CCPD 2021-22 Budget: More of the Same

Culver City’s City Council is poised to adopt a 2021-22 budget that largely perpetuates status quo policing while using smoke & mirrors to deflect calls for structural change. The budget

  • Rejects opportunities to shrink the CCPD through attrition. Instead, it authorizes hiring of eight or more new officers.

At the May 17, 2021 budget meeting, CCPD Chief Cid explained that the budget will allow him to fill four of the current eight vacancies in sworn officer positions, as well as the 4-5 new vacancies from retirements anticipated by the end of 2021 alone. Although the City’s recent “police reform” propaganda claims that its current policies are necessary to avoid layoffs, this obviously is untrue. Maximizing personnel reductions without layoffs would mean not filling these current and anticipated vacancies. Instead, the City is choosing to mislead the public and keep hiring instead.

The City has consistently refused to conduct any analysis of whether reductions are feasible. Similarly, it has failed to address in a rigorous or transparent fashion the evidence that the CCPD currently wastes resources by dispatching an excessive number of officers per call and devoting too low a fraction of officers’ time to dispatch response.

  • Increases CCPD spending by $3 million, or 6%, to reach $48 million in 2021-22.

The CCPD consumes an ever-increasing proportion of Culver City’s General Fund expenditures. Although some of these increases are due to increasing pension obligations–themselves the product of a history of sweetheart police union contracts–, the City continues to reject opportunities to reduce CCPD spending on policing that perpetuates and deepens racial inequality while endangering residents and visitors with every unnecessary armed encounter. The City also has failed to take opportunities to move civilian operations, such as parking enforcement or animal control, out of the CCPD.

  • Touts the elimination of eight officer positions “on paper” despite the absence of any corresponding reduction in armed policing.

The City repeatedly highlights the elimination of eight officer positions to make it seem like Culver City is making serious change. But four of these positions existed only on paper: they had never even been budgeted for in the past, let alone filled. And the other four positions are merely being replaced with civilian staff to perform the same functions in public relations, analysis, and other non-patrol operations. These changes do not involve any reductions in armed encounters between police and civilians. Indeed, as noted above, the budget allows CCPD to continue hiring new officers to maintain current levels of patrols, stops, and arrests.

Unfortunately, this misleading budget is what we’ve come to expect from a City that refuses to seriously study structural change in policing but always finds time and money for self-serving PR. For instance, at the May 17 City Council meeting, the City Manager falsely claimed that the CCPD had implemented changes to traffic enforcement that mirrored those in Berkeley that had received positive national press attention. In fact, the CCPD changes–which have never been described in a formal policy document, only press releases–appear limited only to reducing arrests for minor equipment issues like broken tail lights. That’s a welcome but very narrow change. The Berkeley initiative, by contrast, addressed stops for a much wider range of violations that frequently are used as a pretext to stop drivers of color, and it explicitly limited the use of minor stops to conduct vehicle searches. Meanwhile, CCPD traffic stops have increased by 20% from pre-pandemic levels. This suggests that, as feared, the new policy is just leading police to check a different box as the basis for pretextual stops, not actually reducing the police-civilian interactions that impose daily indignities and risks of serious escalation.

Notwithstanding these serious criticisms, we do applaud the one major positive development: devoting $1.4 million to develop unarmed mobile crisis intervention services to address some calls about people experiencing houselessness, mental health or other health crises, and other situations that merit social services, not armed response. We hope that this will be a robust and successful program. A positive outcome will require vigilance and continued pressure, given the City Manager’s and CCPD’s proven track record, with the acquiescence or support of a majority of the City Council, of trying to undermine any changes that would reduce the power and resources of the police department. Nonetheless, the mobile crisis allocation is a major victory. Community pressure overcame CCPD Chief Cid’s opposition to unarmed response and preference for expanding the existing CCPD Mental Evaluation Team (MET) “co-responder” model, with the support of Councilmembers Eriksson and Vera.

For a more detailed analysis of the proposed 21-22 CCPD budget, see CCAN’s letter to the City Council in advance of the May 17, 2021 Council hearing on the draft proposal. The materials released in advance of the June 28 meeting indicate no changes to the proposal.