The biggest mistake I made, in a moment of excessive collegiality, was to agree to let each City Council member choose three members of the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force. The Richmond Charter vests the mayor with the sole power to make appointments to boards and commissions, subject to Coty Council approval. I should have paid more attention to who my colleagues were appointing.
I had hoped my colleagues would select people who represent all Richmond residents for an objective and balanced task force, but instead we got an organization dominated by anti-police radicals, including two who don’t even live in Richmond. Apparently, City Council members could not find task force members radical enough in Richmond, so they looked elsewhere. Task Force members Andres Soto and Tamisha Walker live in Benicia and Antioch, respectively, and both continue to nurse grudges against police that stem from incidents decades ago.
Soto had an unfortunate run-in with Richmond police way back in the last millennium when Isiah Turner was city manager and Joseph Samuels was police chief. that incident still defines his world view of law enforcement. Since then, the RPD world changed dramatically with Chief Chris Magnus, community policing and a precipitous drop in homicides, but Soto has never forgotten his alleged mistreatment by police, all of whom are now long gone.
Tamisha Walker lives in Antioch where she serves on the City Council, and works in Pittsburg. In her campaign pitch, Walker stated that she “… lives in District 1 and wants to make Antioch a home for her family for generations to come.” (https://www.tamishaforantioch.com/). Walker continues to nurse a grudge that dates back over a decade when, by her own account, she was arrested 22 times and jailed for committing arson. More recently, she had another run-in with Antioch police, shown in a “tearful, profanity-laced video shortly after police stopped her 23-year-old and 13-year-old sons on Dec. 29 for riding off-road vehicles on city streets. She accused the officers of overreacting and trying to run over her 13-year-old son and later handcuffing him after her older son escaped.” (https://youtu.be/pph35cdcPFI)
The Agenda Report for item H-1 on the June 15, City Council meeting provides the City Council six options for addressing the recommendations of the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force, all but one of which, Option F, defunds police by amounts ranging from $2.3 million to $10.28 million.
Option F is the best choice, but with funding coming from ARPA instead of $1.7M from “the elimination of the budgeted use for facilities improvements and $1.6M from budgeted expenditures for vehicles.”
The funding options provided by the city manager for the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force recommendations in Item H-1 are as follows:
- Option A: Total year-1 funding would be $5.58M with $2.3M coming from reductions in the Police Department budget. This is staff’s recommended option and would enable the City to methodically design and implement the various programs proposed by the Task Force. This preferred approach would enable staff to comply with all applicable rules, while ensuring that the programs were effective and responsive to the needs of the community and ensure there are no gaps in services while implementation actions are undertaken.
- Option B: Total year-1 funding would be $10.28M and would be derived exclusively from permanent reductions in the Police Department budget.
- Option C: Total year-1 funding would be $10.28M but would be funded from a variety of sources including $3M from reductions in the Police Department budget.
- Option D: Total year-1 funding would be $5.58M with sustainable sources of funding including $3M from permanent reductions the Police Department budget.
- Option E: Total year-1 funding would be $6.38M funded from a variety of sources including $3M from permanent reductions the Police Department budget.
- Option F: Total year-1 funding would be $6.38M funded from a variety of sources, but with no monies coming from reductions in the Police Department budget. The following is a more detailed analysis of the various options with brief descriptions of the differences between the impacts of each option.
The Richmond progressive Alliance is continuing to advocate defunding the police, creating a false narrative that defunding unfilled positions and requiring no layoffs is not really defunding. The police chief has already outlined the reduction in future services that can be expected from defunding nine vacant positions. The following was based on twelve position, but nine would have similar consequences:
- Ability to shift resources quickly will be (and has been) hampered. Why? Our focus has been on providing basic patrol and investigative needs. Patrol staffing has been our primary focus due to the fact that community needs begin with a patrol response. Adequately staffing the patrol teams absorbs the bulk of our personnel resources. Patrol officers are assigned to fixed schedules. Therefore, when emerging needs arise (e.g.: recent gang-related violence), addressing those needs falls onto the one remaining team who are able to re-focus their efforts at a moment’s notice (e.g.: CVRT). This team has been depleted and currently consists of only one supervisor and 4 detectives. This staffing does not allow for 7 day a week coverage, therefore, we have to utilize officers on overtime to be able to cover additional hours when we experience spikes in crimes. In past years, we had two street teams that maintained seven day per week coverage, and were able to be re-shifted to such crime trends and district/beat/neighborhood needs. These are the types of resources that have been lost as our sworn staffing levels have been reduced over the past few years. One additional constraint of being able to quickly move resources involves the MOU. We cannot, absent an emergency situation, change an officer’s shift without adequate notice (60 days).
- Ability to focus on long-term investigations will be (and has been) hampered. Why? Our current investigative staff is about half of what they used to be. Our current staffing allows for very minimal time in addressing cold-cases. Our homicide team is currently stretched thin just to be able to handle the workload. Focusing on older cases is a service we cannot provide with the current resources. Additionally, we used to have detectives focused on crimes such as identity theft/computer crimes. In most cases, these investigations are very labor and time-intensive. With our current staffing, these crimes (unless there are strong leads) cannot be given the attention they are due. Our domestic violence and sexual assault cases have not diminished in numbers but the number of detectives assigned to those cases has diminished. These are multi-disciplinary investigations, in many cases, that require a significant amount of time and resources from our investigative staff. Robberies continue to plague the Richmond community, yet we only have enough detectives to primarily handle in-custody robbery cases, leaving very little time to investigate cases with existing leads. Our intelligence unit cannot properly focus on gathering intelligence at this time due to the need to have them focused on combatting retaliatory shootings. In the past, we had detectives assigned specifically to this function in order to gain intelligence to thwart and deter future acts of violence and other criminal issues (potentially this could have included human trafficking, fireworks and side-show activity). Moreover, our ability to focus on human trafficking has been diminished due to the fact that the detective focused on these efforts is also relied upon by the DSVU team to assist in their cases. To add to this, even when human trafficking operations are conducted, the resources are taken from existing detective resources and require overtime officers to provide the needed enforcement teams to safely execute such operations.
- Ability to focus on “Quality of Life” issues will be (and has been) hampered. Our previous staffing levels allowed for additional units to focus on quality of life issues. These issues include human trafficking/prostitution, drug house abatement, open air narcotic sales, homelessness issues, and other complaints that take time to resolve. As our staffing was reduced, we had no choice but to eliminate these additional units (BRAVO, Street Teams). This has left the beat officers responsible for dealing with the quality of life projects. However, the beat officers often do not have the time to devote to such projects. We have continually utilized overtime to deal with quality of life issues that require more time, effort and coordination to address. Additional staffing would allow for us to re-establish units to address these ongoing issues and cut down on overtime costs.
Although backed by the RPA and a few hard core anti-police activists who also dominate the Reimagine Public Safety Task Force, the plan to further reduce the police force is wildly unpopular among Richmond residents.
- Nearly all the public speakers at the June 7 City Council meeting opposed cuts to the police budget.
- Several social media polls over the last several weeks have indicated overwhelming opposition to police budget reductions.
- Every neighborhood council that has weighed in on the issue opposes reduction of police services.
- The Community Police Review Commission opposes reduction of the police budget on 5-1 vote.
- Thousands of Richmond residents have emailed City Council members opposing defunding the police while only a few dozen recommend defunding.
Figure 1 - Nextdoor poll on refunding
Reimagine Public Safety Task Force member Marisol Cantu wrote, “The hard truth, whether folks would like to accept it or not, is that police do not make us safe.” That is a far cry from the time when former Police Chief Chris Magnus was recognized by former Attorney General Loretta Lynch set up a nationally recognized police force that adopted the Community Policing model and produced the lowest homicide rate in recent Richmond history.
The RPA is trying to spin this as a “no layoff” budget, but that is a false narrative because it will result in significant service reduction, The people of Richmond want increased police services, not less.
See the article below from Richmond Pulse echoing the RPA “no layoff” spin.
11 Jun Council Moves Toward Balanced Budget Without Layoffs
Posted at 11:15h in City Government by Danielle Parenteau-Decker 0 Comments
The Richmond City Council must pass the budget by the end of this month. (Screenshot captured by Mathew Miranda / Richmond Pulse)
By Mathew Miranda
The Richmond City Council on Tuesday moved closer to passing a budget that does not include layoffs for any department.
In addition, a motion directing staff to not increase police officer positions passed 5-2, with Mayor Tom Butt and Council member
Nat Bates voting against. Tuesday night provided the second review of a proposed budget for the 2021-22 fiscal year that it is hoped will be passed at the June 22 City Council meeting. The budget must be adopted by the end of June.
In their Tuesday night presentation, city staff offered a balanced budget with both projected revenues and expenditures at almost exactly $190.9 million. This represents a stark contrast from the May 4 draft budget that showed a deficit of $12.6 million. The city benefited from a “pleasant surprise” of $15.6 million in the positive balance, according to Human Resources Director Anil Comelo.
Comelo said there are several reasons for the surplus. He said these include starting the last fiscal year with 60 frozen positions, not providing raises for non-sworn city employees for six straight years and conservative pandemic budgeting.
“This city, like every other, had a more conservative outlook in the budget forecasting then turns out we needed to,” Comelo said. “Most importantly, the sales tax did not plummet as we expected, and we are in better shape.”
Comelo added that staff hopes the $15.6 million surplus will be allocated to five areas: $1.3 million to Reimagining Public Safety Task Force recommendations, $1.7 million for facility improvements, $2.3 million in staff raises, $4.2 million for maintaining the budget reserve level and $6 million for a write-off to the Richmond Housing Authority.
Estimated revenues also increased by $8 million from the initial draft budget. Accounting Manager Antonio Banuelos said the increase primarily stems from updates of sales tax and documentary transfer tax projections. Staff increased the expected transfer tax from $8 million to $11 million, based on a historical amount received.
On the expenditure side, 74% or approximately $140 million stems from salaries, wages and benefits. The police department represents the largest department expenditure at 39%, followed by the fire department at 18% and public works at 14%. Staff also updated expenditures by including a vacancy savings fund, which is the amount not spent on salaries and benefits when a position is vacant. The proposed vacancy savings rate equates to a $5.8 million reduction in expenditures.
Additionally, the city plans to unfreeze 12 positions and hire 10 new positions. This does not include any sworn police officer positions. Based on current projections, the police department will eliminate 12 officer positions that were previously budgeted but unfilled due to recruitment challenges. The cost of these positions is about $3 million.
>>>Read: Richmond Has Fewer Police Officers Amid Budget Reallocation Talks
Butt cited the agenda report stating the proposed budget “preserves city services at the current level.” He called the statement incorrect in regard to the police budget.
“Clearly, this budget anticipates a substantial reduction in police services,” Butt said.
Bates also spoke out against a proposed reduced police budget. He said any reduction would “cost the city dearly” and affect Black, Brown and senior communities the most.
“You want to take away police that are protecting our minority communities,” Bates said.
>>TAKE OUR SURVEY: Should police presence and spending in Richmond change?<<
Council member Claudia Jimenez challenged the “misinformation” being spread to create debate among the public. Jimenez said she recently met with Chief of Police Bisa French and task force members to start discussing ways to implement the recommendations without leaving a gap in services. That led to Jimenez’s motion to not implement any layoffs in city departments or increase police officer positions.
“There are not going to be layoffs, so stop this division and misinformation,” Jimenez said.
In Tuesday’s proposed budget, city staff accounted for $5.58 million in task force recommendations, but the council has voted to include the full $10.3 million. City Manager Laura Snideman is targeting next week’s meeting to resolve the debate along with settling on how to use American Rescue Plan funds.