CALL TO ACTION: Police and Human Relations Commission Convene virtual public meetings on July 1st

For the first time since March 16th COVID shutdown, the City of El Cerrito found the technology to hold a virtual meeting where the public can actually speak. All previous City Council meetings required public comment to be in email form, with a silent audience. Thanks to many who have emailed the City Manager and Mayor as well as the Police Chief, two virtual meetings will take place on Wednesday July 1st. Below is a brief summary and link. Please participate.

Photo Credit: Nancy J. Rubin

Human Relations Commission (HRC) and Environmental Quality Commission (EQC) meet at 1:00pm on July 1st. They will be discussing a joint statement on the killing of George Floyd as well as future actions. Public comment is an opportunity for you to make a statement and/or request. ECP is asking for a Listening Session on Racism in El Cerrito. Modeled much like the town hall held by the City of Albany, CA, the town hall format makes space for community voices to speak to issues of race with a degree of confidentiality and without judgement. To attend the meeting at one, please use this link:  http://el-cerrito.org/Calendar.aspx?EID=6183

The El Cerrito Police Department will hold a virtual town hall on Wednesday July 1 from 4-6 pm. Unlike the HRC/EQC meeting, this format will be open for more than public comment. We encourage participants to come with questions or stories about their own interactions with police, thoughts on the police budget during a $5.5 million dollars budget shortfall, alternatives to policing and or general questions about current operations. We are attaching the following links to help prepare participants.

Annual ECPD Report- good overview of stats, budget, etc..but clearly areas of information missing. http://el-cerrito.org/DocumentCenter/View/14200/Annual-Report-2019-

Link to the petition for El Cerrito Police Oversight- please sign https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/el-cerrito-police-reforms

Link to access the meeting of ECPD Town hall:  http://el-cerrito.org/CivicAlerts.aspx?AID=492.

CALL TO ACTION- THURSDAY, July 2nd, 5:30pm CARAVAN TO AFFIRM BLM- No Justice No Peace – Silence is Violence

Join neighbors and friends in a safe and socially distanced caravan through El Cerrito. A new route is planned and we think you will find this one to be extremely robust! Bring signs, pots and pans and make some noise. This is a family event! Bikers are also welcome. We cannot celebrate freedom if we are not all free…so as we approach the 4th of July resolve to continue to uplift the voices from around the nation, and around the world. We will also have information about Town Hall outcomes and want to hear from you about next steps.

Photo Credit: Nancy J. Rubin

What can our City do with $5 million dollars? Part II-Defund the Police

Last week the El Cerrito Council met to discuss budget cuts that would result in the lay-off of employees (non-management) and slashing of services. The city is trying to stay afloat financial quicksand, now looking at 5.5 million dollars in reductions. How do they plan to reduce: cut library hours, cut pool hours, remove subsidies for day care and senior meals, lay-off longtime custodial workers and outsource for cheaper labor. What if a 12 million dollar police department was only 6 million dollars? Shocking you might say? Let’s look at some facts. Can we defund our police and move 5 million dollars out of a 12 million dollar budget?

  1. The Police Chief is already downsizing job descriptions. He has agreed that officers are no longer responding to calls that are simply not crimes. In a recent presentation to City Council and the community he explained that the type of mediation that police do, should in actuality not be police driven.
  2. Arrests in our community are down, as police are doing less calls, but crime isn’t going up. It remains the same. So perhaps its not policing that reduces crime, maybe it has something to do with where and how people use public space or don’t use public space. Maybe crime is driven by economics and if so, maybe we should be considering local job creation.
  3. Chief Keith doesn’t necessarily believe that police can actually prevent crime, but he does believe that the role of the police is to identify the perpetrator and bring this person to justice. As he stated verbatim “If we can’t stop a crime from happening our job is to determine who is doing the crime and bring them to justice.”

We think it is worthwhile for you to listen to the early part of the meeting and hear some of Chief Keith’s comments. https://elcerritoca.civicclerk.com/Web/Player.aspx?id=316&key=-1&mod=-1&mk=-1&nov=0

And finally, why does El Cerrito have a 12 million dollar budget for a population of 25,000? Some city council members conclude that the large police budget is a result of our proximity in the Bay Area. True, our crime per 1,000 residents is higher than the city of Hercules, which has half the budget for policing. But are the police actually preventing crime, or simply responding to crime. And if that is the case, what other mechanisms as a community can we develop to prevent crime. Can we use public space more aggressively, have well lit streets, build more community? According to Chief Keith’s Annual report of last year, much of the violent crime centered on homelessness. Police can’t solve homelessness, but housing can and so can jobs and so can services.

I want to end with the following questions: Has anyone not had a car stolen because of the police? Has anyone not had your house robbed because of the police? Has anyone not been assaulted because of the police? If the answer is no, let’s defund the police-reimagine a different force in our community that works with us to ensure that public space is well used. Spend more money on streets that are well lit, and provide more services to help keep people in their homes.

Policing has served the “well to-do” for so many years. Policing has protected the haves from the have nots. More recently, policing expanded into social work. But when it comes down to the final analysis, policing really isn’t about building community. Why are we willing to sacrifice services that bring a community together in order to maintain a historically racist and violent system used to decimate poor communities and communities of color. The system of policing is severely broken-can we not ask to transform it?

Let’s Reimagine Policing in El Cerrito


The police system defaults in our country are broken, and now is an opportunity for us to address those issues through policy, budget, and behavior changes. El Cerrito PD is allocated 30% of the El Cerrito budget, and is our largest line item, almost 5x more than Community Development. A report from Contra Costa County found that in El Cerrito, Black people were 13% more likely to be stopped  than whites, although they make up 8% of our population. 

There is a clear lack of civilian oversight and transparency of the police department, and because of the lack of accountability and transparency we actually do not know the breakdown of arrests or use of force by race.

Two actions the petition calls for, joining the California Police Scorecard (like our neighbors Berkeley and Richmond), and creating a Civilian Oversight Board would help to clarify and track racial profiling and excessive use of force.

Although El Cerrito shares the Bay Area’s housing and mental health crisis, we have virtually no resources or services to address this issue. Most of the violent crime in El Cerrito this last year was the result of crime upon homeless individuals.

This is a moment to rethink how we can use our resources wisely by reallocating funds away from policing and investing in social workers who can help address housing and mental health care issues with more efficiency and expertise than the police. Join us in demanding a safer El Cerrito for us all. Sign the petition here. https://campaigns.organizefor.org/petitions/el-cerrito-police-reforms
Thanks!

Contributed by Sarah Klauer

CARAVAN CONTINUES THROUGH EL CERRITO!

No Justice No Peace! Say His Name-George Floyd-Black Lives Matter-Defund Police-End White Silence- Reimagine Public Safety-Invest in Communities Not Police-End Police Violence!

On Thursday, June 11th El Cerrito turned out in mass driving cars, riding bikes and on foot to continue to support the Black Lives Matter movement and the call to end police violence. Organizers were overwhelmed with the numbers of cars-well over 150, and the caravan slowly traversed the southern part of El Cerrito, headed toward the hills and eventually wound its way down to City Hall. Although many of the cars continued to home destinations upon reaching the end site, other folks remained for a short Q and A about the city, the police budget and community services.

According to recent statistics released by Together We Will Contra Costa,https://www.facebook.com/TogetherWeWillContraCosta/photos/a.374061802964744/1122106224826961/?type=3&theater the El Cerrito Police Department represents 25% of the city’s overall budget. Although this is on the lower end for Contra Costa cities, this percentage will increase. Recommendations from the City Manager Karen Pinkos to cut the budget may in fact result in the PD taking a bigger piece of the budget–unless we speak out!

We will continue to hold weekly caravans and plan to look forward to improving on the logistics for next Thursday. Please note we have a route posted below, cars will be moving no faster than 10mph, and bicyclists will be assisting with traffic flow to ensures that the caravan remains in tact. Join us in the display of support.

ECP is currently working on both a community survey regarding policing in our city as well as a list of demands for greater police accountability. We will have more information for you by Thursday.

CALL TO ACTION: CARAVAN to support Black Lives Matter on June 18th at 5:30pm

For more information or to help volunteer with this event: Contact ECP at 510-734-8883

Defund the Police/Invest in Communities

Communities around the world reacted to the brutal murder of George Floyd at the hands of police, and calls for police reforms echoed from different communities.  Campaigns such as 8cantwait offered harm reduction strategies for local police, and many localities picked up this gauntlet. But the Black Lives Matter movement is more of a tsunami than a wave and the idea of police reform, while laudable, is no longer sufficient to address the historical roots of violence embedded in the institution of policing in our country.  Campaign Zero offers an example of this swift change. Below is a quote taken from their website. 

 As protests grow, and the violence of policing splashes across the internet, the television screens and in our streets, we are now hearing DEFUND the POLICE.  The conversation has shifted and many people wanting to support the growing movement are asking the question – “what does defunding the police mean?”

Defunding police is about investing in our community.  We are divesting from a violent system and investing in our community to keep us safe. Defunding the police means we don’t overly rely on the police. We build services and reduce the need for police.  It’s about public safety not the enforcement of law.  As I heard recently- community safety is not about law and order – it’s about peace and justice. The 8can’twait campaign issued an example of their shift in their campaign. Note that the strategy calls for the eventual abolishment of policing as we know it, and replacing a violent system with a model that promotes community well-being. I encourage you to watch the clip with Trevor Noah.  The speakers can discuss this more aptly than I.  https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PVW2eaCyC5c

Below is a graphic from the 8cantwait campaign that clearly illustrates the difference in strategies.

And here is the original campaign below. 

El Cerrito Police Chief Paul Keith released a letter today (June 10th) on how the city’s policies were meeting the standards of this graphic above. https://www.el-cerrito.org/DocumentCenter/View/14317/ECPD-Letter-regarding-8cantwait- On the surface, you might say that the policies are fairly in line. I urge you to link to  the manual and read from page 44 about use of force.  https://www.el-cerrito.org/1391/Policies  As long as “qualified immunity” exists, as long as a police officers can say “I was under threat”, and get away with murder,  all those  bans on choke holds and use of force are not enforceable- if they were, George Floyd would be alive as well as many others. 

We are at a moment in time when our pressure, our voices, our sustained efforts can make a difference.  We cannot be complacent.  We cannot be complicit.  Just last week we said – End White Silence.  The time is now! Please join us tomorrow June 11th at 5:30 p.m  We will assemble at the El Cerrito Plaza BART Parking Lot and travel through the neighborhoods with our message: Invest in Communities – Not Police  

Resources 

Amazing graphical representation of explaining reform vs. abolition-

https://docs.google.com/document/d/1qZCEBP4rnMgULaSCGsP5fwFy4rK9iwohZvnIbZVrr90/edit

A comprehensive report on the current state of policing and how it can be transformed

Imaging new public safety THRIVE

The Broken Policing System (YouTube Video) with Hasan Minhaj https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=km4uCOAzrbM

Short articles on what it means to defund the police-

https://www.thecut.com/2020/06/what-does-defund-the-police-mean-the-phrase-explained.html

https://www.vox.com/2020/6/3/21276824/defund-police-divest-explainer