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.
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
Safe Return Project
Women in Politics
Save Richmond Public Libraries
Lateefah Simon (BART Board President*)
Jessica Peregrina Ramirez (Concilio Latino*)
Randy Joseph (Community Police Review Commission*)
Jovanka Beckles (former City Council member*)
Consuelo Lara (WCCUSD Board Member*)
Yenny Garcia (Community Police Review Commission*)
Laura Thomas (founder of Saverichmondpubliclibraries.com*)
Sophie Van Ronsele
Gayle McLaughlin (former Richmond Mayor*)
Ruben Vargas Jr
* Organization named for identification purposes only