defunding the police

Defunding the Police: Here's a Look at Where Bay Area Mayors Stand

NBC Universal, Inc.

NBC Bay Area has reached out to Bay Area city mayors to get their stance on the "Defund the Police" movement. Below is a list we'll be updating as we get information and statements from the mayors.

Benicia

Mayor Elizabeth Patterson provided the following statement:

The following is what I have written to those who are asking about “8 can’t wait”.

I am saddened and disgusted by the killing of black women, transgender women and men by some police.  The level of racism has escalated, and it is time to change that.

I am in full support of the basic goals.  Our Benicia Police Department has these goals in their manual.  Below are two links for your review.   I am also fortunate to have the very best of police departments in Benicia going above and beyond the basic eight policies.   I have worked with the Police Chief who has uncommon leadership of ethics and humanity working with people in need.  

I agree with you that there is much that is wrong with many police departments in this country. 

We need to validate the good work that has been done by some and work to do more.  I support the the Justice in Policing Act introduced in the House of Representatives. I want to see a national standard for being a police officer.  I want to see a national certification program for each state detailing the level of education and training to be an effective, professional and ethical police officer.  And along with the national standard and training and qualifications, it is necessary to pay for professionalism. 

Some people have pointed out that there are tasks that the police do that could be done by others such as counselors, social workers, teachers and health workers.  This is not a zero-sum plan.  We need both and we need to be willing to pay for those services.  There needs to be a seismic shift in the federal budget and tax policies.  I hope this time is the time to call on us to be a community and pay for community needs as a country.  For too long we have asked our public safety professionals to do it all.

That leads me to the last point I want to make:  this is a time of calling out racism that this country has denied for too long.  This is the time to have a truth and reconciliation in race relations.  So many people do not have any sense of the history (maybe that is why history is not well funded) of racism and how our economic development was built on the economics of slavery.  This is the time to figure out the best approach for reparations so that African-Americans can grow wealth denied for so long.  To do these things will take effort, dedication and persistence.  Nothing will happen if we don’t make these structural changes:

                  1.   Establish national standards and certification for police officers.

                  2.   Establish Race Truth and Reconciliation to hear the stories of oppression, economic access denied and racism and bigotry.

                  3.   Establish and fund a reparations program to address education, home ownership, good paying jobs, health care and environmental justice. 

Fremont

The Fremont Police Department took to Twitter to announce a new document outlining new guidelines when responding to various situations.

"We are hearing the concerns from our community and are listening," the department tweeted.

In a document, the Fremont Police Department broke down new measures that include how to de-escalate situations, intervene and report when unreasonable force is being used by a fellow officer, warn before shooting, ban chokeholds and strangeholds, ban shooting at moving vehicles and more.

Click here to read the full document.

Napa

Mayor Jill Techel provided the following statement:

The Napa City Council recognizes the pain and anger our community is feeling following the killing of George Floyd, one of many African Americans who have been killed during their interactions with law enforcement.

In order to make real, positive, and lasting change, last night the City Council of Napa unanimously joined My Brother’s Keeper Alliance. This program will give us the framework to discuss and take specific action steps necessary to transform a system that has led to the loss of too many lives.

This process involves:

  1. Review of our police use of force policies
  2. Engaging our community by including a diverse range of input, experiences and stories
  3. Reporting our findings to our community and seeking feedback
  4. Reforming our community’s police use of force policies.

Our first meeting to review our police use of force policies has been scheduled for June 23rd. The Napa Police Department is an integral part of our community, and we welcome the opportunity to partner with mayors and councils from around the country to learn from each other and implement the best practices for our community.

To read more about My Brother’s Keeper Alliance, please visit https://www.obama.org/mbka/.

Oakland

Mayor Libby Schaaf tweeted the following statement:

San Francisco

Mayor London Breed and Supervisor Shamann Walton announced they will lead an effort to redirect funding from the police department to the African American community. Full details here.

San Jose

Statement provided by the City of San Jose below:

Mayor Sam Liccardo said the efforts to defund police budgets will undermine substantive efforts at police reform, hurting the very communities in need of help.

"We have much work to do to confront our long and terrible history of police brutality against black and brown Americans," Liccardo said. "Defunding urban police departments won’t help us do it.  It is the wrong idea at the worst possible time and the budget released tomorrow will reflect that."

"Defunding police will hurt the very people who have suffered the most from systemic racism in this nation," Liccardo said. "Rich, white communities and businesses in suburban malls will just accelerate the hiring of private security guards."

Liccardo has called for a ban on the use of rubber bullets in crowds, expanding the authority of San Jose's civilian independent police auditor, and a full review of San Jose's use of force policies, among other measures.  He has also called for greater accountability for officer misconduct so bad cops can be fired faster.

Derrick Sanderlin, a community organizer who has trained San Jose police officers on implicit bias, suffered potentially permanent injuries caused by a rubber bullet at a recent demonstration in the city. 

As the mayor of America's 10th largest city, Liccardo noted the San Jose Police Department's recent progress in eliminating the longstanding disparity between officers' use of force rates and arrest rates against persons of color but said that the police reforms started in San Jose in previous years need to go farther, including changes to union contracts and laws that create obstacles to ensuring officer accountability—particularly the firing of bad cops. The San Jose reforms that have led to this progress include:

  • Collecting data to track every patdown, stop, arrest or use of force by race, and publishing that data;
  • Hiring external experts to analyze data and make recommendations;
  • Investing millions of dollars in body-worn cameras and video data storage;
  • Imposing mandatory training for officers in violence de-escalation and implicit racial bias;
  • Utilizing data tools to detect misconduct-prone officers earlier; 
  • Enhancing psychological testing and screening in the City's police academies; and,
  • Intentional investment in recruiting officers to better reflect the community's diversity.

Liccardo noted that all of these initiatives require funding, especially to backfill the thousands of police hours that are spent in training classes instead of on patrol. “Defunding police undermines progress on these and other tools to improve accountability, training, and recruiting,” Liccardo said. 

Mayor Liccardo also noted that “defunding” proponents need to be realistic about what cuts will actually do to programs within many urban police departments. “Any Police Chief or City Council will be loath to cut the lifeline 911 emergency response that patrol officers provide to communities in moments of distress,” Liccardo observed. “Instead, they’ll wring savings from programs that work proactively to build stronger communities in troubled neighborhoods, such as crime prevention, Police Activities League, and community outreach.”  

The San Jose budget being released tomorrow will showcase Mayor Liccardo’s commitment to his approach. The Mayor reiterated that police reform cannot come at the expense of our obligation to protect every resident, regardless of color. "Safety from police violence is a civil right," Liccardo said. "Safety from all violence is a human right.”

Liccardo released a statement late Tuesday night. Read it in full below:

Why “Defunding” the Police Won’t Work — and Won’t Bring Reform

Some of those who rightfully call for reform amid America’s troubled history of police brutality have urged cities across the nation to “defund” the police in the wake of the horrific murder of George Floyd. I am grateful to the many protesters who have moved this important issue to the forefront of our national consciousness, and who righteously demand change. I also agree with those who interpret “defund” to mean that we should use this moment as a catalyst for discussion about how we could reduce police involvement in social problems for which they may be poorly equipped or trained. Two years ago, for example, we announced that SJPD would no longer engage in police enforcement on public school campuses where student behavior was better handled as an internal disciplinary issue. Similarly, for several years, Chief Garcia has sought to work with the County to find ways to enlist trained mental health providers to work collaboratively with SJPD to provide the first response to a resident experiencing a psychotic episode, rather than confronting the troubled person with a badge and a gun. There are plenty of other opportunities for us to work with the community to co-create a better response.

But if “defund” merely represents a means to slash police budgets as a means to express protest, I disagree strongly. The appropriate response to protest is to reform, not to defund. We will be exploring and implementing many reforms in the days ahead, such as to expand the authority of the Independent Police Auditor, to ban the use of rubber bullets in crowds, to mandate a “duty to intervene” on all officers, and to revise our use of force policies. We’ll need to consider many others, to be sure, and that will require more work — particularly regarding the power of unaccountable arbitrators to make it harder to discipline or fire bad cops.

Yet defunding the police will undermine our efforts to keep San Jose’s community safe — particularly for those members of our community who have suffered the most from systemic racism.

Other cities may have the luxury of considering defunding measures without undermining public safety, but San Jose has the most thinly-staffed police department of any major city in the United States. The City of Los Angeles, for example, has more than twice as many officers per resident as San Jose, and San Francisco has three times as many. Although I am proud of the work we have done to boost our police force by more than 300 officers since 2017, we have much more work to do. We’ve understaffed critical investigations units for more than a decade, and have heard repeated calls from the City Council to bolster everything from sexual assaults to domestic violence investigations. We have seen traffic-related deaths of pedestrians and cyclists climb while the staffing of our traffic enforcement unit remains near historical lows. We have only recently emerged from a half-decade in which officers routinely worked multiple mandatory overtimes every week due to patrol staffing shortages, and our police 911 response times lag well below our own — and other cities’ — standards.

Our residents have told us, again and again, they want more police — not fewer. Over the last decade, I have attended perhaps a half-dozen cafecitas with the predominantly Spanish-speaking “Madres” at Washington Elementary School, and I have never completed a conversation without several of them pleading for more police to counter whatever has transpired the prior week in their neighborhood, from gangs to gunfire. Americans of color statistically suffer from higher rates of victimization to serious and violent crime, ranging from homicide to aggravated assault.

I don’t believe that the more affluent neighborhoods in San Jose will suffer with defunding; we’ve seen the explosive growth of the private patrol industry in cities like Atlanta, for example. But our families of modest means will suffer. Westfield and Santana Row will hire security guards for the businesses in their malls, but immigrant-owned small businesses along East Santa Clara Street, Alum Rock and Story Road will struggle with the robbery and vandalism without recourse. No matter how justifiable any criticism of SJPD might be, I remain certain that our civil liberties will be far more vulnerable to violation in a city with roving private security patrols. Private security companies will not be accountable to the public when they disproportionately stop and question black and brown drivers in affluent neighborhoods, for example.

Moreover, defunding police will undermine substantive efforts at reform. A decade ago, I can recall then-Independent Police Auditor LaDoris Cordell imploring our City Council to boost spending on hiring police to address the harmful impacts of officers’ fatigued decisionmaking on the civil liberties of our residents. We have made numerous investments over the last half decade in transparency and accountability: collecting data on demographics of every person stopped by police; publishing use-of-force data on a public dashboard; deploying body worn cameras, hiring independent experts to identify trouble spots for racially biased policing; creating new courses on implicit bias, de-escalation of force, and encountering mental health crises; backfilling patrol so that every officer can attend those classes; and improving recruitment and screening. All of those investments require more money, not less. Based on an independent report issued weeks ago and recited in the Mercury News, this work has eliminated the longstanding statistical disparity between officers’ use of force rates and arrest rates against persons of color in San Jose. We have much more work to do — particularly in light of the many complaints arising from recent protests — but we don’t get it done by cutting these programs.

Finally, we should all be honest about what gets cut in police budgets — typically during recessions. Any City Council will be loathe to cut the lifeline 911 emergency response that patrol officers provide to communities in moments of distress, or to lay off investigators of sexual assaults, child abuse, or domestic violence. Instead, in this city and every other, departments wring savings from programs that work proactively to build stronger police-community relationships, such as crime prevention, outreach, and youth programs like Police Activities League and gang prevention.

We need a better approach. Yes, reform takes time, and feels less satisfying than a “quick fix.” But nothing worth achieving has ever been simple, and no meaningful reform has ever resulted from a “quick fix.”

Sonoma

Sonoma Mayor Logan Harvey provided the following statement:

I think that the "Defund the police" title does a disservice to the actual goals being discussed. The question at hand is reall, are there better ways to design society and allocate resources to address and prevent systemic problems before they evolve into crime and ensure that, when and emergency does occur, that the individuals responding to that emergency have the appropriate training.

Most "defund the police" movements agree that some emergencies require a respondent who is capable of disarming or engaging in a violent situation. For example, we probably dont want a social worker responding to an armed robbery. And we all recognize the inportance of traffic police. 

The real question at hand is, if we moved more resources into crime prevention and community building instead of crime response, what would happen? Its also a recognition that we ask the police to do a very broad variety of tasks, they respond to domestic violence calls where we ask them to be social workers and therapists, they respond to extreme mental health episodes where we ask them to be psych experts, they respond to crines of poverty like drug addiction and petty theft, to murders, to sucicide attempts, homelessness interdiction, school shootings, to community building events and everything else inbetween.

But what if we had specialized services to repsond to all of this. What if we limited the role of police and instead had people trained in couples counciling responding to domestic violence calls and therapists responding to mental health episodes and suicide attempts? What if we invested some of that money into eliminating poverty by building affordable housing, developing homeless to work programs, providing universal pre-k, and other programs? What if we asked the police to do less on the back end and instead focused on solving the root issues of where crime comes from? 

I think these questions are important and valuable to explore. I'm supportive of that conversation but we have to recognize that lofty goals and ideas take a long time to understand and implement. This is not a switch we can just flip. We cant just eliminate police forces and expect things to go smoothly. We have to educate and engage our communities. We have to look at how this really works and what it would cost. 

In Sonoma, we spend 5.1 million a year on police services. It is a significant portion of our budget, I agree, but I'm skeptical that we could save money by cutting the police force and creating the needed entities to appropriately address the vast array of problems that police currently address.

Beyond that,  we need federal assistance to adequately address the issues of poverty that plague our communities and lead to crime. In Sonoma, we've raised the minimum wage and developed an affordable housing trust fund, but we need more assistance. Many advocates of defunding the police see it working in conjunction with programs like a universal jobs guarantee, universal health care, housing guarantees and other programs. The theory being that, the less poverty we have, the less crime we will have. I agree, but these aren't simple issues that can be handled at the local level, we need federal support.

In short, I think the "defund the police" movement is poorly branded and easily co-oped as a fringe idea with little likelyhoodof support. The actual goals of the "defund the police" movement are better stated as asking the question on how do we better allocate resources to build a safer community, to narrow the scope of police work, to eliminate the underlying causes of crime, and provide desperately needed mental health care. How do we build a self sustaining supportive community where there is less need for the use of force by the government? That conversation, is very worthwhile.

Vallejo

The Vallejo City Council approved a collaborative agreement with the California Department of Justice that provides a framework to review and reform the Vallejo Police Department.

In a Facebook post, the City of Vallejo said it "is committed to making improvements to police practices and being accountable to Vallejoans."

A document explaining the partnership states that the DoJ will review recommendations by the OIR Group, a group that will conduct an independent assessment of the department's policies and practices.

You can read Vallejo's documents regarding the reform here and here.

Yountville

Mayor John F. Dunbar provided the following statement:

“We have an urgent call to rebuild trust between law enforcement and all members of our communities. I support prioritizing the review, evaluation and appropriate reforms of our law enforcement system. This should involve a thorough and thoughtful analysis of training, operations, oversight and disciplinary procedures to ensure social justice and civil rights for everyone. In particular, we need to take action to protect populations who have disproportionately suffered from racism and civil injustice for generations. 

Instead of defunding and dismantling law enforcement, we can and should prioritize our limited municipal resources on the broader challenges with equality, access to jobs, housing affordability, and the availability of public health and social services. That will lead to impactful and sustainable solutions to end systemic racism and inequality in our country.”

Contact Us