#DEFUND CCPD: 50% in 3 months

(aquí en español)

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:

  1. 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).
  2. 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.
  1. 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)

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