#Defund CCPD: What You Need To Know

“#DefundPolice means divesting from institutions that kill, harm, cage and control our communities, and investing in housing, health care, income support, employment, and community-based safety strategies that will produce genuine and sustainable safety for all.”defundpolice.org

Since the nationwide uprisings in the aftermath of police and vigilante killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, and Ahmaud Arbery, CCAN has called to #DefundCCPD and reimagine public safety. So far, Culver City government has done virtually nothing to advance or even commit to structural change. The City Council has an opportunity to change that when it takes up policing and public safety at its meeting scheduled for April 26. This page provides background information focused specifically on the Culver City situation. Broader materials about #DefundPolice are widely available, including at defundpolice.org.

What concrete steps can Culver City take to reduce harmful policing, advance racial equity, and protect public safety for all?
  • CCAN has called for the City Council to begin reducing the size of CCPD, reallocating several types of police response to other agencies, and building ongoing progress on reimagining public safety into the mission of City government. These proposals draw from Solidarity Consulting’s City-commissioned Recommendations to Advance Racial Equity and Social Justice. Our detailed explanation is here. Here is the summary:
  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. [more background here]
  2. Adopt as policy goals implementation of Solidarity Consulting’s three recommended pathways to advance racial equity and public safety: [more background here]
    • 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.
    • Decriminalize and divert the low-level poverty-related misdemeanors that drive arrests and racial inequity.
    • Reallocate routine traffic enforcement and accident response away from armed police to alternative methods.
  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.
  4. Direct City staff to analyze the potential pace and scale of CCPD staffing and budget reductions through attrition and appropriate incentives, without layoffs.
  5. Create a robust, independent Public Safety Commission for ongoing public planning and oversight.
  6. Direct City staff to develop plans and timelines for advancing these policies.
  7. Direct City staff to incorporate these policy goals into their annual budgets and work plans for 2021-22 and beyond.

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How can I learn more about the three proposed pathways of non-police mobile crisis intervention services, decriminalization & diversion of low-level poverty-related misdemeanors, and non-police traffic enforcement & accident response?
  • These three pathways are discussed in detail in Solidarity Consulting’s City-commissioned Recommendations to Advance Racial Equity and Social Justice.
  • Mobile crisis intervention services (MCIS) have been used successfully for decades, most prominently in Eugene, OR’s CAHOOTS program. CAHOOTS responds to “non-criminal crises, including homelessness, intoxication, disorientation, substance abuse and mental illness problems, and dispute resolution,” situations that otherwise would elicit police dispatch. CAHOOTS responders later call for police backup only 2% of the time, and in 30 years of operation, no CAHOOTS responder has ever been injured. 

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What does CCPD actually do, and what does it have to do with race and inequality?
  • CCPD arrests dramatically target younger people of color, especially Black people. Top arrest charges are  minor, poverty-related offenses connected to racial profiling, such as driving with a suspended license and shoplifting:
    • 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
    • Lee, E., Lytle Hernández, K., and Tso M. (2020). Policing Transitional-Aged Youth in Culver City: An Analysis of Arrests by the Culver City Police Department 2016-2018”. Los Angeles, CA. The Million Dollar Hoods Project.

  • Calls related to violent crime are only 2% of CCPD workload. The vast majority of CCPD calls relate to non-criminal public disturbances and welfare checks, and to issues involving traffic enforcement and accidents. 
  • Extensive public testimony at meetings on June 5, 8, 15, 19 & 22; July 13; and October 12 highlighted community experience with racial profiling and excessive police response. A City survey found that Black respondents were more than twice as likely as white respondents to feel unsafe in the presence of CCPD officers. Respondents under 30 years old were more than four times as likely to feel unsafe than respondents age 50 or older. Renters were more than twice as likely as homeowners to prefer CCPD to spend less time in their neighborhood.

  • Culver City rightly celebrates its diversity, especially in its schools, but its approach to policing continues the legacy of its racist past. The City was founded as a “model white city,” heavily utilized racially restrictive covenants on housing, cultivated a reputation as a “sundown town,” and through the recent past has often had leadership that rallied behind racist policies and policing.

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How large are CCPD’s budget, staff, and compensation?
  • CCPD consumes over one-third of Culver City’s general fund budget, $44.6 million in 2020-21. This is vastly more than any other City agency. Despite this, CCPD was the Department that was most insulated from budget cuts during the pandemic.

  • A City law guarantees that CCPD salaries rise in lock-step with those of LA City and County officers. Despite this, CCPD officers receive massive additional compensation through various add-ons, far more than the peers to whom their salaries supposedly are linked. The median CCPD officer is paid $145,633, vastly more than the median CCUSD teacher ($86,460).

  • CCPD sends more than twice as many officers to each call than the established policing norms, according to the City’s own pro-police management consultant.

  • CCPD officers are much less busy responding to calls than established policing norms. The City’s own pro-police management consultant notes that this level of activity “indicate[s] patrol resources may be underutilized, and may signal an opportunity for a reduction in patrol resources or reallocation of police personnel.”

  • Even during a budget crisis and supposed effort to reimagine public safety, CCPD continues to attempt to hire more police officers.

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How has the City Government responded to the outcry to reimagine public safety by reducing armed police encounters and reallocating resources to addressing community needs for security and well-being?

  • The City Manager’s office then failed to carry out this charge, without consequences from the City Council. The report in October 2020 was incomplete, completely ignored the 50% benchmark, made no recommendations that would reduce armed policing, provided no analysis of how reductions in sworn officer staffing might occur, through attrition or otherwise, and promoted half-baked assertions of adverse insurance consequences without any critical analysis.

  • In January 2021, the City Council met again to consider the review, but it failed to act on all but one of the recommendations from the consultant hired to address reimagining public safety to advance equity and social justice. Ostensibly this was just because of the lateness of the hour, but the Council then failed to put the open issues onto a subsequent meeting agenda. On March 1, it finally agreed to revisit the issues after being called out during Council meeting open comment. The issue was eventually put on a meeting agenda nearly two months later, for April 26, 2021.

  • Meanwhile, since summer 2020 the City Council has taken several actions that entrench the status quo or increase CCPD resources:
    • Hire new staff for the City jail, in part to free up police officers for more patrol (Lee opposed).
    • Lock in current CCPD management compensation for two years, preventing it from being revisited during the ongoing public safety review (Lee & Sahli-Wells opposed).
    • Obligate the City to give new bonuses to lateral hires and new bonuses to current officers who recommended those hires (Lee & McMorrin opposed).
    • Fail to either intervene or take responsibility after the CCPD initiated hiring processes for new entry-level and lateral sworn officers.

  • The CCPD has offered token changes designed to co-opt calls for change while maintaining or expanding its budget, staffing, power, and extent of policing. For instance, it has resisted calls for non-police mobile crisis response and instead asked for additional resources for police response to mental health crises in “co-responder” Mental Evaluation Teams (MET).  It has announced narrow reductions in a trivial slice of traffic stops in order to “refocus” on intensifying pedestrian and bike patrols. Despite a new announced policy of avoiding equipment-related traffic stops, traffic citations have actually increased 20% in January-February 2021 compared to the same period last year, before pandemic shutdowns. Because these stops are often pretextual in the first place, it is easy to switch to another stop basis. In contrast, after the Berkeley City Council last summer resolved to remove police from traffic enforcement, this February it barred a much broader range of stops that included nondangerous moving violations and expired tags and also restricted searches and parole/probation inquiries.

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What have been some of the barriers to change?

  • The CCPD has used the full force of its public relations office to promote a steady stream of self-serving “copaganda.” As protests against anti-Black police violence and calls for structural change swept the country and Culver City in June 2020, CCPD suddenly changed how it used its capacity to push out text alerts to residents seeking public safety information. In tandem with the fear tactics around violent crime from the police union and its allies, the supposedly independent PD began sending out notices about most violent incidents. It ramped down the practice somewhat after the fall local election. The CCPD is highly selective in which information it broadcasts, staying quiet, for instance, about the massive racial disparities in its traffic stops and arrests, that violent crime represents a small fraction of its workload or arrests, and certainly not advertising each of the 108 times the CCPD recorded police violence against civilians in 2020. Recently, the CCPD has been collaborating with local right-wing extremist group Protect Culver City (PCC) to hold phony “neighborhood meetings” that in fact are hosted (regardless of neighborhood) by the same PCC spokesperson and are designed to amplify PCC/police union messaging about violent crime.

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What do we know about public opinion on policing in Culver City?
  • There is a substantial gap between the pro-status quo opinions more frequently voiced by the older, whiter homeowners who dominate City government and those voiced by younger people, Black community members, and renters. A City survey found that Black respondents were more than twice as likely as white respondents to feel unsafe in the presence of CCPD officers. Respondents under 30 years old were more than four times as likely to feel unsafe than respondents age 50 or older. Renters were more than twice as likely as homeowners to prefer CCPD to spend less time in their neighborhood. Similar gaps also apply to opinions about which kinds of situations should involve a police response versus an alternative.

  • In the November 2020 election, Culver City voters overwhelmingly supported reimagining public safety through Measure J, rejected incumbent DA Jackie Lacey, and rejected police union-backed efforts to roll back criminal justice reforms. They overwhelmingly supported for City Council first-time candidate Yasmine-Imani McMorrin who ran on a platform of reallocating 50% of the CCPD budget to reimagined forms of public safety, notwithstanding intense and well-funded police union attacks. Incumbent, firmly anti-reform, police union-backed, and vastly better-funded then-Mayor Eriksson eked out by 28 votes a victory over first-time candidate Freddy Puza who ran on a similar platform to McMorrin.

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How can I get involved?

  • You can watch the April 26 Council meeting and comment either in advance or live by following the instructions here.

  • Sign up for CCAN’s mailing list via our website or facebook page, and follow us on facebook, for more updates and ideas.

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