Defund the police? Inside cities’ responses

A police offer watches the crowd from behind a gas mask during a demonstration May 29, 2020 Downtown Oakland. Thousands took to the streets Friday night in solidarity with protesters in Minneapolis against the killing of George Floyd by Minneapolis police earlier this week. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Newsom, cities weigh in

As Californians continue to protest police brutality against the black community, cities are grappling with how to best reform their police departments amid some residents’ demands they be defunded entirely.

Gov. Newsom speaks to reporters at Miss Ollie’s restaurant in Oakland on June 9. (AP Photo/Jeff Chiu, Pool)

Gov. Gavin Newsom took a stance on the issue Tuesday after a day of meeting with black community leaders and business owners in Oakland.

  • Newsom: “If you’re calling for eliminating the police, no. If you’re talking about reimagining … the responsibility that we placed on law enforcement to be social workers and mental health workers and involved in disputes where a badge and a gun are unnecessary, I think absolutely this is an opportunity to look anew at all of the above.”

Here’s a closer look at how some of California’s largest cities have responded.

In Los Angeles, Mayor Eric Garcetti pledged to redirect $250 million in city funds — including up to $150 million from the police department — to youth jobs, health initiatives and “peace centers.” San Francisco Mayor London Breed also plans to redirect police funding to support the black community, which the city’s police chief said he’s “open” to.

Meanwhile, the San Diego City Council on Monday approved Mayor Kevin Faulconer’s proposal to increase the city’s police budget by $27 million, despite more than 4,400 residents demanding the funding be used for rent relief, mental health services and supporting communities of color. (The council also agreed to create a new Office on Race and Equity.)

In San Jose, Mayor Sam Liccardo said he doesn’t plan to reduce the city’s police budget, arguing that cuts would put poorer communities at risk.

  • Liccardo: “The unfortunate reality of the economic apartheid that has persisted for too long in this country is that communities of color are victimized with higher crime than other Americans. We have to be very conscious of what we’re doing in the name of reform.”

Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg also rejected the idea of defunding or disbanding the police but suggested triaging 911 calls so officers aren’t involved in situations that don’t require law enforcement.


The coronavirus bottom line: As of 9 p.m. Tuesday night, California had 131,319 confirmed coronavirus cases and 4,528 deaths from the virus, according to a CalMatters tracker.

Also: CalMatters regularly updates this pandemic timeline tracking the state’s daily actions. And we’re tracking the state’s coronavirus hospitalizations by county.

Other stories you should know

1. Lawmakers call for action to combat racism

Assemblyman Mike Gipson bows his head as he and other members of the California Legislature kneel for 8 minutes and 46 second to honor George Floyd at the Capitol on June 9, 2020. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo/Pool
Assemblyman Mike Gipson bows his head as he and other members of the California Legislature honor George Floyd at the Capitol on June 9. Photo by Rich Pedroncelli, AP Photo/Pool

Lawmakers called Tuesday for legislative action to combat racism during a tribute to George Floyd. During the event, 75 elected officials knelt outside the Capitol for eight minutes and 46 seconds, the length of time that a Minneapolis police officer pressed his knee into Floyd’s neck.

Several called on their fellow legislators to support the Black Caucus’ agenda, including a bill to reintroduce affirmative action in state colleges, universities and agencies and a bill to establish a reparations committee.

  • Assemblywoman Lorena Gonzalez, a San Diego Democrat and chair of the Latino Legislative Caucus: “But a moment when you can actually change the world for black and brown … folks in your own district — you have that power next week when you see Dr. Weber’s bills, when you see Sydney Kamlager’s bills, when you see Kevin McCarty’s bills … And shame on us if we don’t take it.”
  • State Sen. Steven Bradford, a Gardena Democrat and vice-chair of the Legislative Black Caucus: “The governor often states that California is the next coming attraction. Well, colleagues, we have opportunity today to star and play a leading role … by passing the Legislative Black Caucus’s agenda.”

2. Collapsed deals, untested vendors: Inside CA’s pandemic prep

Flying money and masks
Illustration by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters; elements via iStock

California has entered into nearly $3 billion worth of no-bid contracts for masks, ventilators and other supplies amid the coronavirus pandemic — inking multiple deals with questionable vendors along the way, CalMatters’ Byrhonda Lyons and Laurel Rosenhall report. Though Newsom has stressed that the state hasn’t lost money on these collapsed or delayed deals, they’ve raised serious questions about the state’s emergency bidding process.

Some of the deals include:

  • A failed $550 million deal for N95 masks with Syrup Ventures, whose co-owner was fined in 2006 for making false statements in financial reports.
  • A failed $456.9 million deal for face masks with 3-day-old company Blue Flame.
  • A $139 million deal for ventilators with Ashli Healthcare Inc., raided by the FBI in 2013 over suspicions of Medicare fraud.
  • A stalled $10.6 million deal for N95 masks with 4-day-old company MedSupply America. Due to a shortage, the company is now trying to sell the state a substitute mask.

3. Courts decide whether to resume eviction cases

Resident Martha Kapla, right, holds a sign during a rally in front of Brookdale San Pablo assisted living in San Pablo, Calif., on Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2019.
Resident Martha Kapla, right, during a rally at an assisted-living home in San Pablo in December. Photo by Jane Tyska, Bay Area News Group

Today the Judicial Council, the policymaking body for California’s court system, will decide whether to lift by early August a moratorium on processing eviction cases. That’s unwelcome news to tenant groups, who cheered the council’s decision in early April to stop hearing eviction cases until 90 days after California’s state of emergency is declared over.

The prospect of eviction courts returning sooner than expected comes as Assemblyman David Chiu, a San Francisco Democrat, announces new legislation that would prohibit landlords from evicting renters for not paying rent during the state of emergency or for 90 days afterward. Though landlords could still pursue missed rent payments in civil court, they wouldn’t be able to force tenants to leave.

A recent study found that up to 120,000 households in Los Angeles County alone could face eviction due to financial fallout from COVID-19.

4. Can Newsom convert 6,000 motel rooms into homeless housing in 6 months?

Salvador Bradford in his studio at Hotel Berry. Bradford has been living in the one-room unit for 8 months and spends most of his time watching movies and keeping his room tidy. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters
Salvador Bradford in his studio at Hotel Berry, transformed into 104 supportive housing units for the formerly homeless. Photo by Anne Wernikoff for CalMatters

Newsom wants to spend $600 million in federal emergency funds to convert motel rooms into supportive housing for the homeless — but he has only six months to do so before the money dries up, and the process normally takes years, CalMatters’ Matt Levin reports. Newsom’s proposal, which is currently under negotiation with the Legislature, expedites the process by limiting local governments’ power to squash projects they don’t approve of — though they would likely be on the hook for the motels’ operating costs and finding service providers and staff.

If the state were able to procure 6,000 rooms with the money — an optimistic estimate — that would account for 5.5% of California’s homeless population.

The state has already leased more than 15,700 motel rooms — roughly 9,600 of which are occupied — through Project Roomkey, an effort to temporarily house homeless Californians amid the pandemic.

Other things worth your time

Nearly 80% of the 885 people killed by police in Los Angeles County since 2000 were black or Latino. // Los Angeles Times

California gunmen, self-proclaimed militia members patrol rural protests. // Sacramento Bee

Orange County public health officer resigns amid controversy over face covering order, threats. // Orange County Register

How Bay Area’s dropping rents will reshape the housing market. // San Francisco Chronicle

SoCalGas ramps up use of Aliso Canyon, site of worst gas leak in U.S. history. // Los Angeles Times

Podcast: Sacramento lobbyist Paula Treat on lobbying during a pandemic and having Elon Musk as a client. // Capitol Weekly


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