Care First, Cops Last: #Defund CCPD by 50%

In order to value and defend Black lives, Culver City needs to reimagine its approach to public safety, just like communities all across the U.S., large and small. In the course of June’s unprecedented mass protests following the murder of George Floyd, CCAN and countless residents called on the City Council to #DefundCCPD by 50% and reinvest in keeping people safe and meeting community needs without armed police. The resulting Public Safety Review task force will issue its report shortly, and the Council will consider what action to take on Monday, October 12 at 7pm.

The annual CCPD budget is about $45 million. It alone receives well over one-third of the City’s General Fund expenditures, far more than any other department. As a result of the pandemic fiscal crisis, Culver City has slashed spending, but the CCPD has been relatively protected, actually increasing its share of the budget.

A recent analysis of CCPD arrest data shows that Black and Latinx people make up nearly three-quarters of people arrested but are less than one-third of the population. The high volume and racial disparities are driven by nonviolent misdemeanor arrests like petty theft and driving with a suspended license. 

This research shows how Culver City is still haunted by its racist history, founded explicitly as a “white city” by Harry Culver, with housing patterns set by racially restrictive covenants, and policed as a “sundown town.”  That history is particularly strong in the PD, which was especially notorious under former Chief Ted Cooke for its racial profiling and for hiring Timothy Wind after LAPD fired him for participating in the beating of Rodeny King. Shockingly, some of the Culver City old guard still defend that hiring decision, which was supported by the City Council at the time.

Throughout the country, the Black Lives Matter movement has been calling for communities to defend Black lives by defunding the police: divesting resources from policing and reinvesting them in community needs and reimagined approaches to public safety. Police stops that begin with minor offenses or suspicions, or calls to respond to mental health crises or other distress, can quickly lead to escalation and violent death. George Floyd was stopped for an allegedly counterfeit $20 bill; Sandra Bland was pulled over for allegedly failing to signal a lane change; Eric Garner was stopped for allegedly selling cigarettes on the street; Daniel Prude was in crisis, unclothed, and incoherent; and so on through the endless hashtags.

BLM Louisville’s first demand is to fire the officers who murdered Breonna Taylor, and its second is to “Divest from LMPD and invest in community building.” BLM-LA has been developing the divest/invest approach with its People’s Budget Project. BLM co-founder Patrisse Culllors recently highlighted the #DefundCCPD effort, saying that “Our movement is pushing for defund every single day”; “our movement is stopping violence.”

There is ample room to reallocate funds from the CCPD, despite the fear-mongering we’ve seen from the police union and the PD itself, parroting Trump’s “law and order” campaign line. The PD’s budget has grown by one-third in the past decade, even after adjusting for inflation. A recent report on CCPD salaries shows that merely reducing the extras they receive above and beyond base salary and overtime could save about $5 million per year. CCPD staffing levels are vastly higher than comparably sized cities. And reducing reliance on the PD as first-responders to a range of non-violent, non-criminal situations could free up resources for care-first approaches, as other cities are doing. Of course, implementing structural change will take time, but the City can commit to those changes and to a plan that will get us there.

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Resources:

Racial disparities and types of charges in CCPD arrests from the Million Dollar Hoods Project at UCLA’s Bunche Center for African American Studies:
Lee, E., Lytle Hernández, K., and Tso M. (2020). “Policing Culver City: An Analysis of Arrests by the Culver City Police Department 2016-2018”. Los Angeles, CA. The Million Dollar Hoods Project

The history and contemporary legacy of racism in Culver City:
John Kent, “The Hidden History of Culver City Racism,” StreetsblogLA, Apr. 5, 2019
John Kent, “Continuing to Reckon with Culver City’s Racist Past,” StreetsblogLA, June 11, 2020

The role of “other pay” in inflating CCPD salaries compared to other City employees and to LAPD & LASD:
UCLA School of Law Criminal Justice Program, “Culver City Police Department: A Budget Breakdown,” Sept. 22, 2020

The CAHOOTS mobile crisis response with medics and crisis intervention specialists, not police:
Presentation on how the model could be adapted to Culver City, Sept. 24 joint meeting of the Finance Advisory Committee and Chief’s Advisory Committee
Krithika Varagur, “In Place of Police: The Oregon Experiment,” New York Review of Books, Sept. 18, 2020

LA County has already produced an in-depth report on strategies to lead with care and reduce reliance on policing and incarceration in pursuit of racial justice:
LA County Alternatives to Incarceration Work Group, Care First, Jails Last: Health and Racial Justice Strategies for Safer Communities (2020)

Culver City Public Safety Review webpage

CCAN’s letters to the City Council laying out detailed demands and rationale for pursuing a 50% #DefundCCPD target:
CCAN, “#Defund CCPD: 50in % in 3 Months,” June 19, 2020
CCAN, “Council: Keep Your Word, #Defund 50%,” July 12, 2020

SInce June, the local police union (Culver City Police Officers Association) has been on a scorched earth campaign for impunity and power, holding a “thin blue line” rally with local right-wingers, appointing to an equity committee an officer found by a 2013 jury to have wrongfully killed Lejoy Grissom, a Black man, and then defending that decision with slander, lies, and Trumpian scare tactics:
CCAN, “Say No To Cop Who Killed Lejoy Grissom,” July 30, 2020
CCAN, “Save the Equity Committee from the Police Union,” Aug. 25, 2020

In June, the CCPD suddenly started flooding the community with push-texts and press releases about the small number of violent crimes in the community, something they never had done before but just happened to do right as pressure began for change.
CCAN, “Is the Culver City Police Department Manufacturing a Crime Crisis?” (video, Aug. 29, 2020)

In July, the CCPD proposed privatizing management of the City jail, reversing budget cuts touted only the month before and continuing a pattern of disregard for the health and well-being of the people Culver City incarcerates.
CCAN, “Statement on Jail Understaffing,” Aug. 23, 2020

General resources on defunding the police from the Black Lives Matter movement:
People’s Budget LA
Reclaim the Block (Minneapolis)
Invest/Divest Louisville
Movement for Black Lives

Developments in other cities:
Austin
Seattle