City Council will hear a host of social justice recommendations on Tuesday stemming from months of work by volunteers to examine racial bias in city operations.
Council asked for a comprehensive analysis of city policies in pursuit of a more just and equitable community earlier this year. Council will hear updates on that work with information divided into three categories.
Council asked for staff to advance a Black Agenda for the city and the initial proposals include providing $100,000 in seed money to create a new non-profit that would focus on the wellbeing of the Black community.
Staff are also recommending the city host a community forum in collaboration with the Black Agenda for Santa Monica Steering Committee to provide education across the Santa Monica community regarding the history of the Black community, implicit bias, and ways community members can join together to advance anti-racism in Santa Monica.
The second priority was equity and inclusion in work within city organizations.
The proposal calls for creation of a Racial Equity Committee within the city and appointing an existing employee within each department to serve as an Equity and Inclusion officer.
Perhaps the most significant list of recommendations comes from the Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee who are recommending formation of a civilian oversight commission, revisions to use of force policies that would ban some tactics/weapons while increasing restrictions on when force can be used, increase training, explore alternate dispatch systems that could reduce the need for sworn officers to respond to minor calls, increase the Neighborhood Officer program from four to eight officers, increase mental health services provided by the county and reprioritize the city budget.
The revised use of force rules would prohibit chokeholds and prohibit a similar maneuver that restricts blood or oxygen flow to the brain, prohibit techniques and transportation options that risk suffocation, prohibit shooting at or from moving vehicles, ban tear gas and pepper spray for peaceful crowd control purposes and decommission military style equipment.
In a response, representatives from the police department praised the intent and work of the commission but said there was not enough time to fully debate some of the proposals. They specifically opposed some recommendations. The response said choke holds and neck restraints are already banned, decommissioning of the department’s heavy vehicle would increase the use of out-of-town SWAT teams and they said some of the language changes would make it impossible for officers to adhere to the law.
The Committee said the public should be trained to use the 311 system for minor problems instead of flooding 911 with non emergency calls. In addition they are recommending other agencies be incorporated into the system to dispatch code enforcement, downtown ambassadors, trained volunteers or non-sworn officers where appropriate.
The recommendations specifically reject the term “defund” but a proposed budget does reallocate $8 million from the current police budget bringing it down to about $91 million annually.
The full 50 page report and response are available online as part of the council agenda at www.smgov.net. Council will meet virtually on Tuesday, Sept. 8 with closed session beginning at 5:30 p.m.