Demand Police Accountability in the SP Budget

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Dear City Council Members and Mayor,


    The residents of South Pasadena have shown through a survey issued by the finance commission that maintaining a police department whose budget of nearly $10 million should be a lower priority than it currently is. Since the fiscal year 2016-17, SPPD’s budget is set to increase by more than a million dollars and clock in at $9.7M if the draft budget were to be adopted. Meanwhile, valuable community services will be reduced.

    For a small town with a year-over-year decrease in crime by 19%, investing more in a police presence at a time where we should be rigorously questioning and changing both our relationship to the profession of policing and practices of police presence in our communities. 

    According to the survey issued to residents which garnered 130 responses, a community-determined budget for the police department would be $6.9 M. According to the survey, residents feel we are over funding SPPD by $2.6M and underfunding community services by $2M. The budget approval vote on June 17th should reflect a moment of necessary financial austerity in taking the first step in reversing this discrepancy in priorities and come closer to resembling a people’s budget for South Pasadena. We demand that:


1. There be a freeze on increases in wages and benefits for SPPD officers and staff. Despite the proposed city budget exploring a freeze on COLA increases for represented employees, the draft city budget includes an increase of $340,000 for SPPD wages and benefits. 
2. Use cost savings from freezing SPPD increases toward hiring a full time Public Information Officer to mend a tense relationship with residents.
Exorbitant contracts held by SPPD up for renewal be seriously questioned and potentially not renewed.
3. Basic and necessary city administrative functions not be cut, including those that relate to governmental transparency.
4. No Senior nutrition services be cut.
5. No library functions, especially those that benefit unhouses community members, be cut.
6. No expenditures relating to sustainability efforts be reduced. 

As our city government approaches an unprecedented economic downturn, pre-existing structural issues in our government will likely be exacerbated. This includes deep set problems of underfunding city staff, which has led to high rates of turn over, 5 open positions that will remain empty for cost saving measures, and exorbitant contracting services from the city manager that should normally be performed by city staff. 

In order to make up ground on lost revenues, the city will need to aggressively pursue rebounds in commercial taxes, as has been the long term sentiment evidenced by increased commercial square footage in the draft General Plan. We urge the city to publicly support the split roll repeal of Prop 13 to update tax rates of commercial properties to their current value toward this end. 

Until a serious conversation about how SPPD can change its professional practices in line with progressive changes within the profession of policing, we ask that the city freeze all budget increases for the department. Until then, complacency and the status quo will only further let down our marginalized communities.