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City Council Takes Bold Steps to Advance Racial Justice in Santa Monica

Council provides seed funding to community-based nonprofit, directs creation of a Police Commission, and approves Equity and Inclusion Officers throughout City government

September 9, 2020 9:55 AM

City Council Takes Bold Steps to Advance Racial Justice in Santa Monica

At its meeting last night, the Santa Monica 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. These actions follow three months of extensive community and staff engagement, and mark the initial steps in a community-wide effort to embrace calls for racial equity and to better live out our Council-adopted values of equity and inclusion for the long term.

“The City Council took bold action last night following extensive community engagement centered around amplifying the voices of People of Color in our community and putting in place long-term reforms for a more just and equitable future,” said Interim City Manager Lane Dilg. “This is the foundation from which we demonstrate that all Black Lives Matter with an open invitation to every member of the Santa Monica community to stay engaged or become a part of this effort.”

Action steps for community engagement and a community-based nonprofit were put forward by the community-led Black Agenda for Santa Monica Steering Committee, which surveyed Santa Monica’s Black community to develop their proposal.  Equity work inside the City organization followed a series of social justice workshops and the ongoing work of the City’s staff representatives of the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (GARE). A 15-member Public Safety Reform Advisory Committee (PSRAC), selected through an application process with recommendations made to the Interim City Manager, convened a community listening session on July 30 and met weekly to develop their recommendations, detailed in this report.

“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.”

Council provided the following direction to staff last night for each track of the ongoing racial justice work:

Advancing a Black Agenda for Santa Monica 

  • 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.

Equity and Inclusion Work within the City Organization 

  • Authorize the formation of a Racial Equity Committee within the City government and the appointment of an existing staff member in each City department to serve as an Equity and Inclusion Officer and member of this Committee.
  • Adopt the Racial Equity Statement developed by staff participants in the Government Alliance on Race and Equity (see below).

Public Safety Reform 

  • 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.   

Council took an additional action to affirmatively add to the record that they do not wish to move forward with exploring a police substation at Virginia Avenue Park as included in the PSRAC recommendations.

For updates, visit santamonica.gov/equity and to find out about ways to get involved, sign up for the City’s community newsletter at santamonica.gov/newsletter. Donations can be made to advance racial justice work in Santa Monica, including the new nonprofit through the We Are Santa Monica Fund.

Adopted Racial Equity Statement 

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.

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