(aquí en español)

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.

Sincerely,
Culver City Action Network (CCAN)

(aquí en español)

June 19, 2020

Dear City Council of Culver City:

Thank you for listening this past Monday to the outpouring of demands from the community to #DefundPolice, and to the moving testimonials about why this is so necessary. We appreciate much of what individual Council members said in response from the virtual dais, and especially the statements of general support for the core principle underlying the call to defund. That principle is to shrink the resources devoted to armed law enforcement and reallocate funds to meeting community needs, including public safety, outside the control of the Police Department. Regrettably, your words were not matched with deeds at that meeting. Nonetheless, we are encouraged by your June 22 agenda’s inclusion of both some modest reallocations of PD budget to social services and also a proposed Task Force to reimagine the City’s approach to public safety. The City needs you to seize this moment and take bold action.

We write now with updated demands for concrete, formal actions at your June 22 meeting to live up to the principles you have publicly embraced. Our overarching demands remain the same: #DefundPolice and establish community control.

We urge you to charge and empower the Task force to robustly review and propose how to deeply restructure the City’s approach to public safety, reduce spending on the CCPD, and reallocate funds to meeting community needs. Creating a task force must not become a delaying tactic. Seattle’s recent initiation of a budget inquest process provides a useful model. Three principles should guide your charge to the Task Force:

  1. Urgency: The Task Force should be structured to rapidly bring back to the Council proposals that can be formally adopted (even if time is required for implementation) within three months (by the end of September).
  2. Ambition: As a benchmark to convey the depth of the changes to be developed, the Task Force should be charged with proposing changes that would reallocate at least 50% of the PD’s budget.

    This immediate target has been adopted by Seattle and urged by leading thinkers and activists such as Mariame Kaba. It seems especially feasible in Culver City given that CCPD’s budget has grown, in inflation-adjusted terms, by more than 35% since 2010, and Culver City has about 50% more sworn officers than comparably sized cities nationally and than nearby jurisdictions other than Beverly Hills. Culver City also receives an “F” for over-policing in the Campaign Zero police scorecard because of CCPD’s unusually high rate of misdemeanor arrests. Only 7% of arrests are for violent crimes, making clear the ample room to defund without affecting this aspect of policing, despite the scare tactics embraced by some in the community.
    An ambitious target is necessary to drive fundamental transformation, rather than tinkering around the edges.
  1. Breadth: The Task Force should have a broad mandate to consider all current CCPD functions and all CCPD spending, including salaries and other forms of compensation, on those functions that remain within the CCPD. Savings that do not need to be invested in alternative approaches to public safety should be allocated to other community needs, especially policies that advance racial equity and inclusion in Culver City, such as those already endorsed in the My Brother’s Keeper action plan.

We are dismayed that you seem unwilling to make substantial budget reallocations as we previously proposed in the initial 2020-21 City budget on June 22, although we are gratified by support for expanding the Special Service for Groups (SSG) social work project. Although lack of time has been cited as the reason, this might be better characterized as a lack of urgency on the Council’s part. The funding issues have been raised continuously, including in Council meetings and letters to you, and specifically with regard to the proposed budget, since the current uprising began in response to George Floyd’s murder by police on May 25. Thus, we remain concerned that the recent promises of fundamental change might come to nothing.

To dispel those doubts–well-founded, given the Council’s record on policing–we call on you to take formal action at the June 22 meeting to begin the #DefundPolice process in a manner that reflects the urgency, ambition, and breadth noted above. We specifically reject the possibility of deferring such questions until the next annual budget or until after the General Plan Update; we note that you have taken significant actions on housing and environment while the GPU addresses those topics in parallel. With regard to breadth, some additional specifics that the budget inquest ought to address include the following:

  • As San Francisco recently announced, identifying alternatives to using police officers as first responders to situations involving,
    • Unhoused people,
    • People with mental illness,
    • Noise and other “quality of life” concerns, and
    • Other non-violent matters;
  • Identifying which functions currently undertaken by non-sworn personnel but under PD control (such as parking enforcement, animal control, and crossing guards) could be directly transferred to other departments;
  • Identifying ways to reduce the number of sworn officers without layoffs, such as attrition, retirement incentives, and/or furloughs, including actions that would first require changes in law or renegotiation of collective bargaining agreements;
  • Identifying ways to reduce the extraordinarily high total compensation of many CCPD officers, including
    • The base salaries established by the Police Salary Initiative Ordinance and codified in the current collective bargaining agreement (MOU) with the Police Officers’ Association;
    • The substantial additions above base salary, not mandated by the Ordinance, such as special assignment pay, field training officer pay, rangemaster pay, POST certificate pay, and longevity pay, as provided for in the MOU;
    • CCPD policies and practices that trigger eligibility for these additions.

On a less urgent note, and with regard to our second overarching demand for community control, we also gratefully acknowledge the statements from a majority of Council members in support of two of our prior demands: creation of a robust, independent oversight body with jurisdiction over the PD and public safety more generally, and making the reimagination of public safety a core task for the General Plan Update (GPU).  We look forward to formal actions to begin implementing those commitments.

In addition, we reiterate our prior demand that the Council direct the PD to immediately begin implementing the standards established by the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act (RIPA). Up till now, the PD has seemed set on delaying compliance until the last minute legally permitted, though we welcome the openness to changing this that Acting Chief Cid expressed just yesterday. The pervasive experiences of racial profiling in both initial police stops and in aggressive, demeaning post-stop conduct have been central to the testimony you heard Monday (though not for the first time). These also are often precursors to more violent encounters resulting in injury or death, as scholars of race and policing have demonstrated. Gathering this data is an essential first step to addressing this urgent problem.

Thank you for showing an openness to the need for structural change in Culver City. This is a welcome antidote to the denial and self-congratulation that has for too long been the stock-in-trade among City leaders, and continues to be for some, as well as for some segments of the community who long have been most empowered by City government. However, in order to bring about real change and avoid breeding further cynicism, it is essential to immediately start making binding decisions that implement a new vision. We urge you to take this next step on Monday.

Sincerely,
Culver City Action Network (CCAN)

Desembolsar LA policia

Queridos Consejeros de Culver City:

Gracias por crear el espacio en su reunión especial del 15 de junio para dirigirse para emitir como #DefenderBlackLives en Culver City. Haciendo eco de llamadas de grupos liderados por morenos como los del Movimiento para Vidas Morenas, tenemos dos fundamental demandas: #DesembolsarPolicia y hacer valer control comunitario. El problema de fondos es el más urgente, reconociendo el corriente proceso de financiación, mientras el segundo puede dispararse ahora pero requiriendo más, y permitiendo, más tiempo. Estas son demandas para cambio estructural en la función y gobernanza del sistema policial en Culver City.

Tienen una crucial oportunidad en que se puede ponerle atención a las voces las cuales han ignorado los líderes de la Ciudad por muy largo tiempo. Estas son las voces de morenos y otras personas de color los quienes han sido testigos, una y otra vez, a las experiencias de perfilación racial y acoso policial, al temor de daño por mano de la policía, hasta el sentido de exclusión constante y la falta del respeto. Nuestra Ciudad ni siquiera a afrontado, ni se ha superado, al legado de racismo que viene sigiendonos desde años atrás cuando fue creada para solo-blancos, la cual tuvo apoyo de los oficiales para operar bajo pacto racial exclusivo y reforzada cuando el PD empleó a unos de los atacantes violentos de Rodney King hasta llegar al presente con sus grandes desigualdades racial para ponerlo en los hombros de los que las cargan ahora.

Rechazamos el patrón repetido de cuantas veces han respondido a tales puntos, no solo negándose a escuchar y reconocer pero incluso apoyando inquebrantablemente, incondicionalmente al CCPD exactamente como mismo esta, con auto felicitacional excepcionalismo que insiste que los problemas que impregnan el sistema policial actual de nuestro país no se aplican aquí, a pesar de tanta evidencia al contrario. Similarmente, mientras le aplaudemos la diversidad entre CCPD, la noción, repetida infinitamente, que tal diversidad inmuniza al PD contra cualquier problema basado en la parcialidad racial, y particularmente, problemas de anti-morenos, reflejan una confusión fundamental hecha en la estructura natural del racismo. Desafortunadamente, en el actual levantamiento, declaraciones del jefe de policía y varios mayores de la Cuidad siguen en la misma forma de patrones viejos. No dice suficiente que se reconoce el asesinato de George Floyd en Minneapolis y de una sola jirar a una celebración del status quo en Culver City. Al contrario, sigue siendo prueba de la nesesidad de profundo, decisivo cambio estructural. Mas específicamente, le pedimos al Consejo que

  1. #DesembolsePolicia: En este ciclo del financiamiento, los Consejeros deben de remover por la mínima cantidad un adicional cantidad de $7.65 millones de la corriente propuesta de $45 millones para CCPD y redirigir estos fondos para servir las necesidades de la comunidad fuera del control del PD.

Esta redijiracion sirviera dos propósitos: Primero, $5.65 millones fuera en dirección reversa del corriente aislamiento del PD en el esquema para cortar el financiamiento por el crisis pandémico en el Plan General; esto pusiera los cortes presupuestarios en línea con lo de todos los otros servicios de la Ciudad sin encajar a otros. Segundo, una cantidad adicional de $2 millones le recortará fondos del PD por 5%, reduciendo moderadamente su porción del presupuesto. Ciertamente, el PD todavía recibiera 31% del Fondo General, sobresaliente de cualquier otro departamento. Este total fondo de $37.3 millones del PD se mantendría $4 millones mayor del nivel, ajustado por inflación de diez años atrás. De otras palabras, nuestra propuesta de mínimo cambio, echaría para atrás un poco, pero no todo, el crecimiento en gastos por la policía sobre el decado pasado. Siguiera siendo necesario cortar cantidad máyor después del presente ciclo.

Estas reducciones deberían incluir tanto la reasignación de algunas operaciones no juradas existentes a otros departamentos como también los recortes en la dependencia de los funcionarios jurados para funciones mejor desempeñadas fuera de la rúbrica de la aplicación de la ley. San Francisco simplemente decidió alejar a su policía de la respuesta de primera línea a las llamadas sobre salud mental, personas no casadas, disciplina escolar y disputas entre vecinos. Culver City actualmente tiene una proporción de oficiales a población más de 5 0% mayor que el promedio nacional para ciudades de tamaño similar y también para ciudades vecinas, excepto Beverly Hills.

Los posibles destinos para nuevas inversiones con estos dólares incluyen el financiamiento total del plan de acción My Brother’s Keeper recientemente adoptado por la Ciudad (excepto aquellos componentes operados a través del PD), expandir el miserable presupuesto actual de $ 1 millón de la Ciudad para servicios sociales para personas mayores y otros a través de PRCS, y ayudar al CCUSD para cerrar su déficit presupuestario proyectado de $ 6 millones p ara 2020-21.

2) Establecer el control comunitario: reiteramos nuestras demandas anteriores de que la Ciudad se comprometa a reinventar su enfoque de la seguridad pública a través del proceso del Plan General y estableciendo una comisión sólida e independiente con jurisdicción sobre el CCPD y la seguridad pública en general. En ambos casos, es esencial alejarse de pensar en los problemas policiales principalmente como cuestiones de disciplina individualizada de “manzanas podridas”. En cambio, debemos pensar en enfoques de seguridad pública que no se basen en la aplicación de la ley y en cómo la policía en sí puede poner en peligro la seguridad pública. La buena información es esencial para una buena supervisión, por lo que también solicitamos al Consejo que ordene a la PD que implemente de inmediato los estándares de informes de la Ley de Perfiles Raciales y de Identidad de California, algo que hasta ahora se ha retrasado tanto como sea legalmente posible.

Le instamos a que responda con valentía a este momento de crisis promulgando cambios estructurales que rompan bruscamente con los viejos patrones que nos llevaron a este punto, tanto como país como ciudad.

We cannot rest in the drive to #DefendBlackLives in Culver City. The current uprising has changed what’s possible. Right now is a critical opportunity to transform Culver City’s approach to policing and public safety. The City Council meets tonight, Monday, June 15, 7pm, to respond to the crisis. Among other things, the police budget is on the agenda, with just one week to go before the budget is finalized.  Please show up and speak out to make change. 

CCAN has issued two core demands to the Council in advance of this Monday’s meeting:

  • Start to #DefundPoice by shrinking CCPD’s budget. We propose an additional 17%, $7.65 million reduction beyond the current proposed budget, with the funds to be reallocated to meeting community needs in ways outside the PD’s control.
  •  Establish community control by including policing squarely within the General Plan Update process, subjecting it to oversight by a robust, independent commission with jurisdiction over public safety, and requiring immediate PD implementation of the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act.

These demands are elaborated in our full letter, which is linked here and appended below. The letter is also available in Spanish here.

Public pressure is essential. Here are two things you can do right away:

  1. Speak out at tonight’s 7pm Council meeting. New voices are the most influential because they demonstrate that things are changing. You can also submit written comments to be read at the meeting. Details on the mechanics are at this link
  2. Urge your friends, family, and neighbors to speak out, too.

Let’s all seize this opportunity to make real change.

===

June 13, 2020

Dear City Council of Culver City:

Thank you for creating the space in your Monday, June 15 special meeting to address how to #DefendBlackLives in Culver City. Echoing calls from Black-led groups like the Movement for Black Lives, we have two fundamental demands: #DefundPolice and assert community control. The funding issue is most urgent, given the current budget process, while the second can be set in motion now but will require, and can allow, more time. These are demands for structural change in the function and governance of policing in Culver City.

You have a crucial opportunity to listen to voices that have long  been ignored by most City leaders. These are the voices of Black and other people of color who have testified, again and again, to experiences of racial profiling and police harassment, to fear of harm at the hands of police, to a continuing sense of exclusion and disrespect. Our City has never confronted, let alone overcome, the legacy of racism that stretches from a whites-only founding through official support for racially exclusive covenants to operation as a sundown town enforced by the PD to the hiring of one of Rodney King’s police attackers to today’s gross racial disparities in who bears the brunt of policing.

We reject the repeated pattern in which the response to such points is not just a refusal to listen and acknowledge but also a turn to unflinching, unqualified support for the CCPD exactly as it is, and to self-congratulatory exceptionalism that insists that none of the problems that pervade policing in our country apply here, despite the ample evidence to the contrary. Similarly, while we applaud diversity among CCPD personnel, the notion, repeatedly invoked, that such diversity immunizes the PD against any problems of racially biased policing, and in particular any issues of anti-Blackness, reflects a fundamental confusion about the nature of structural racism. Unfortunately, even in the midst of the current uprising, statements from the Police Chief and from several former Mayors have continued the old patterns. It is not enough to acknowledge the murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis and then pivot to a celebration of the status quo in Culver City. To the contrary, it is further proof of the deep need for immediate, decisive structural change.

More specifically, we call on the Council to1)  #DefundPolice: In this budget cycle, the City Council should remove at least an additional $7.65 million from the currently proposed $45 million CCPD budget and reallocate these funds to meeting community needs in ways outside PD control.

Such a reallocation would do two things: First, $5.65 million would reverse the proposed budget’s current insulation of the PD from the brunt of the planned 17.4% cut in General Fund appropriations brought on by the pandemic fiscal crisis; this would bring the PD cuts into parity with the overall budget. Second, an additional $2 million would reduce PD funding by a further 5%, modestly shrinking its overall budget share. Even so, the PD would still receive 31% of General Fund appropriations, far more than any department. This total PD budget of $37.3 million would remain $4 million above its $33 million inflation-adjusted level of ten years ago. In other words, our proposed minimum change would roll back some, but not all, of the growth in police spending over the last decade. Much more will be needed after this budget cycle.

These reductions should include both reallocation of some existing unsworn operations to other departments and also cutbacks in reliance on sworn officers for functions better performed outside the rubric of law enforcement. San Francisco just decided to shift its police away from front-line response to calls about mental health, unhoused people, school discipline and neighbor disputes. Culver City currently has an officer-to-population ratio more than 50% larger than the national average for similarly sized cities and also than neighboring cities, except Beverly Hills.

Possible destinations for new investment with these dollars include fully funding the City’s recently adopted My Brother’s Keeper action plan (except those components operated through the PD), expanding the City’s currently paltry $1 million budget for senior & other social services through PRCS, and assisting CCUSD in closing its projected $6 million 2020-21 budget deficit.

2)   Establish community control: We reiterate our prior demands that the City commit to reimagining its approach to public safety through the General Plan process and by establishing a robust, independent commission with jurisdiction over the CCPD and public safety more broadly. In both cases, it is essential to get away from thinking of policing problems primarily as matters of individualized discipline of “bad apples.” Instead, we must think about approaches to public safety that do not rely on law enforcement and about how policing itself can endanger public safety. Good information is essential to good oversight, and so we also call for the Council to direct the PD to immediately implement the reporting standards of the California Racial & Identity Profiling Act, something it thus far has been delaying as long as legally possible.

We urge you to respond boldly to this moment of crisis by enacting structural changes that break sharply from the old patterns that brought us to this point, both as a country and as a city.

Sincerely,

Culver City Action Network (CCAN

Thanks to the efforts of CCAN, the Culver City Police Department has adopted a robust immigration policy that adheres to our Sanctuary City status. The policy was negotiated by CCAN, CCPD, and the City of Culver City. You can read the policy below:

Culver City Police Department Immigration Policy