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Next Steps for Racial Equity in Santa Monica

September 4, 2020 4:16 PM
by Lane Dilg

Next Steps for Racial Equity in Santa Monica

At its June 9 meeting, City Council directed three tracks of work to answer the urgent call to demonstrate that all Black Lives Matter by amplifying the voices of People of Color and advancing racial equity in our community.  This Tuesday, September 8, Council will receive an update on this work and take next steps toward better living out our values of equity and inclusion.  The staff report and attachments are the result of three months of deep community engagement, with the Black Agenda for Santa Monica Steering Committee and the Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee to the Interim City Manager leading the way.

Community leaders for the Black Agenda, asked by Council to create a Black Agenda for Santa Monica, will present recommendations and results of community engagement to Council and the community on Tuesday night.

The 15 members of the Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee – individuals who bring relevant knowledge and expertise as residents, advocates for racial justice, business owners, law enforcement officers, mental health providers, and social service providers – led a community input process and evaluated reform proposals across six areas:

  • Civilian oversight
  • Use of force
  • Alternate responses
  • Culture and training
  • Community engagement
  • Budget allocation

The thoughtful proposals developed through this process place the overall wellbeing of the Santa Monica community at the center of a blueprint for lasting change.  I encourage you to review in full the Advisory Committee’s report, which is available here, as well as a response from law enforcement members of the Committee.  The report, which is also available as an attachment to the staff report, includes:

  • Guiding Principles of Community Wellbeing, Accountability and Transparency, Innovation, Best Practices, De-escalation and Minimal Use of Force, Equity and Trust;
  • A comprehensive proposal for a civilian oversight and reform commission based on input from the community;
  • A recommended process and principles for updating the SMPD Use of Force policies;
  • Recommendations to explore alternate dispatch response models that would look to other entities to respond to minor, low-risk calls for service;
  • A call to double the number of officers assigned as Neighborhood Resource Officers;
  • Expanding interdisciplinary response by adding additional clinicians through the Department of Mental Health; and
  • A role for community-serving organizations to be part of ongoing engagement in public safety. 

Before Council on Tuesday night is an initial set of recommendations drawn from this extensive community engagement.  The recommendations ask Council to put in place lasting structures for ongoing, systemic reform.  If the recommended actions are accepted, the City will support a nonprofit to serve as a long-term cultural resource for Santa Monica’s Black community; Equity and Inclusion Officers will be established in each City department; and a Police Engagement and Accountability Commission will be established to provide transparency, procedural justice, and accountability for the community. 

These foundational steps will not mark the conclusion of racial equity work along any of these tracks.  Rather, they represent progress toward continued efforts, which, informed by the critical community engagement work undertaken thus far, will build toward our shared future.

Through the dedicated work of our community, we have the framework and momentum to ensure that our values of equity and inclusion guide the City of Santa Monica as we transform and rebuild a sustainable city of wellbeing.    

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