This past summer the Culver City Police Department (CCPD) turned its powerful public relations tools toward defeating calls to reimagine public safety. CCPD began deploying its push-text Nixle system and press releases to highlight relatively rare violent incidents. In the following months, the PD and its police union ally the Culver City Police Officers Association (CCPOA) successfully bullied the City Manager into refusing to implement the City Council’s directive, adopted at the behest of CCAN and others, to develop options for reallocating up to 50% of the CCPD budget toward alternative means of ensuring public safety.
Once that corruption of our city’s democracy had been achieved, the PD reverted to its prior pattern of infrequent press releases. This second change underscores the PD’s abuse of public safety alerts to scare the public for self-serving political purposes.
Before May 2020, CCPD rarely issued press releases about violent crime, focusing instead on alerting residents to active safety risks, traffic issues, and the like. The dramatic increase in summer 2020 reflected not a spike violence but a spike in publicity.
These scare tactics focused on violent crime aligned with the police union’s scorched-earth campaign. CCPOA hired a PR firm to produce MAGA-style campaign ads replete with false defenses of a past CCPD killing of an unarmed Black man, right-wing memes reducing Black Lives Matter protests to looting, and attacks on those who called for change in Culver City. CCPOA’s new Political Action Committee spent tens of thousands of dollars attacking City Council candidates who sought to reimagine public safety, supporting candidates tied to local white nationalists, and defending DA Jackie Lacey. Notably, CCPD’s PR officer was among the many officers who donated to the CCPOA’s political operation even after it had been widely condemned for its dishonest, divisive, and threatening conduct. When the campaign period ended, CCPD stopped its barrage of fear. Recently, CCPOA has remained silent while its right-wing allies looted the U.S. Capitol, assaulted our democracy, and killed a police officer, a striking contrast to how much it had to say about Portland and Seattle this summer.
The entire PD/CCPOA focus on violent crime is a bad faith attempt to block serious debate about the size of the police force, its budget, and the breadth of its responsibilities. The truth is that only a tiny fraction of CCPD operations relate to violent crime. The pro-police consultants hired by the City reported that only 2% of police dispatches responded to violent crime reports. In contrast, 43% related to traffic enforcement, parking, and traffic and other accidents, and 31% related to mental health, calls about “disturbances” or “suspicious incidents,” or police-initiated pedestrian stops. In short, it is absurd and dishonest to suggest that reallocating substantial public safety resources away from armed police would affect response to violent crime.
On Monday, January 25th at 7 pm, the City Council of Culver City will hold an online meeting that includes a review of reports and any necessary direction for the ongoing Public Safety ‘reimagining’ process.
January 25th Meeting Resources
For Agenda Item A-1 – UPDATE FROM THE CITY MANAGER’S OFFICE RELATED TO THE PUBLIC SAFETY REVIEW; (2) DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM PUBLIC SAFETY REVIEW CONSULTANTS; AND (3) DIRECTION TO THE CITY MANAGER AS DEEMED APPROPRIATE
- Solidarity Consulting Report
- City of Culver City Staff Report
- Center for Public Safety Management Report
- Use of Force Policy
We encourage you to read the Solidarity Consulting Report for details to advance racial equity and social justice in Public Safety for all Culver City residents and non-residents. Some major points in the report:
- Remove police from mental health and drug-related crisis intervention.
- Stop arrests for misdemeanors and divert people from the prison pipeline.
- Remove police from traffic enforcement.
- Create a civilian oversight committee.
- Commit to finding ways to reduce the police force through attrition and a hiring freeze.
Add your voice to the call for Justice. Please attend the meeting or email your City Council members at email@example.com before 4pm on January 25th.
We reject the City Manager’s report for the Public Safety Review task force. It is an insult to the people of Culver City, and to the City Council, and a profound blow to the credibility of City government. We reject it not because of the answers it provides but because of the questions it refuses to ask, the very questions that it was specifically charged with addressing. Tasked with presenting options including reallocating up to 50% of CCPD budget to alternative public safety approaches, the task force came up with 1.6% in accounting gimmicks with no practical significance. Shockingly, nearly four months after this began, we still have not been told the most basic information about how police spend their time, something that should have been the starting point of analysis months ago. Faced with the Task Force’s abject failure, we call on the City Council to simply reject the report rather than get sucked into a salvage effort or face-saving half-measures. At this point, it will have to be the next Council that grapples with these issues. In the meantime, the data the community needs for an informed discussion should be released.
We begin where this began, with the public torture and murder of George Floyd by a Minneapolis police officer in broad daylight, in public, and accompanied by several other officers who failed to intervene. All because of a supposed counterfeit $20. With the murder of Ahmaud Arbery by white homeowners who assumed he was a criminal because he was a jogging through their “oasis” of a white neighborhood. With the murder of Breonna Taylor by police in an operation that privileged a drug enforcement operation to gentrify a neighborhood for developers over the obvious risks to Black life of a heavily armed no-knock nighttime raid. With the murder of Eric Garner, stopped for selling cigarettes unlicensed. With Sandra Bland, dead as a result of a stop for allegedly failing to signal a lane change. With Philando Castille and a broken taillight.
And these are just a few of the deaths. The conventional practice of policing is a daily threat to the dignity, the freedom, and, yes, the lives of Black community members specifically and BIPOC people more generally. The Black Lives Matter movement’s call to defund police and reimagine public safety is a call to eliminate police-civilian encounters that unnecessarily risk harm, or even death, and to redesign community institutions to address the situations that today trigger armed response with prevention and care.
Heeding this call, four of five Councilmembers expressly embraced the project of reimagining public safety by shifting substantial public safety functions away from armed police. There was broad consensus in principle about structural change in response to houseless people in public, people in mental health crisis, neighbor disputes, welfare checks, traffic enforcement, and similar matters that typically do not involve an imminent threat of violence.
Of course, actual institutional change requires much more detail and planning, and so a Task Force was created to begin that process: a process of structural change. The exact budget implications could not be known without a clearer understanding of the mix of situations to which police respond, the amount of personnel and time spent on them, and the structure and cost of alternative responses. Similarly, institutional change is disruptive, and so analysis is necessary of the pace of change, including mechanisms that can respect the interests of incumbent workers without simply granting a permanent entitlement to perpetuate the status quo.
Accordingly, the task force was to start answering those questions. In order to ensure accountability and avoid the risks of bureaucratic inertia and backsliding, the Council imposed—at our urging—a tight timeline, a demand for actionable steps, and a benchmark that conveyed the scale of change necessary: options that went as far as reallocating 50% of CCPD resources, obviously not immediately, but over a planned process. The Council did not commit to adopting any particular changes, but it directed that it be provided with options, even reaffirming that direction with regard to the 50% option after the first signs of backsliding by the City Manager.
But in the end, the Task Force failed to carry to out its mandate. We understand that there has been tremendous pressure from the police union, including not only public intimidation of those advocating change but also threats of the “blue flu” if changes are made. Unsurprisingly, the PD itself would prefer to maintain its power and budget. We understand that many members of the community who wish that a different Council had been elected in 2018 object to the decisions made by the Council that was elected. But these are illegitimate reasons to not follow through. If, instead, Council members signalled in private that the Task Force needn’t do what they called for in public, then that would be an even more fundamental betrayal of our little democracy. Either way, it is a heavy blow to confidence in the integrity of City government.
The most basic data about what the police do has not been produced in this report, let alone early in the process where it could have guided the inquiry. There is no data on 911 dispatches and other calls for service, which in other jurisdictions have consistently been found to involve violent crime no more than 10% of the time. There is no data about the volume of traffic stops that don’t lead to arrest or citation.
Meanwhile, the CCPD suddenly undertook a PR campaign of push-text announcements of nearly every violent incident in Culver City, a radical departure from past reporting practice transparently aimed at scaring the community and warping its understanding of police activity. More recently, the police union CCPOA has followed suit, complementing its campaign of intimidation against its critics with fear-mongering electioneering and shocking personal attacks on local activists and political candidates. All this is premised on the false notion that cutbacks in policing overall necessarily imply reduced capacity to address violent crime. But the Task Force has deprived the public of the data and analysis that would make this clear, thereby by giving aid and comfort to the campaign against change.
Indeed, the only useful new information about CCPD has come from outside sources. This includes the UCLA Million Dollar Hoods analysis of arrest data demonstrating massive racial disparities in arrests, including after correcting for city of residence, and the concentration of these arrests and disparities in low-level offenses. In contrast, the City Manager’s report utterly fails to grapple with questions of institutional and systemic racism, constantly calls into doubt community members’ testimony to mistreatment by labelling it “perceived,” and astonishingly suggests that race equity issues are reducible to questions of individual disparate treatment by officers to be remedied with colorblindness.
Similarly, the only useful information about CCPD labor costs has come from UCLA Law School’s Criminal Justice Program. Its report showed that, notwithstanding a salary ordinance designed to maintain parity between CCPD salaries and LAPD and LASD, various collectively bargained add-ons massively inflate CCPD pay relative to that benchmark. There has been zero analysis from the task force of how to manage a potential transition to a smaller sworn police force. Such an analysis that would require studying attrition rates, expected retirement horizons, the potential influence of buyouts, the use of furloughs rather than layoffs, and so on. Nothing.
And, most obviously and defiantly, the City Manager simply refused to provide anything remotely like the 50% reduction scenario that he was twice directed to produce. Nor 40%. Nor 30%. Nor 20%. There was no explanation, no deferral to a subsequent but defined process, no articulation of the need for a lengthy timeline or slow transition. There was no presentation of a good-faith option with a recommendation that, on balance, it not be adopted. Instead, nothing. Just bald-faced refusal. This is utterly shameful and represents a fundamental breakdown in accountability.
With an election already underway, it is too late to repair the damage to this Council’s ability to act. Accordingly, it should simply acknowledge the Task Force’s failure and pass the issue to the next Council, whose composition obviously will shape the direction to be taken. In the meantime, however, this Council should demand the immediate release of the maximum amount of information and analysis about policing practices gathered by CPSM. This includes not only CPSM’s own analysis but the underlying data so that it can be independently re-analyzed. This is particularly important because, astonishingly, CPSM has made clear in its public presentations that it does not view its job as analyzing pathways to reimagine public safety, but rather as analyzing the efficiency with which CCPD engages in conventional policing.
Although we hesitate to dignify this report with any engagement on its specifics, we append below observations about the inadequacy of its particular recommendations. The pattern throughout is the avoidance of anything that would actually reduce reliance on armed police response – the very premise of the enterprise.
Proposed Budget Changes
- The only new budget reductions the report proposes amount to 2.7% of CCPD budget. These would be achieved by transferring non-sworn parking, animal services, and crossing guard personnel to other departments. In addition to being tiny, these changes have zero effect on the nature and extent of policing.
- Even these miniscule budget reductions are then substantially offset by the proposal to spend an additional $500,000 to staff up the City jail. The result is a net reduction of just 1.6% of budget. As discussed previously, the necessary changes to reverse the PD’s years of neglect of detainee safety should come out of existing operations. Instead, these changes are designed to free up officers for additional patrol, the very opposite of what this process is supposed to achieve.
- The report attempts to double-count the reductions to the PD budget that were proposed this spring in response to the City-wide pandemic fiscal crisis. Those 6% reductions to CCPD budget were substantially lower than other departments, causing the PD’s share of budget to increase. They had already been agreed to at the time the Task Force was formed.
Pilot: Adult pre-booking diversion program
As presented, this pilot program is designed to have no effect on policing. As a “pre-booking” program, it anticipates the same number of front-line police encounters and simply gives another option for what to do with people they have taken into custody. It also is explicitly tied to the availability of outside funding, yet another indication that diversion of resources from policing is not on the table. As the task force’s equity consultant Saul Sarabia notes in his report, best practices in diversion involve avoiding police response–and the attendant opportunities for harassment or violence–in the first place.
Pilot: Fire Department mental health team
As presented, this pilot program again appears designed to have no effect on policing. Unlike the CAHOOTS model that has been extensively discussed, it does not divert from armed police response to 911 or other calls for service. The pilot is explicitly framed as a “supplement” to existing policing. It is also puzzling why this would be located in the Fire Department, rather than building capacity for mental health and social services in PRCS. Again, the invocation of outside grant funding indicates an intent to avoid diverting resources away from armed policing.
Pilot: Restorative Practices Program
This program is again specifically proposed to extend a diversion program controlled by the CCPD itself. Best practices in youth diversion remove law enforcement from the process as much as possible.
Pilot: Minimize Traffic Citations
This proposal focuses exclusively on “fix-it ticket” citation practices after police stops. In other words, police patrol and responsibility for traffic enforcement are, again, unchanged. If this practice had been in place in St. Anthony, MN, Philando Castile still would have been shot and killed during the traffic stop for a broken taillight. The report produces zero data about existing citation practices, about what proportion of them would be affected, and about the practical feasibility of drivers curing the violations, especially for violations rooted in poverty like an inability to pay fines & fees from prior police stops.
This extraordinary section attempts to cut off discussion of reimagining public safety with ungrounded speculation about potential insurance and liability implications. It fails to acknowledge that status quo policing already exposes the City to substantial liability, as represented by the approximately $8 million in fifteen different settlements of lawsuits over police abuse that it has paid out over the past decade or so.
There is zero analysis, or supporting documentation, of the idea the City could face liability for changes in 911 dispatch procedures. For instance, you wouldn’t know from the staff report that California courts have specifically rejected holding cities liable based on a “dispatcher’s failure or delay in responding to a 911 call” (Eastburn v. Reg’l Fire Prot. Auth., 31 Cal. 4th 1175, 1178, (2003)) and have also refused to “impose liability based on the negligence by police personnel in responding to requests for assistance” (M.B. v. City of San Diego, 233 Cal. App. 3d 699, 705 (Ct. App. 1991)). Nor would you know that California Government Code 845 specifically protects localities from liability for reasons like those raised. “[Section 845] grants a general immunity for failure to provide police protection or for failure to provide enough police protection. Whether police protection should be provided at all, and the extent to which it should be provided, are political decisions which are committed to the policy-making officials of government. To permit review of these decisions by judges and juries would remove the ultimate decision-making authority from those politically responsible for making the decision.” (Lopez v. Southern Cal. Rapid Transit Dist. (1985) 40 Cal.3d 780, 792). No doubt there may be more to the story, but the staff report does not provide it.
The speculation about “appropriate police staffing to respond to 911 calls” also is ungrounded in any analysis of the staffing implications of various changes. For instance, if a significant number of 911 calls are diverted to other responders, it would seem to follow that CCPD staffing could be reduced without any reduction in the per-call personnel available or in response time. These are the kinds of questions that the Task Force should have analyzed itself. Instead, having failed to do so, it simply passes on unchallenged speculation that appears to assume across-the-board cuts in police staffing without accompanying restructuring of public safety response. This is the libel offered by those who refuse to consider reimagining public safety, not the constructive, evidence-based investigation that the Council directed but was not carried out.
The report also claims broadly that “the insurance industry is not comfortable with non-sworn personnel responding to 911 calls.” Again, unproven, ungrounded, but very convenient. Has anyone attempted to get them comfortable? Has Eugene, OR been unable to buy insurance because of its extensive diversion of 911 calls to non-sworn personnel? How has Denver approached this problem with its own recent embrace of non-sworn response? The report is looking for excuses to do nothing, not trying to tackle and solve problems.
CCAN recently spoke out against the travesty of appointing Lt. Luis Martinez as the first labor representative to Culver City’s newly formed Equity & Human Relations Advisory Committee (EHRAC). As the LA Times reported at the time, Martinez was found in federal court to have wrongfully killed Lejoy Grissom, a Black man, by using excessive force during his official duties as a CCPD officer. Out of all the City’s dedicated employees, how can Martinez possibly be an appropriate, let alone the best, choice to represent the City’s workforce on a committee devoted to “promot[ing] positive human relations and equitable outcomes and opportunities in all aspects of community life”? The EHRAC is specifically charged with receiving complaints about interactions with City employees. What does it do to the credibility of the EHRAC, and to someone’s willingness to come forward, when one of its members has been found to have committed the most serious possible violation, leading to an $8.8 million jury verdict for the fatal violation of someone’s civil rights?
In response to our statement, the Culver City Police Officers Association (CCPOA) released a scorching, Trump-style campaign video, complete with ominous warnings about “looters,” Portland, and Seattle. Shockingly, the video said not one word about the Equity & Human Relations Advisory Committee, its value, or why the police union’s apparent nomination of Martinez made sense. The video also did not mention the unanimous jury ruling against Martinez and the CCPD. Instead, the CCPOA launched a full-throated defense of his actions and a bizarre, ill-founded attack on CCAN and two residents who have done prominent work advancing equity in the community.
Because the CCPOA’s video is, at best, highly misleading, we want to provide additional resources and new information so that the community can understand what is at stake. The available trial transcripts are linked here; other documents are linked below.
Most of the CCPOA’s claims about Martinez’s killing of Grissom simply repeat arguments that the jury heard and rejected. The testimony established that Grissom was shot and killed shortly after emerging from his car with his hands raised around his head, facing Martinez. Unlike Martinez, the several other officers with their guns trained on Grissom saw no basis to shoot. Martinez claimed that he fired because he saw a shiny metallic object in Grissom’s cupped hand that might have been a gun, but the jury rejected that defense; all other officers and civilians testified that they saw nothing in Grissom’s open hands. The officers made conflicting statements about whether Grissom moved his hands, and a civilian witness testified that even if they moved somewhat, they remained at chest height or higher the entire time. Again, the jury unanimously resolved those questions against Martinez and the CCPD.
The CCPOA video also asserts that Grissom was “armed, and a small caliber handgun was recovered at the scene.” This is simply false. Witnesses at trial testified consistently that after he was fatally shot, Grissom was searched by a police officer. No weapon was found on him or elsewhere at the scene. Even the District Attorney’s (DA) report on which the CCPOA relies does not dispute this. Indeed, the lawyers for CCPD and Martinez specifically acknowledged during litigation “[t]he fact that Decedent Lejoy Grissom did not have a weapon on his immediate person at the time of the shooting.” Indeed, they attempted to keep this fact from the jury, though the judge denied that request.
According to both the DA’s report and pre-trial documents, after Grissom was transported to the hospital, where he was declared dead, an officer produced a gun he claimed to have retrieved from Grissom’s shoe at the hospital. Although not noted in either the DA report nor the CCPOA video, this gun was not loaded, as the defendants’ lawyers also acknowledged. Again, the defendants sought, this time successfully, to keep from the jury that an unloaded gun was recovered at the hospital. Yet now the CCPOA video tries to defend Martinez and attack CCAN with an asserted “fact” contradicted by all the trial testimony and disclaimed even by the CCPD’s and Martinez’ own defense lawyers.
At the hospital, the officer’s production of this unloaded gun occurred after emergency trauma technicians had removed Grissom’s shoes and tossed them into a corner with his other clothing. The technician who tossed the shoes testified pre-trial that she did not see a gun, feel the weight of one, nor hear anything fall out when the shoes landed. The technician characterized the subsequent production of a gun as “fishy,” “really weird,” and “odd,” leading her to conclude that the gun likely was planted after the officer sought access to the clothing. After expressing surprise to the officer and sharing her concerns with her supervisor, she also reported receiving “evil glares” from the officer. This testimony was so dangerous to the defense that the CCPD and Martinez successfully asked the court to bar from the trial this and all other evidence about recovery of the unloaded gun at the hospital, to prevent the jury from considering a possible coverup.
Developing this evidence of a potential cover-up was one of several differences between the civil lawsuit brought by Grissom’s surviving family members and the initial investigations conducted by law enforcement agencies. Within months of the killing, the LA County’s Sheriff’s Department (LASD) and DA concluded that no discipline or prosecution were warranted. The DA’s report, based entirely on the LASD’s fact-gathering, essentially repeats the CCPD’s and Martinez’s version of events, the one later rejected by the jury. The CCPOA video relies entirely on the DA’s report while ignoring that the trial even occurred. However, the failure of law enforcement agencies to deliver accountability for police killings is itself one of the systemic failures against which the Black Lives Matter movement has risen up in protest. Eric Garner’s killer was not prosecuted. Michael Brown’s killer was not prosecuted. Breonna Taylor’s killers have not been arrested. And so many more.
In Los Angeles, the DA’s failure to deliver accountability for police killings has motivated a campaign to replace Jackie Lacey, the hand-picked successor to the DA who cleared Martinez. BLM-LA has led weekly protests at her office. Dignity & Power Now says Lacey “has carried on the same racist, deadly legacy that preceded her.” The cozy relationship between DAs, local police, and local police unions has prompted efforts in California to ban police union political contributions in DA races and to create investigative processes independent of local law enforcement. The problems are even more extreme with the LASD’s investigation. The Sheriff at the time, Lee Baca, is currently serving a federal prison term for obstructing justice and lying to the FBI in its investigations of excessive force at County jails. In this case, Grissom’s family persevered, leading to further investigation as part of the civil lawsuit. When the case finally received a comprehensive hearing before an impartial decision-maker, that eight-member jury unanimously found that Martinez was in the wrong. The Martinez case illustrates how Culver City is no stranger to the dynamics that have sparked uprisings against police violence, and impunity for it, nationwide.
The current controversy, however, was not prompted by the killing itself, nor by Martinez’s retention and promotion by the CCPD. Rather, it was triggered by his nomination and appointment to the EHRAC, seemingly at police union behest. In multiple ways, Culver City is currently attempting to restructure City government to better embrace equity and value Black lives. The newly-created EHRAC is part of that process, as is the current Public Safety Review Task Force, which the CCPOA has also vehemently opposed. Right now, police and their unions across the country are embracing Trump, alt-right groups, and the violent suppression of dissent using local and federal force. With its “thin blue line” rally in alliance with the local right-wing group Protect Culver City and its alt-right leader, this video, and more, the CCPOA is demonstrating that it is cut from the same cloth as police unions nationally, that it is devoted to obstructing solutions with propaganda, threats, and demands for impunity.
We reiterate our call for the City’s other labor unions to help clean up this mess by rescinding their support for Martinez’s appointment as the labor representative on the EHRAC, and for Martinez to resign from that position. If necessary as a last resort, the City Council should remove him from the EHRAC.
July 12, 2020
Dear City Council of Culver City:
We write briefly in anticipation of your meeting this Monday, July 13. Agenda item A-2 addresses the framework for the public safety review task force that you approved at the June 22 meeting. We were surprised, disappointed, and concerned that the A-2 staff report does not direct the task force to include a reallocation of at least 50% of the CCPD budget as an option in their review. Divesting from policing to this degree would enable the City to invest in other means of addressing public safety–without the risks of racial profiling, public harassment, and potential injury or death that armed policing continues to pose to Black and other people of color in Culver City, as elsewhere in our country–and in better meeting community needs in areas such as housing, mental health, youth services, workforce development, and more.
As you no doubt recall, and is clearly reflected in the publicly available recording of the June 22 meeting, the Council’s direction to staff with regard to the task force explicitly incorporated the 50% benchmark. Councilmembers Lee and Sahli-Wells endorsed the 50% defunding goal early in the task force discussion. During the closing discussion of direction to staff, the Mayor explicitly raised the question of where the Council stood on 50%, noting that two members had taken a position already. In the ensuing discussion, Councilmember Small expressly embraced 50% as an appropriate goal for the task force, and Vice Mayor Fisch stated his general agreement with Councilmember Small, though audio difficulties made his full remarks difficult to capture. Mayor Eriksson then noted that his previous characterization of direction to staff should be updated accordingly.
As we observed in our previous letter in advance of the June 22 meeting, having an explicit benchmark of a 50% defunding is crucial to the credibility of the task force process as a good faith effort to advance structural change in a thoughtful, well-planned way. Without it, there is ample reason to suspect that this process will just confirm the adage that task forces are where change goes to die. That suspicion is heightened by the Council’s June 22 decision to make negligible changes to the 2020-21 budget despite strong public calls, by the City manager’s caution about major changes expressed during the June 22 meeting, and by the staff report for July 13 omitting the 50% benchmark despite it having been so explicitly and extensively discussed on June 22.
We urge you to keep your word, maintain public confidence in the process, and expressly reaffirm and direct the task force, as formally and as explicitly as necessary, to produce a report in keeping with your original direction. Such a report would allow the Council to, by late September, adopt and implement a plan for restructuring public safety at the scale of at least 50% of the current CCPD budget. We hope this will be part of a broader, ongoing process that establishes meaningful community control of public safety through independent, comprehensive oversight and also reckons explicitly with the legacy of Culver City’s history of racial exclusion, including specifically but not exclusively through policing.
We look forward to your continued leadership, vision, and resolve in making good on the promise of real change presented by this moment in our City’s history.
Culver City Action Network (CCAN)
June 19, 2020
Dear City Council of Culver City:
Thank you for listening this past Monday to the outpouring of demands from the community to #DefundPolice, and to the moving testimonials about why this is so necessary. We appreciate much of what individual Council members said in response from the virtual dais, and especially the statements of general support for the core principle underlying the call to defund. That principle is to shrink the resources devoted to armed law enforcement and reallocate funds to meeting community needs, including public safety, outside the control of the Police Department. Regrettably, your words were not matched with deeds at that meeting. Nonetheless, we are encouraged by your June 22 agenda’s inclusion of both some modest reallocations of PD budget to social services and also a proposed Task Force to reimagine the City’s approach to public safety. The City needs you to seize this moment and take bold action.
We write now with updated demands for concrete, formal actions at your June 22 meeting to live up to the principles you have publicly embraced. Our overarching demands remain the same: #DefundPolice and establish community control.
We urge you to charge and empower the Task force to robustly review and propose how to deeply restructure the City’s approach to public safety, reduce spending on the CCPD, and reallocate funds to meeting community needs. Creating a task force must not become a delaying tactic. Seattle’s recent initiation of a budget inquest process provides a useful model. Three principles should guide your charge to the Task Force:
- Urgency: The Task Force should be structured to rapidly bring back to the Council proposals that can be formally adopted (even if time is required for implementation) within three months (by the end of September).
- Ambition: As a benchmark to convey the depth of the changes to be developed, the Task Force should be charged with proposing changes that would reallocate at least 50% of the PD’s budget.
This immediate target has been adopted by Seattle and urged by leading thinkers and activists such as Mariame Kaba. It seems especially feasible in Culver City given that CCPD’s budget has grown, in inflation-adjusted terms, by more than 35% since 2010, and Culver City has about 50% more sworn officers than comparably sized cities nationally and than nearby jurisdictions other than Beverly Hills. Culver City also receives an “F” for over-policing in the Campaign Zero police scorecard because of CCPD’s unusually high rate of misdemeanor arrests. Only 7% of arrests are for violent crimes, making clear the ample room to defund without affecting this aspect of policing, despite the scare tactics embraced by some in the community.
An ambitious target is necessary to drive fundamental transformation, rather than tinkering around the edges.
- Breadth: The Task Force should have a broad mandate to consider all current CCPD functions and all CCPD spending, including salaries and other forms of compensation, on those functions that remain within the CCPD. Savings that do not need to be invested in alternative approaches to public safety should be allocated to other community needs, especially policies that advance racial equity and inclusion in Culver City, such as those already endorsed in the My Brother’s Keeper action plan.
We are dismayed that you seem unwilling to make substantial budget reallocations as we previously proposed in the initial 2020-21 City budget on June 22, although we are gratified by support for expanding the Special Service for Groups (SSG) social work project. Although lack of time has been cited as the reason, this might be better characterized as a lack of urgency on the Council’s part. The funding issues have been raised continuously, including in Council meetings and letters to you, and specifically with regard to the proposed budget, since the current uprising began in response to George Floyd’s murder by police on May 25. Thus, we remain concerned that the recent promises of fundamental change might come to nothing.
To dispel those doubts–well-founded, given the Council’s record on policing–we call on you to take formal action at the June 22 meeting to begin the #DefundPolice process in a manner that reflects the urgency, ambition, and breadth noted above. We specifically reject the possibility of deferring such questions until the next annual budget or until after the General Plan Update; we note that you have taken significant actions on housing and environment while the GPU addresses those topics in parallel. With regard to breadth, some additional specifics that the budget inquest ought to address include the following:
- As San Francisco recently announced, identifying alternatives to using police officers as first responders to situations involving,
- Unhoused people,
- People with mental illness,
- Noise and other “quality of life” concerns, and
- Other non-violent matters;
- Identifying which functions currently undertaken by non-sworn personnel but under PD control (such as parking enforcement, animal control, and crossing guards) could be directly transferred to other departments;
- Identifying ways to reduce the number of sworn officers without layoffs, such as attrition, retirement incentives, and/or furloughs, including actions that would first require changes in law or renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements;
- Identifying ways to reduce the extraordinarily high total compensation of many CCPD officers, including
- The base salaries established by the Police Salary Initiative Ordinance and codified in the current collective bargaining agreement (MOU) with the Police Officers’ Association;
- The substantial additions above base salary, not mandated by the Ordinance, such as special assignment pay, field training officer pay, rangemaster pay, POST certificate pay, and longevity pay, as provided for in the MOU;
- CCPD policies and practices that trigger eligibility for these additions.
On a less urgent note, and with regard to our second overarching demand for community control, we also gratefully acknowledge the statements from a majority of Council members in support of two of our prior demands: creation of a robust, independent oversight body with jurisdiction over the PD and public safety more generally, and making the reimagination of public safety a core task for the General Plan Update (GPU). We look forward to formal actions to begin implementing those commitments.
In addition, we reiterate our prior demand that the Council direct the PD to immediately begin implementing the standards established by the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act (RIPA). Up till now, the PD has seemed set on delaying compliance until the last minute legally permitted, though we welcome the openness to changing this that Acting Chief Cid expressed just yesterday. The pervasive experiences of racial profiling in both initial police stops and in aggressive, demeaning post-stop conduct have been central to the testimony you heard Monday (though not for the first time). These also are often precursors to more violent encounters resulting in injury or death, as scholars of race and policing have demonstrated. Gathering this data is an essential first step to addressing this urgent problem.
Thank you for showing an openness to the need for structural change in Culver City. This is a welcome antidote to the denial and self-congratulation that has for too long been the stock-in-trade among City leaders, and continues to be for some, as well as for some segments of the community who long have been most empowered by City government. However, in order to bring about real change and avoid breeding further cynicism, it is essential to immediately start making binding decisions that implement a new vision. We urge you to take this next step on Monday.
Culver City Action Network (CCAN)
We cannot rest in the drive to #DefendBlackLives in Culver City. The current uprising has changed what’s possible. Right now is a critical opportunity to transform Culver City’s approach to policing and public safety. The City Council meets tonight, Monday, June 15, 7pm, to respond to the crisis. Among other things, the police budget is on the agenda, with just one week to go before the budget is finalized. Please show up and speak out to make change.
CCAN has issued two core demands to the Council in advance of this Monday’s meeting:
- Start to #DefundPoice by shrinking CCPD’s budget. We propose an additional 17%, $7.65 million reduction beyond the current proposed budget, with the funds to be reallocated to meeting community needs in ways outside the PD’s control.
- Establish community control by including policing squarely within the General Plan Update process, subjecting it to oversight by a robust, independent commission with jurisdiction over public safety, and requiring immediate PD implementation of the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act.
Public pressure is essential. Here are two things you can do right away:
- Speak out at tonight’s 7pm Council meeting. New voices are the most influential because they demonstrate that things are changing. You can also submit written comments to be read at the meeting. Details on the mechanics are at this link.
- Urge your friends, family, and neighbors to speak out, too.
Let’s all seize this opportunity to make real change.
June 13, 2020
Dear City Council of Culver City:
Thank you for creating the space in your Monday, June 15 special meeting to address how to #DefendBlackLives in Culver City. Echoing calls from Black-led groups like the Movement for Black Lives, we have two fundamental demands: #DefundPolice and assert community control. The funding issue is most urgent, given the current budget process, while the second can be set in motion now but will require, and can allow, more time. These are demands for structural change in the function and governance of policing in Culver City.
You have a crucial opportunity to listen to voices that have long been ignored by most City leaders. These are the voices of Black and other people of color who have testified, again and again, to experiences of racial profiling and police harassment, to fear of harm at the hands of police, to a continuing sense of exclusion and disrespect. Our City has never confronted, let alone overcome, the legacy of racism that stretches from a whites-only founding through official support for racially exclusive covenants to operation as a sundown town enforced by the PD to the hiring of one of Rodney King’s police attackers to today’s gross racial disparities in who bears the brunt of policing.
We reject the repeated pattern in which the response to such points is not just a refusal to listen and acknowledge but also a turn to unflinching, unqualified support for the CCPD exactly as it is, and to self-congratulatory exceptionalism that insists that none of the problems that pervade policing in our country apply here, despite the ample evidence to the contrary. Similarly, while we applaud diversity among CCPD personnel, the notion, repeatedly invoked, that such diversity immunizes the PD against any problems of racially biased policing, and in particular any issues of anti-Blackness, reflects a fundamental confusion about the nature of structural racism. Unfortunately, even in the midst of the current uprising, statements from the Police Chief and from several former Mayors have continued the old patterns. It is not enough to acknowledge the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and then pivot to a celebration of the status quo in Culver City. To the contrary, it is further proof of the deep need for immediate, decisive structural change.
More specifically, we call on the Council to1) #DefundPolice: In this budget cycle, the City Council should remove at least an additional $7.65 million from the currently proposed $45 million CCPD budget and reallocate these funds to meeting community needs in ways outside PD control.
Such a reallocation would do two things: First, $5.65 million would reverse the proposed budget’s current insulation of the PD from the brunt of the planned 17.4% cut in General Fund appropriations brought on by the pandemic fiscal crisis; this would bring the PD cuts into parity with the overall budget. Second, an additional $2 million would reduce PD funding by a further 5%, modestly shrinking its overall budget share. Even so, the PD would still receive 31% of General Fund appropriations, far more than any department. This total PD budget of $37.3 million would remain $4 million above its $33 million inflation-adjusted level of ten years ago. In other words, our proposed minimum change would roll back some, but not all, of the growth in police spending over the last decade. Much more will be needed after this budget cycle.
These reductions should include both reallocation of some existing unsworn operations to other departments and also cutbacks in reliance on sworn officers for functions better performed outside the rubric of law enforcement. San Francisco just decided to shift its police away from front-line response to calls about mental health, unhoused people, school discipline and neighbor disputes. Culver City currently has an officer-to-population ratio more than 50% larger than the national average for similarly sized cities and also than neighboring cities, except Beverly Hills.
Possible destinations for new investment with these dollars include fully funding the City’s recently adopted My Brother’s Keeper action plan (except those components operated through the PD), expanding the City’s currently paltry $1 million budget for senior & other social services through PRCS, and assisting CCUSD in closing its projected $6 million 2020-21 budget deficit.
2) Establish community control: We reiterate our prior demands that the City commit to reimagining its approach to public safety through the General Plan process and by establishing a robust, independent commission with jurisdiction over the CCPD and public safety more broadly. In both cases, it is essential to get away from thinking of policing problems primarily as matters of individualized discipline of “bad apples.” Instead, we must think about approaches to public safety that do not rely on law enforcement and about how policing itself can endanger public safety. Good information is essential to good oversight, and so we also call for the Council to direct the PD to immediately implement the reporting standards of the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act, something it thus far has been delaying as long as legally possible.
We urge you to respond boldly to this moment of crisis by enacting structural changes that break sharply from the old patterns that brought us to this point, both as a country and as a city.
Culver City Action Network (CCAN
January 25th City of Culver City Council Meeting
For Agenda Item A-1 – UPDATE FROM THE CITY MANAGER’S OFFICE RELATED TO THE PUBLIC SAFETY REVIEW; (2) DISCUSSION OF FINDINGS AND RECOMMENDATIONS FROM PUBLIC SAFETY REVIEW CONSULTANTS; AND (3) DIRECTION TO THE CITY MANAGER AS DEEMED APPROPRIATE
- Support Solidarity Consulting Report, including its three pathways to reimagine public safety, assurances of accountability, and labor force and costs analysis.
- Build capacity outside of Culver City Police Department (CCPD), no new money, authority, or officers for the PD.
- Commit to forming a Public Safety committee to oversee implementation of recommendations.
- Oppose expansion of Mental Evaluation Team (MET) police co-response embedded within CCPD, move towards a CAHOOTS non-police crisis response model in collaboration with adjacent areas. Mobile crisis dispatch should be through Fire Department, not PD.
- CAHOOTS in Eugene, Oregon: https://whitebirdclinic.org/cahoots/
- Develop relationship with LA County Alternatives To Incarceration (ATI) and become a pilot program using Measure J funds.
- Require all affected departments: Police, Fire, Parks & Recreation, Public Works to include these recommendations in their 2021-22 work plans, to be presented in March.