We have all read their names and listened to their stories – the countless lives lost due to the systemic racism our country was built on. We search for answers, but the reality is that our institutions were fundamentally built to put people of color at a disadvantage. So many lives have been cut short because of a crack in the system that is supposed to protect us. We must do better.
Currently, police officers are responding to an innumerable amount of non-criminal calls regarding substance abuse, mental health crises, our unsheltered population, etc. By the way the system has been structured over the years, this practice inherently prioritizes the enforcement of laws over providing support for our neighbors. Instead of dispatching police for all calls, we should be dispatching social workers and trained professionals that can actually address the underlying issues and provide long-term solutions.
As Councilmember, I will propose the following changes to build a community focused approach to public safety:
- We must embrace community policing as a philosophy and not a strategy. We must allow our communities to reshape public safety and adopt a system that works for us and is driven by the needs of our community.
- We must refrain from punitive enforcement of the law. We need a policy that requires Resisting and Reducing citations and enforcement of minor infractions. Encourage the use of warnings for minor infractions.
- Implement specific guidelines and policies that are designed to de-escalate conflicts.
- We need an independent community-led commission on police practices that serves and represents the needs of our residents. This commission must have Investigative powers with full access to any recordings, video, documentation, reports or evidence relevant to the incident. There must also be a well-defined process and procedure for recommendations based on findings with the power to make referrals to the City or District Attorney and recommendations for discipline, action or termination of employment. Board must maintain full transparency.
- We need to reevaluate how our police academy does recruitment. We need to reevaluate all the requirements for applicants to ensure that the hiring process is equitable. There needs to be a concerted effort to increase recruitment of diverse and underrepresented groups and ensure that an applicant’s ability to work with a diverse community and cultural sensitivity is part of the selection criteria. We must also enact new requirements for law enforcement such as inherent bias workshops, cultural sensitivity and awareness, equity and diversity training and de-escalation tactics.