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Dear Whittier Community,
Over half of our annual budget is spent on funding the Whittier Police Department. In contrast, only 25.68% of the budget is spent on the categories of ‘Community Development,’ ‘Libraries,’ and ‘Parks, Recreation, and Community Services’ COMBINED. According to the Annual Budget Fiscal Year 2019-2020, the City of Whittier spent $35,621,255 or 52.91% of the Total Whittier City Budget of $67,319,745 on policing. At the same time, only $276,077 or 0.4% of the budget was dedicated to 'Social Services' (Whittier City Budget p.178). In comparison, Chief of Police Jeff Piper 2018's salary was $225,406.29, and he made an additional $11,218.13 in “Other Pay." Based on this 2018 figure, the City of Whittier only spends $40,000 more on Social Services for a city of 86,000 than the combined salary for ONE Chief of Police, $236,624.42 (Transparent California).
According to the Social Services Overview on page 178, "The Social Services Commission along with the Parks, Recreation and Community Services Department are responsible for evaluating social services needs within the community and identifying, recommending, and/or coordinating programs to address those needs." However, with over-investment in policing and the current divestment in social services, the needs of our most vulnerable populations like the unhoused remain unaddressed. We demand that the City honor its responsibility to support our communities.
Across the nation, Black and Brown communities are showing us that they have been overpoliced and underfunded. The continual funding of police and simultaneous defunding of community services leads to racialized violence, as we have seen with the most recent eruptions of protests in honor of George Floyd and Breonna Taylor.
We at Whittier for Social Justice ask you to join us in demanding that the City of Whittier defund the Whittier Police Department by at least 25%, or $8,905,313, and reallocate those funds where they are desperately needed: in community and social services. The City is currently working on the annual budget for this upcoming fiscal year and we need a radical change from former years. While this may sound like a large reduction in police funding, the WPD would still receive 40% of the entire annual budget—the largest percentage of funds dedicated to any group in the City.
In addition to the reallocation of funds, we ask you to join us in creating a safer and more just community by demanding the following:
- Prohibit city candidates taking money from police unions and stop accepting police union funds.
- Prohibiting police from enforcing a range of non-serious offenses, including issuing fines, and making arrests for non-dangerous behaviors, eliminating many of the unnecessary interactions between the police and community members that have led to so much violence and so many deaths (ACLU).
- Withhold pensions and do not hire officers involved in cases with use of excessive force.
- Immediately fire police officers who have any excessive force complaints, including the officers involved in the murder of Johnathan Salcido: Roy Benjamin, Richard Jensen, Lamarr Tinnin, and Jim Azpilcueta.
These community and social services to be funded must be free and accessible to all members of our community including low-income and unhoused residents. Additionally, we call on Whittier to follow these guidelines on community-based resources. The following points were written by #8toAbolition, a team of Black activists and organizers fighting for healthy communities through the divestment of policing, and the abolition of the circumstances that lead to policing: racism, poverty, homelessness, economic instability, lack of healthcare, etc.
- Allocate city funding towards healthcare infrastructure (including non-coercive mental healthcare), wellness resources, neighborhood based trauma centers, non-coercive drug and alcohol treatment programming, peer support networks, and training for healthcare professionals. Make these services available for free to low-income residents.
- Adopt a Care Not Cops model.
- Invest in teachers and counselors, universal childcare, and support for all family structures.
End the use of property taxes to determine school funding.
Install safe and sanitary gender-inclusive public restrooms.
- Ensure investment in community-based food banks, grocery cooperatives, gardens, and farms.
- Ensure free, and more extensive, public transport, especially servicing marginalized, unhoused, and lower-income communities.
- Invest in youth programs that promote learning, safety, and community care.
It is time to divest from the police and invest in our communities. Rather than continuously pouring money into the Police Department, the City of Whittier should instead prioritize funding for these community services.
Please sign your name and join us in our fight to reallocate at least 25% of the Whittier Police Department’s budget into community and social services!
We also ask that you question our elected officials as to why there is no option to call-in live for public comments for the upcoming June 9th City Council meeting, when the option was available as recently as your last meeting on May 26? (Whittier for Social Justice Twitter).
Lastly, we request that you please send comments to your city council member and our mayor, Joe Vinatieri, prior to their City Council meeting this Tuesday, June 9th since there is no live call-in option.
For further details on this petition and a template for emails/phone calls, please visit our toolkit at tinyurl.com/W4SJToolkit. We will also be hosting a public teach-in this Saturday, June 13. More information will be on our social media pages @whittierfor.
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