Some Progress, Much More Needed: 4/26 Public Safety Roundup

CCAN applauds the modest but real steps toward reimagining public safety that the City Council took at its April 26 meeting. It moved forward on each of the three pathways identified by the Solidarity Consulting report: developing robust mobile crisis response, embracing diversion rather than arrest for poverty-related misdemeanors, and narrowing the CCPD’s role in traffic enforcement.

Unfortunately, the Council did not provide clarity on how far these should go. In particular, it did not adopt CCAN’s recommendations to specify that these alternative approaches should be developed outside the PD’s budget and control, in other parts of City government, and that they should substitute for existing PD responses rather than merely supplement them. Nor did the Council commit to using such reallocations of response away from the PD to enable net reductions to CCPD stops and budget, as opposed to simply letting the PD intensify other forms of policing.

Council also refused to freeze the CCPD’s current hiring efforts that lock in staffing levels. This squanders an opportunity to shrink the PD through attrition and instead allows the PD to tie the Council’s hands during the annual budget process by exploiting the Council’s pledge not to authorize any layoffs. The Council did, however, take steps to maintain momentum, accountability, and oversight going forward by calling for regular staff updates on policy and budget, seeming to endorse a long-overdue analysis of projected CCPD attrition and related personnel policies, and voting to begin the process of defining and establishing a Public Safety Commission for community oversight.

In a number of areas, it is unclear precisely what Council intended because no formal resolution was prepared by staff, nor was specific motion text offered and voted upon. Given the track record of backsliding in this area, in conjunction with the entrenched resistance to change within the CCPOA (police union) and CCPD, only continued public pressure and scrutiny can ensure that even Council’s modest directives will be fulfilled by City staff. 

This graphic summarizes where Councilmembers stood during the April 26 meeting, though their positions were not always entirely clear. The City’s April 30 statement summarizing Council action is here. Below, we provide additional detail on how Council action compared to CCAN’s specific demands going into the meeting.

The statement of CCAN demands for the April 26 Council meeting was originally published, with further explanation, here. Additional background on #DefundCCPD is available here. Before the meeting, CCAN provided this draft resolution to the Council as an example of how our recommendations might be implemented if Council chose to adopt them.

1) Immediately freeze hiring of new CCPD officers, including from the pool of applicants CCPD solicited in January 2021 after Solidarity Consulting’s report and without Council authorization or public debate.

  • Outcome:  Council squarely rejected this based on Mayor Fisch’s explicit opposition, contrary to support from Vice Mayor Lee and Councilmember McMorrin. This was the most tangible, immediate action Council could have taken. Instead, Council agreed simply to follow its existing policy of setting FTE levels during the annual budget process; it may have left open the possibility of mid-year changes to FTE levels, though these typically require a super-majority vote.

2) Adopt as policy goals implementation of Solidarity Consulting’s three recommended pathways to advance racial equity and public safety:

a) Remove CCPD response and substitute non-police mobile crisis intervention services for calls about people experiencing crises of mental health, houselessness, drug use, or related health & welfare issues.

  • Outcome:  Council amplified its previous endorsement in January of developing mobile crisis intervention services teams (MCIS). It appeared to go beyond simply planning a limited pilot program to incorporate adequate funding for implementation, but it remains unclear how independent of the PD MCIS will be. There was also no explicit commitment to diverting existing PD response to MCIS, as opposed to simply adding MCIS capacity, though Councilmember McMorrin’s initial formulation included this point. Councilmembers Eriksson and Vera continue to advocate for prioritizing the PD’s existing “co-responder” model of Mental Evaluation Teams (MET) that include a CCPD officer. Encouragingly, the City’s statement after the meeting indicates that MET will be phased out.

b) Decriminalize and divert the low-level poverty-related misdemeanors that drive arrests and racial inequity.

  • Outcome: The Council committed to exploring expansion of diversion programs and restorative justice approaches. However, it did not explicitly prioritize pre-arrest diversion programs that avoid reliance on police, unlike the small current youth-oriented program operated by the PD. Nor did it address advancing decriminalization by, for instance, declining to make arrests for driving with a suspended license, as recommended by the County’s Alternatives to Incarceration work group.

c) Reallocate routine traffic enforcement and accident response away from armed police to alternative methods.

  • Outcome: The Council directed some further narrowing of the infractions for which the PD will stop motorists. However, it did not specify a broader goal of developing alternative, non-PD enforcement capacity, nor rolling back the PD’s use of traffic stops as pretexts to pursue vehicle searches or other bases for arrest.

3) Commit to using CCPD workload reductions from these pathways to enable corresponding reductions in CCPD budget and staffing through attrition, and then reallocating the savings toward promoting public safety and well-being outside the CCPD.

  • Outcome:  Although Vice Mayor Lee and Councilmember McMorrin endorsed this principle, it was not included in the final motion.

4) Direct City staff to analyze the potential pace and scale of CCPD staffing and budget reductions through attrition and appropriate incentives, without layoffs.

  • Outcome: Mayor Fisch, Vice Mayor Lee, and Councilmember McMorrin all endorsed this action during deliberation, but it was not explicitly included in the informal summary of the final motion, leaving its status unclear.

5) Create a robust, independent Public Safety Commission for ongoing public planning and oversight.

  • Outcome:  The Council committed to creating a Public Safety commission or other review body, with details about its composition, duties, and powers to be determined.

6) Direct City staff to develop plans and timelines for advancing these policies.

  • Outcome:  The Council directed quarterly staff briefings at Council meetings with updates on implementation plans and associated budget issues.

7) Direct City staff to incorporate these policy goals into their annual budgets and work plans for 2021-22 and beyond.

  • Outcome:  It was unclear whether the staff directive noted above included actions on the 2021-22 budget that will be presented shortly, or modifications to the previously presented work plans. Encouragingly, the City’s statement after the meeting indicates that it will.