June 16th, 2020

Letter to Richmond City Council & Mayor Butt


Dear City Council Members and Mayor:

We, the undersigned, urge you today to take bold action to reimagine public safety and shift city resources toward restorative justice systems, mental health services, and support to the Black community in Richmond. For the past few weeks, our council has debated how to balance the 2020-2021 budget. This has happened amidst the backdrop of national and local calls to defund the police. Today, we are urging the council to turn that vision into reality, by instituting the following:
Approve a motion to reduce the Richmond Police Department budget by 20%

Place an immediate moratorium on additional spending for the Richmond Police Department which includes capping spending for equipment, capital improvements, and overtime spending.

Create and fund an ad hoc committee composed of community leaders and key stakeholders to develop a plan to transition critical services and functions outside of the scope of the police department to a transformative justice, restorative and comprehensive community safety program. This committee should include Black youth and adults affected by over-policing, have its own budget of $50,000 for community engagement and technical assistance, have access to any city data it needs, and be tasked with returning to council with a plan in less than six months.

Like many other Black communities and communities of color, Richmond has been over-policed and under-protected. Our city over-uses police, having them respond to a wide range of situations that would be better served by another system. For instance, in the last year, Richmond police responded to 1,596 situations where someone made a 5150 call – a mental health crisis where someone could hurt themselves or someone else. This is an average of more than 4 of these calls per day. The police respond to calls about blight, noise complaints, drug overdoses, protests, loitering, a suspicious person, truancy, homelessness, public intoxication, attending public events and neighborhood council meetings, and others. We believe our community can come up with a better approach to responding to these situations, and it will make us safer.

There are models and promising examples that Richmond can learn from and adapt to our community. CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) provides mobile crisis intervention 24/7 in the Eugene-Springfield Metro area. Each team consists of a medic and a crisis worker, and the service responds to a wide range of situations, including homelessness, intoxication, disorientation, substance abuse and mental illness problems, and dispute resolution. CAHOOTS responds to 17% of 911 calls and demand for CAHOOTS services increased by over 58% from 2014–2017.

San Francisco has announced plans to redirect funding from police toward the African American community. Minneapolis has committed to disband its police and create a new system for safety. Richmond must also reimagine public safety and reinvest in the Black community and restorative systems.

We are in a moment where the meager resources we have for critical services like libraries and youth programs are being threatened. The City is considering repealing and reducing tenant protections and youth programs. Yet our city has the 40th largest police spending per resident out of 475 cities in California. This year alone, the Richmond police budget made up over 40% of the city’s general fund, totaling over 71 million dollars.

Our solution is simple. Take the funds out of the Police Budget and create alternative systems to respond to: mental health, overdoses, homelessness, blight, and more. When we talk about defunding the police we mean reinvesting directly in our communities health and well-being.

The City Budget is the embodiment of our public values. With your decision this month on the budget, you will show us what your values are.

Sincerely,


Organizations:
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Communities for a Better Environment, Richmond
East Bay Democratic Socialists of America
Lift Up Contra Costa
Othering and Belonging Institute
Rich City Rides Community Organization
Richmond Progressive Alliance
Richmond Revolution
Safe Return Project
Women in Politics
Save Richmond Public Libraries

Individuals:
Lateefah Simon (BART Board President*)
Claudia Jimenez
Jessica Peregrina Ramirez (Concilio Latino*)
Najari Smith
Eli Moore
Randy Joseph (Community Police Review Commission*)
Nicole Valentino
Jovanka Beckles (former City Council member*)
Cecilia Lucas
Mike Parker
Consuelo Lara (WCCUSD Board Member*)
Diane Wear
Pam Stello
Jeanne Kortz
Michelle Puckett
Bertha Pearl
Lourdes Lozano
Tania Pulido
Yenny Garcia (Community Police Review Commission*)
Jamilah Bradshaw
Laura Thomas (founder of Saverichmondpubliclibraries.com*)
Adam Edgell
Lilia Edgell
Riley Edgell
Sylvia Hopkins
Jeanne Kortz
Steve Early
Suzanne Gordon
Laura Mangels
Alyssa Kang
Valerie Jameson
Sophie Van Ronsele
Dorothy Gilbert
Alyssa Kang
Gayle McLaughlin (former Richmond Mayor*)
Bridget Scadeng
Tarnel Abbott
Yaqueline Valencia
Debbie Bayer
David Reinertson
Luci Riley
Ruben Vargas
Ruben Vargas Jr
Hermilla Vargas
Laura Lombera
Jonathan Vargas

* Organization named for identification purposes only


June 25, 2020

Letter to Richmond City Council & Mayor Butt

Dear City Council Members and Mayor:

The failure of the Council majority to take action on our requests in the attached letter at the June 16 and June 23 city council meetings demonstrates that you are out of touch with the recognition that is sweeping this country that policing-as-usual has not made our communities safer and makes many and perhaps most of our residents less safe.

We asked for bold action to start the process of reimagining public safety and shifting resources toward a restorative justice system, mental health services and support to the Black community in Richmond. We asked that the Council commit to this by reducing the projected police budget by 20% so that funds would be available for reimagining alternative approaches to public safety.

In defeating this, council members gave two explanations. Some opposed it (by abstaining) because we need more study. But “more study” has been the convenient excuse for decades of inaction. Passing this would have forced the police department to reevaluate its priorities in light of the smaller budget, and it would have made real the city’s plans to make fundamental changes. Nothing would actually change until specific plans were worked out, but defining the budget would have made our intentions actionable, rather than simply providing nice words.

Other Council members declined because the Richmond Police are different or better. It is true that there are many dedicated and just police personnel in Richmond, but we are operating under a system that continues to buttress institutional racism, and that still is still reflected in the RPD today. Furthermore, our call to re-imagine public safety is contextualized in the belief--which is supported by decades of scholarship and research--that the police as an institution have been made to increasingly take on the role of social worker, mental health worker, and other inappropriate roles best served by non-police community professionals. Despite persistently decreasing crime rates, our incarceration rates and our police budgets have only gone up, while our essential services have been systematically cut. This is a systemic problem, and whether or not Richmond’s police are more or less violent than other police departments does not take away from the fact that we, as a community, are demanding a different vision of public safety that invests in the services we so desperately need rather than delegating those functions to our police.

We asked for a task force committee of community leaders and key stakeholders including youth and people suffering from over-policing, mental health providers, homeless advocators and CPRC commissioners to make recommendations on the transformation of policing.

Instead the Mayor insulted the Richmond community by appointment of three Council members to a Council committee to make recommendations on police accountability, a job that the community police review commision is already working on. Mayor Butt chose to appoint the three city council members who have taken substantial contributions from the Richmond Police Officers Association . In 2018 The RPOA contributed the maximum allowed --$2500—each to Mayor Butt, Nat Bates, and Demnlus Johnson. And then the RPOA made independent expenditures of $10,000 each for the Bates and Johnson campaigns and $30,000 for the Mayor’s campaign.

As we closed our last letter;

Our solution is simple. Take the funds out of the Police Budget and create alternative systems to respond to: mental health, overdoses, homelessness, blight, and more. When we talk about defunding the police we mean reinvesting directly in our communities health and well-being.

The City Budget is the embodiment of our public values. With your decision this month on the budget, you will show us what your values are.

Organizations:
Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE)
Asian Pacific Environmental Network
Communities for a Better Environment, Richmond
East Bay Democratic Socialists of America
Lift Up Contra Costa
Othering and Belonging Institute
Rich City Rides Community Organization
Richmond Progressive Alliance
Richmond Revolution
Safe Return Project
Women in Politics
Save Richmond Public Libraries

Individuals:
Lateefah Simon (BART Board President*)

12 CAHOOTS Descriptio​ n​. Accessed June 14, 2020. Mayor London Breed Press Releas​e
Claudia Jimenez
Jessica Peregrina Ramirez (Concilio Latino*)
Najari Smith
Eli Moore
Randy Joseph (Community Police Review Commission*)
Nicole Valentino
Jovanka Beckles (former City Council member*)
Cecilia Lucas
Mike Parker
Consuelo Lara (WCCUSD Board Member*)
Diane Wear
Pam Stello
Jeanne Kortz
Michelle Puckett
Bertha Pearl
Lourdes Lozano
Tania Pulido
Yenny Garcia (Community Police Review Commission*)
Jamilah Bradshaw
Laura Thomas (founder of Saverichmondpubliclibraries.com*)
Adam Edgell
Lilia Edgell
Riley Edgell
Sylvia Hopkins
Jeanne Kortz
Steve Early
Suzanne Gordon
Laura Mangels
Alyssa Kang
Valerie Jameson
Sophie Van Ronsele
Dorothy Gilbert
Alyssa Kang
Gayle McLaughlin (former Richmond Mayor*)
Bridget Scadeng
Tarnel Abbott
Yaqueline Valencia
Debbie Bayer
David Reinertson
Luci Riley
Ruben Vargas
Ruben Vargas Jr
Hermilla Vargas
Laura Lombera
Jonathan Vargas

* Organization named for identification purposes only  

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