worked. Rents are not rising as much as they were four years ago. People who are evicted for no reason have the right to stand up for themselves. This means tenants get a little bit more freedom to choose when they move, choose when they pull their kids out of their school, choose when they leave the neighborhood where their long-time neighbors, relatives, or church may be.

We have real issues in this city that deserve our attention now, not a political battle over a policy that we already voted on. We need to be thinking about how we keep our small businesses open during the pandemic and afterwards. We need to think about supporting working parents with kids at home all summer. We need to support homeowners who haven’t been able to work and have to pay their mortgages. We need to make sure no-one is going hungry in our city. These are real issues that are urgent and demand a response from our local government. We don’t need to waste time with a political fight about protecting renters from unfair rent increases and evictions.