Richmond Council cuts $3 million, 12 positions, from police department
on June 18, 2021
This story was originally published June 17, 2021, by our partner Richmond Pulse.
After months of debate, Richmond City Council voted Tuesday to reduce the police budget by $3 million and use that money to fund a portion of the recommendations from the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force.
In total, $6.38 million will be given to incorporate the recommendations in the upcoming city budget. It will require a combination of police department cuts, elimination of some vehicle purchases and excess funding from this fiscal year. This reallocation will give $1.98 million to the YouthWorks program, $1.6 million to the Office of Neighborhood Safety, $1.8 million to homelessness services and $1 million to creating a non-police crisis community response team.
The motion passed 4-2-1 with Mayor Tom Butt and council member Nate Bates voting against it and Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson abstaining. Prior to the vote, city staff presented six options to fund the recommendations. Only three of the options garnered significant support from the council and the 88 public speakers at the meeting.
— Option A: $5.58 million for the recommendations, with $2.3 million coming from Police Department reductions, $1.6 million from American Rescue Plan funds and $1.3 million in excess funding.
— Option E: $6.38 million, with $3 million from Police Department reductions, $1.6 million by eliminating vehicle purchases and $1.3 million in excess funding.
— Option F: $6.38 million, with no money coming from the Police Department but $1.6 million in American Rescue Plan funds, $1.3 million in excess funding, $3.3 million by eliminating vehicle purchases and facilities improvement.
Council members Claudia Jimenez, Melvin Willis, Gayle McLaughlin and Eduardo Martinez advocated for option E. Martinez called it an investment in the community that would increase public safety. Willis agreed and said maintaining public safety is difficult when people “feel completely abandoned and put in the position where they have nothing else to lose.”
“Intervening in crimes before they happen, discouraging people to not pick up a gun and painting a path that is more than just the streets is equally important as chasing the bad actors,” Willis said.
Butt and Bates disagreed, putting their support behind option F. Butt said more residents seemed to be “against defunding than for it.” He noted that the police review commission voted 5-1 not to defund the department, and that the city’s neighborhood councils also oppose it. Bates said the other council members were going against the “will of the people” and ignoring residents who are afraid of crime increasing.
“During my four decades on this council, I have never received as many emails and communications from citizens within the community, taxpayers and voters, that are totally opposed to defunding the Police Department,” Bates said. “And if all of you are honest, I’m sure you all received them too.”
In an online survey conducted by Richmond Pulse, 56% of the 142 Richmond residents who responded as of Thursday afternoon said the police budget should be decreased and the money used on other community services. Roughly 29% of those respondents want to see greater police presence in the city, and 27% say it should stay at current levels. Nearly 87% said social workers or mental health professionals should respond to calls of someone in crisis. A slightly higher percentage said those professionals should respond without police accompaniment. Additionally, about 86% of people answering the survey who live in Richmond said they feel safe or somewhat safe in their neighborhood.
Among the 200 total respondents, 46% supported reducing police spending and using that money on community services, and nearly 90% said social workers and health professionals should respond when someone is having a mental health crisis.
The plan approved by the council will not result in layoffs but will permanently eliminate the 12 vacant positions that the Police Department was hoping to fill this fiscal year. Police Chief Bisa French said the department has already been affected by staffing shortages, which she said have resulted in reductions in service. She also anticipates losing more positions because there are officers in various stages of hiring with other departments.
“The impacts that we are currently filling are not being able to address the quality-of-life issues, not being able to investigate a lot of crime and just focusing on in-custody,” French said.
Johnson alone expressed support for option A, which was recommended by city staff. This approach would enable staff to ensure programs were effective and responsive to community needs without a gap in services, according to the staff report. Johnson called on everyone to come closer to the “middle majority” and adhere to both sides of this divisive issue.
“I really hoped, no I prayed, that everyone would come tonight ready to meet their fellow community members in the middle, but here we are,” Johnson said. “We must all be losers because we are looking for compromise.”
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It is not right what the citi of Richmond is doing with the police department. We need the police, especially on the freeway that lately looks like a race track. Invest the Richmond money in protecting your citizens. The ones that paids taxes not working they don’t deserve. Invest on day care so the parents can work, stop giving free money so they stay home. Thanks
Officer Marvig left months ago in anticipation of this. I hope he landed somewhere where he is appreciated.
I would agree with option (E)based upon the exclusion of including ” Cares Act Funding ” which shouldn’t be misrepresented as a way for Mayor’s too balance outside special interests. The “Cares Act Funding ” is for American families socioeconomic recovery. Cities and counties and state’s must discountuie the mismanagement of federal assistance in supporting programs participants and families grow and develop becoming mature responsible dependable adults which will reduce the overall impact of violence especially gun violence rape murder Trafficking. Its not a reimaining its a back to basic fundamentals of learning how too live peaceful civilized amongst other’s. It would better serve those who are the beneficiaries of propriétaire personal information who make decisions concerning how monetary domestic spending is appropriate. Not state county or local representatives who don’t share the same interest as those they claim too represent. Its not fair nor is it a privilege or right in denying human beings their inalienable rights wherever they find themselves in whatever condition they may be found as Americans we have an obligation responsibility duty and commitment too care for provide for protect and ensure the safety security of life and possessions land and resources are equally shared. There is no compromise between who deserves access or what plan than chose when the weight on the scales and equations are not balanced that is the indication of something isn’t right. One of the oldest forms of equal is the tip of the scale. It has proven itself too be most reliable dependable and accurate throughout its historical use. The ratios not being equally matched another indication of something not right with the balance. The laws of nature dictate the overall life spans of human existence just as hygiène and sanitation are vital key players in preventing the spread of communicables infectious diseases. We should insist upon a quick fix with not real long term goals that will produce results.