Calling it a critical turning point in addressing systemic racism, the Long Beach City Council on Tuesday unanimously approved the new Racial Equity and Reconciliation Initiative that outlines more than 100 action plans to deal with discrimination in areas including health, housing and policing.
The city launched the mass initiative, which included two weeks of public listening sessions, in the wake of nationwide police brutality protests after the death of George Floyd in Minneapolis.
While council members praised the effort, several community members who spoke, including some who participated in the listening sessions, said the plan doesn’t go far enough to defund the police department.
Of the more than 400 people surveyed for the initiative, 53% said defunding the Long Beach Police Department is a top priority.
The city has proposed a $10.3 million cut to the police department’s budget for the 2020-21 fiscal year, but with rising costs and other expenses, the actual proposed police budget would be about $4 million less than the current 2019-20 budget.
Patrick Swymer, president of the Long Beach Young Democrats, said this is hardly defunding.
“Among the community members who did participate, an overwhelming amount said that their number one priority was to defund LBPD,” he said. “But rather than listening to the participants for the study, the police department remains essentially fully funded.”
The proposed budget would cut 34 police officer positions and create 29 new civilian jobs, which was outlined in one of the 107 proposed action plans.
Overall, the proposed budget dedicates $3.2 million for the structural reforms. Some of the plans include:
- Creating an alternate phone number and dispatch system for non-violent emergency calls staffed by mental health professionals.
- Implementing early intervention programs for problematic police employees.
- Creating a Youth Development Office and strengthening youth mentorship programs.
- Launching classes for financial literacy to help Black people and people of color improve economic circumstances.
- Increasing home ownership for people of color by creating a sustainable loan program
The plan also dedicates about $150,000 for an outside consultant to help redesign the Citizen Police Complaint Commission to improve police oversight and accountability.
The commission, which was established 30 years ago, has been criticized for lacking authority. The 11-member commission only serves in an advisory capacity, investigating police complaints and recommending discipline for misconduct.
Commissioners have been critical that information about cases is withheld or filtered before it reaches them, and their recommendations can be reversed without any explanation. The city manager has final authority to uphold or reverse those decisions.
City Manager Tom Modica said there are some areas where the commission can be restructured, but that any major changes would require an amendment to the city charter, which would have to be decided by voters in next election in 2022.
Councilman Rex Richardson, who spearheaded the plan, said the changes “will not happen overnight,” but “it’s a step further than any other city in California.”
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