Council: Keep Your Word, #Defund 50%
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)