Thursday, August 13, 2020

Put Your Money Where Your Mouth Is

Do "Black Lives Matter" in Richardson? As the old saying goes, put your money where your mouth is. George Floyd was killed by the Minneapolis police on May 25, touching off a national movement with the slogan, "Black Lives Matter." There were protest marches nationwide, including two in Richardson (at Berkner Park and at City Hall). The Richardson City Council invited Richardson Police Chief Jim Spivey to brief them on the department's policies, training practices, community engagement, and transparency initiatives. The briefing took almost two and a half hours. I was pleased to learn that RPD's use-of-force policies are already broadly in line with the recommendations of the #8CantWait campaign to reform police departments.

But (there's always a but, and if the council members themselves can't voice it, they aren't doing their jobs), I had some concerns as well. In two-and-a-half hours with Chief Spivey, no one uttered the words "Black Lives Matter." Maybe they all felt that was all taken care of two weeks earlier, when the City Council approved a statement condemning racism. Still, no one identified any specific areas for improvement in Richardson. No one called for change. No one put any money behind the sentiment.

There is more than the use-of-force policy that needs attention. The #8CantWait campaign also recommends comprehensive community safety by funding alternatives to policing and resourcing healthy community practices. It's a controversial issue that needs to be aired openly.

"Defund the police" is a slogan that supports divesting funds from police departments and reallocating them to non-policing forms of public safety and community support, such as social services, youth services, housing, education, healthcare and other community resources.
Source: Wikipedia.

When I last looked at this, I concluded that Defund the Police was a lousy slogan, but popular policy.

When Reuters/Ipsos queried people about 'proposals to move some money currently going to police budgets into better officer training, local programs for homelessness, mental health assistance, and domestic violence,' a whopping 76 percent of people who were familiar with those proposals supported them, with only 22 percent opposed.

Was anyone in Richardson listening? Not that I can tell. Follow the money. The 2019-2020 budget for the City of Richardson called for spending $31,247,682 on police. The proposed 2020-2021 budget, in a year of financial pressure caused by two disaster declarations (tornado and pandemic), calls for spending $31,261,493 on police. That's a slight increase in the money going to the police. Spending elsewhere is largely flat.

Spending money is how you identify what you value. Changing how you spend money is how you measure how your thinking has changed. With this proposed budget, I am led to believe that the City of Richardson hasn't learned anything. If "Black Lives Matter" here, they don't matter enough to change how we spend our money.

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