RPA statment on policing justice
The Richmond Progressive Alliance stands in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement in imagining and creating a world free of anti-Blackness, where every Black person has the social, economic, and political power to thrive.
We support the demand to defund and divest from our police department. This divestment will allow reallocation of funds to invest in the Black community, who deserve to be a priority in Richmond. Reallocating funds would also allow Richmond to promote authentic public safety by preventing problems at their source, while the police would be structured for appropriate tasks.
Efforts to “reform” the police are not enough, especially against the backdrop of five decades of increasing mass incarceration and police militarization. Today, there is less confidence in the police in communities of color and among poor people than ever.
Even in Richmond, where there have been marked improvements in policing during the last 15 years, there are still many unaddressed problems. Too many people in Richmond fear the police rather than regard them as protectors. According to a recent poll, half the city’s population lacks confidence in the police.
The police handling of the Rashanda Franklin case, the murder of Pedie Perez or the abuse of Celeste Guap show that we do not have adequate control or review of police actions. There is also a culture of anti-Blackness which still exists within the police department. And, while we know that there may be police officers committed to Richmond who try to act fairly, they are part of a criminal justice system which is demonstrably racist, criminalizing Blacks while protecting whites; a system that incarcerates rather than rehabilitates, punishes rather than teaches, increases fear instead of protecting, and metes out violence instead of restorative justice.
Far too much of the city’s resources go to the police department, which cannot effectively address situations which are largely the result of a rapacious economic system and institutionalized racism. That 41% of the city general fund goes to the police and only about 7 % to community services like recreation, library, and health reflects the wrong priorities and a misguided approach to promoting public safety. Genuine public safety means preventing crises before they start, and ensuring adequate housing, education, employment, and health for all, especially Black communities.
For years the RPA has promoted shifting resources from the police budget to other city functions. We support the demand that we start now by taking 20% of the police budget and using it for better ways to respond to 911 calls, traffic control, blight, noise complaints, drug overdoses, mental health episodes, protests, public events, homelessness, etc. These functions can be more effectively handled by other unarmed, trained responders, leaving the police department to focus on violent crimes.
We need to work quickly in five areas:
- Begin now to make reparations and take other affirmative actions to rebuild the Black Community and allow Black people to be and feel safe in our society, particularly in relation to the police.
- Redefine public safety to be about providing adequate housing, recreation, education, and health.
- The police are called to perform many functions that are best accomplished without a gun. For example mental health crises, homelessness, loitering and traffic control should not be police jobs.
- Adopt restrictions to reduce the risk of escalation, bodily harm and use of force, including no rubber bullets, no guns at protests and other activities that do not require them; no military equipment
- Better and stronger community control and review of police activity
The Richmond Progressive Alliance supports the leadership of many Black-led organizations and community groups, including those in the Richmond Our Power Coalition, The Coalition for Reimagining Public Safety, Richmond Revolution and more. We commit to working with these groups and others to advance a process of full community involvement to re-envision public safety and the role of policing in Richmond.