Defund SJPD // Invest in Community

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Proposal to Defund San Jose Police Department Budget // Invest in Community

Summary:
In the name, spirit, and memory of those killed by San Jose police, we  — the families of those killed by the San Jose Police Department, the supporting community, and those who have called for Black Lives Matter from the streets — submit this letter demanding the defunding of the San Jose Police Department. 

To fully grasp the urgency and sanctity of this call, before reading the arguments, analysis, and reasoning collectively crafted below, we ask you first to say out loud the names of San Jose loved ones who have been killed by law enforcement and whose families author and lead this cry for justice:

Rudy Cardenas, Richard Harpo Jacquez, Jacob Dominguez, Antonio Guzman Lopez, Richard Lua, Isai Lopez, Jesus Geney Montes, Anthony Nuñez, Daniel Pham, Aaron James Phillips, Steve Salinas, Diana Showman, Cau Bich Tran, Phillip Watkins, Jennifer Vasquez.

These are names you should know by now, and is not even an exhaustive list of the lives taken by law enforcement in San Jose. The families of those murdered by police in San Jose have been calling for justice and accountability for years. They have united to find strength and solace to organize through their tragedy, and the call for ending police violence, to replace lethal police functions with community responses, to divest from the weaponry that took their loved ones lives are mandates that they have long made a local struggle and now is echoed as a resounding national, history-changing, movement. As the renown abolitionist Angela Davis noted in a recent interview, in regards to the magnitude of this moment she says, “We have never experienced this kind of global challenge to racism and the consequences of slavery.”

The murder of George Floyd in Minneapolis ignited not only a new national consciousness, it has inspired unprecedented political action across the country and globe. San Jose has been no exception. Our community — led by young Black and brown leaders — have boldly and beautifully ceased the city, chanting, marching, protesting to say the injustice will not be ignored, the murders must stop, and Black Lives Matter.

The City of San Jose responded to the righteous protests by launching flash bang grenades that shatter eardrums. The City of San Jose let loose barrages of rubber bullets at point blank range that seriously injured protestors who are there to denounce the very treatment they’re receiving at the hands of the San José Police Department, leaving our own community wounded, traumatized, and, for some, perhaps unable to even have children that can grow and flourish in this beautiful community. 

They shot tear gas at us as we chanted “I Can’t Breathe” through withered facemasks, while Jared Yuen, “a good kid” in uniform, with your name on their badge leered at us, gun cocked, and yelled, “Shut up B—ch”.

Communities like ours, around the country and the world, have been taking to the streets in the hundreds and thousands in support of the Black Lives Matter movement since the hideous murders of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Nina Pop, and countless others at the hands of their own police departments. The Black Lives Matter call started as a response to Trayvon Martin’s unjust murder and is a platform for black and brown communities to fight for justice, freedom and liberation through community organizing and action.

After decades of broken promises and empty reforms, Black and Brown communities continue to be the targets and victims of police violence, abuse, incarceration, as the budget for SJPD balloons at the expense of community programs. The numbers are irrefutable — 44% of the general fund department's budget is committed to the police as housing, parks, education, and health needs are deprioritized and stripped of resources. The budget allocation is an articulation of this perpetuated systemic racism upheld by elected city officials.

But now, San Jose, through this upcoming budget decision, has an opportunity to move to the right side of history, and our families and communities implore you to be responsive to the demands that is ancestral in the making, that are from San Jose parents who will not hold their children again, of kids who now grow up without mothers and fathers, and is for future generations to come. 

The following demands are organized as a divest in police and invest in community framework. Each of our two major sections labeled “Defund” and “Reallocate” has itemized demands which were collectively researched, analyzed, and agreed upon. Each demand stems directly from the experiences of the families who lost loved ones to police and the urgent needs of San Jose’s Black and Brown communities.

DIVEST

  • Remove police officers from the force who were responsible for officer involved shootings.  
  • Dismantle units such as VCET, MERGE, Covert Response and Street Crimes Unit that have displayed the highest propensity for violence against Black and Brown communities and criminalize poverty.
  • Dismantle the Mayor’s Youth Gang Task Force which is a law enforcement surveillance and targeting mechanism disguised as youth services. 
  • Eliminate paid administrative leave for police facing misconduct charges.
  • Do not allocate City funding for the defense of officers who shoot, maim, or injure our loved ones due to police violence.
  • Discontinue all future hires and training, and remove any current openings, beginning in the fiscal year 2020-2021.
  • Restrict further use of the $178 million CARES Act funding to: hire, recruit, or expand SJPD force; prepay pensions for SJPD officers; purchase additional tools, materials, or supplies; contribute to construction or repairs of any Police-related buildings, offices, or facilities; fund redistricting efforts; or fund the perpetuity or expansion of police-related activities. 
  • Disarm the police by cutting their non-personal/equipment budget.
  • Demilitarize the SJPD by restricting the department from receiving funding for equipment from our State and Federal government.

INVEST

  • Allocate grant funds only accessible to black led community organizations. 
  • Provide funds for immediate and long term support for individuals and families impacted by police violence. 
  • Allocate grant funds to Brown and other low-income communities, prioritizing areas that are over policed and under resourced. 
  • Fund the development of a new sector of first responders to directly respond to 911 calls for help.
  • Fund long term mental health resources. 
  • Use the CARES Act funding to immediately relieve the rent of all those unable to pay their rent during shelter in place orders. 
    Provide long term funding to support San Jose’s housing needs and investment in San Jose’s community-led land trust.  
  • Reallocate and restore funding for community parks and recreation spaces and programming. 
  • Restore funding for San José Public Library staffing and programming.  

We as a united San Jose community formally submit the above listed demands as a necessary shifting of resources to match the values, principles, and immediate needs of our people. We call on each of you as elected officials to fulfill your responsibilities to the people of San Jose and honor the vision laid out which guided by families who lost loved ones to police, and is rooted in the safety and well-being of all of our residents. We will not tolerate any more taking of lives by police, and certainly will not accept the murders to be facilitated through our public dollars especially while critical community resources remain depleted. This demand to defund the police is as much about stripping an institution of the budget it has used to harm and kill, as it is at the same time an intentional re-investing in a community budget, particularly Black and Brown San Jose communities, who have been drained of resources systemically for generations. 

Our call is as practical and timely as it is aspirational and forward-looking. We are ready create a San Jose where our impacted and targeted communities imagines and determines what safety and well-being looks like and means for all of us. And we fully know, without a doubt, that this demand letter articulates our first and most critical foundational step in making that San Jose a reality.