Advancing Equity and Inclusion in Santa Monica
The City of Santa Monica’s values of accountability, equity, inclusion, innovation, resilience, safety, and stewardship guide everything we do. As millions of people around the world have joined the Black Lives Matter movement to call for an end to systemic racism and violence against Black people in the United States, we stand in solidarity and are committed to advancing vital work to live out our values of equity and inclusion. Since 2017, the City of Santa Monica has been a member of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE), a national network of government entities working to achieve racial equity and advance opportunities for all. Our GARE team has focused on a wide range of equity issues over the last three years, including implicit bias, language justice, and housing policy. Our work today builds on and furthers that critical work over the last three years.
In June 2020, the Santa Monica City Council approved three tracks of efforts to generate meaningful and lasting change in Santa Monica:
- Development of a Black Agenda for Santa Monica
- Public Safety Reform
- Equity and Inclusion Work in the City Organization
On September 8, 2020, City Council advanced City support for creation of the Santa Monica Black Lives Association, a nonprofit designed by Black community leaders to support Black Santa Monicans, approved Equity and Inclusion Officers for every City department, and advanced broad steps toward police reform, including the creation of a Police Commission—the first of its kind in Santa Monica.
Council adopted the following Racial Equity Statement for the City:
The City of Santa Monica acknowledges the effects of generational and institutional racism, and its consequences that continue to impact our residents. These lessons of our history cannot be ignored. The City is committed to advancing racial equity and social diversity to improve the wellbeing of people who live, work, play, and do business in our City, by:
- identifying and rectifying the policies, practices, and behaviors that perpetuate racism, discrimination, and other negative racial-based outcomes.
- cultivating an inclusive and fair environment where all people in Santa Monica, in particular disenfranchised communities of color, thrive in the areas of health, economic vitality, and connectedness.
Read on to learn more below about these projects now underway. We hope you’ll stay engaged and participate through upcoming opportunities.
- An Update About Historic Belmar Park (November 9, 2020)
- City Council Takes Bold Steps to Advance Racial Justice in Santa Monica (September 9, 2020)
A Black Agenda for Santa Monica
The devastating impact of the COVID-19 pandemic has had a disproportionate impact on Black and LatinX communities across the country. A centuries-long history of institutional racism, loss of Black lives, and disparities in access, opportunities, and resources has led to days of reckoning. The City of Santa Monica is not immune. It has an opportunity to address its own challenges and self-correct. Santa Monica’s Black community leaders have come together to create a Black Agenda to assist the City in owning its history and recognizing and addressing existing barriers by adopting an informed, proactive platform of forthright, sustained, and credible actions.
On June 9, 2020, the Santa Monica City Council unanimously approved agenda item 13B: “Request of Councilmembers Himmelrich, Jara, and Morena that staff support community leaders creating a Black Agenda to address systemic racism in Santa Monica and that staff take action to eradicate racism within the City government and to implement the Black Agenda.”
On September 8, 2020, City Council directed the following recommendations put forward by the Black Agenda for Santa Monica Steering Committe:
- Develop a mechanism to provide $100,000 in seed funding and $25,000 in Council discretionary funding to advance the formation of a nonprofit organization to promote the wellbeing of Black people who live, work, and visit the Santa Monica community and to build a more equitable and just Santa Monica.
- Collaborate with the Black Agenda for Santa Monica Steering Committee and its nonprofit successor to host community engagement events and opportunities to provide education across the Santa Monica community regarding the history of the Black community in Santa Monica, implicit bias, and ways community members can join together to advance anti-racism in Santa Monica.
“We hope this is the beginning of changes in our community that will be the basis for systemic change in our society,” said Barry Snell, a member of the Black Agenda for Santa Monica Steering Committee who presented to Council last night. “The nonprofit is in progress and we hope to have the entire community represented. That’s how we’ll create the change we need.”
You can support the new nonprofit in formation through the We Are Santa Monica Fund.
If you are interested in contributing to the Black Agenda, contact the Black Agenda Steering Committee, led by Dr. Karen Gunn, Robbie Jones and Barry Snell, at SantamonicaBlackAgenda@gmail.com. You can also contact the City’s liaison to the Black Agenda group, Delana G. Gbenekama, at Delana.email@example.com
Public Safety Reform
The City of Santa Monica has long been committed to fair, safe, and effective community policing. In recent months, millions of Americans have marched in the streets to condemn the killings by police officers of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Rayshard Brooks, and far too many others and to demand action to end systemic racism within law enforcement in our country. In response to the demands for reform, the City of Santa Monica is committed to reviewing its City policies to ensure that public safety in Santa Monica employs best practices that recognize the humanity and dignity of every person.
A 15-member Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee (PSRAC) appointed by the Interim City Manager convened a community listening session on July 30, 2020 and met weekly through early September 2020 to develop recommendations for public safety reform for consideration by the Interim City Manager. These recommendations are available online. You can view all of the PSRAC meetings through this YouTube playlist.
At its September 8, 2020 meeting, the Santa Monica City Council provided the following direction, the foundation for ongoing public safety reform work:
- Return with a draft ordinance to create and establish an eleven-member Police Commission to be appointed by the City Council with priority given to members of the PSRAC for appointment consideration.
- Review and revise Santa Monica Police Department (SMPD) use of force policies, taking into account the PSRAC recommendations, to explicitly affirm that all public safety officers must hold the highest regard for the sanctity of human life and the dignity and liberty of all persons and place minimal reliance on the use of force.
- Develop a regular SMPD training schedule based on review of the PSRAC report, and make information about this training program as well as officer wellbeing programs and policies available to the public on the SMPD website.
- Return with a proposal for alternate dispatch approaches to (a) direct the public to an easy-to-identify non-emergency line, (b) reduce the number of minor calls serviced by sworn officers and refer them instead to alternative response personnel, and (c) explore third-party partnerships to implement crisis intervention teams similar to those employed in the Eugene, Oregon CAHOOTS program.
- Double the number of SMPD officers assigned as Neighborhood Resource Officers from four to eight.
- Request additional resources from Los Angeles County Department of Mental Health to provide additional coverage for calls requiring mental health interventions.
- Take steps through the budget process, with advice from the Police Commission, to achieve a more balanced investment of City resources across all departments responsible for providing direct services to promote community wellbeing.
At its meeting on June 9, 2020, the City Council unanimously voted to sign onto the Obama Pledge to engage the public in review and reform of police use of force policies. “The Obama Pledge commits us to a clear process for real change,” said Mayor Kevin McKeown. “The four points of review, engage, report, and reform create a blueprint for our community to come together, making sure all voices are heard and all facts are considered, as we implement deep and long-lasting change to eliminate institutional racism. This is a task we cannot delay. Our work will be swift, it will be inclusive, and it will reflect Santa Monica’s long history of caring about all members of our community.”
About the Committee Members
The Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee is made up of individuals who are residents of or have a close working knowledge of Santa Monica. They are individuals who are committed to ensuring that the City follows best practices for creating a community in which all feel and are safe. Together, they brings relevant knowledge and expertise as residents, advocates for racial justice, business owners, law enforcement officers with a commitment to public safety reform, mental health providers, and social services providers.
Working together with City staff, the committee will first facilitate a community input process, including a community listening session on July 22,nd and review local, regional, and national proposals advocating for changes to policing and the ways that cities conceive of and allocate funds to achieve public safety. Following this information gathering process, the committee will make recommendations to the Interim City Manager regarding (1) reforms to Santa Monica Police Department use of force policies to ensure best practices for policies, training, and application of force are in place and followed, and (2) changes that should be made to the City’s budget, informed by calls for divest and invest strategies, to better achieve public safety and wellbeing for all in our community.
Committee for Racial Justice
President, NAACP Santa Monica / Venice Branch
Santa Monica Police Department
Santa Monica Police Department
Co-Author, Leadership Conference on Civil and Human Rights’ New Era of Public Safety Report
Licensed Clinical Social Worker
Former Library Board Member
Ocean Park Association President
Ralinda Harvey Smith
Case Manager, Youth Resource Center, St. Joseph’s
Vice President, NAACP Santa Monica / Venice Branch
Coalition for Police Reform
Committee for Racial Justice
Mental Health Counseling Coordinator, SMMUSD
Past Chair, Santa Monica Bayside District Corporation
If you have questions or comments, please contact PublicSafetyReform@smgov.net.
Belmar Art + History
Santa Monica Cultural Affairs has embarked on a collaborative project to commemorate the history of the African-American residents and business owners of the Belmar neighborhood, which was formerly situated in and around what is now the Civic Center campus. Artist April Banks and historian Alison Rose Jefferson convened community members in a series of workshops to explore Belmar’s history and what it means for Santa Monica moving forward. In June 2020, the Santa Monica Arts Commission approved “A Resurrection in Four Stanzas” an artwork to be installed as part of the Civic Center Multipurpose Sports Field commemorating the rich legacy and erased history of Belmar.
On August 26, the Santa Monica City Council approved the name "Historic Belmar Park" as Santa Monica's newest open space and the location of "A Resurrection in Four Stanzas".
Learn more at www.santamonica.gov/arts/belmar.
View a discussion of the history and artwork with Dr. Jefferson, April Banks and the Santa Monica Conservancy at youtu.be/tyRcrvGoKms.
We are creating opportunities for involvement. Check back here regularly for workshops, forums, and other opportunities to get involved.
If you have ideas for Santa Monica’s Black Agenda, contact the Black Agenda Steering Committee, led by Dr. Karen Gunn, Robbie Jones and Barry Snell, at SantamonicaBlackAgenda@gmail.com. You can also contact the City’s liaison to the Black Agenda group, Delana G. Gbenekama, at Delana.firstname.lastname@example.org.
If you have ideas for public safety reform, please contact PublicSafetyReform@smgov.net.
You can also stay involved in this work and other projects advancing equity citywide by signing up for our community newsletter at www.santamonica.gov/newsletter.
Consider donating to the We Are Santa Monica Fund. You can earmark your donation to the Black Agenda and future racial equity projects. At least 10% of any unrestricted donations thise fund will contribute to the development and implementation of the Black Agenda in Santa Monica.