Tom Butt Doesn’t Understand Public Safety
Mayor Butt’s obsession with Reimagine Public Safety Community Task Force member Tamisha Torres-Walker continues. Torres-Walker, who serves as a City Councilwoman in Antioch, recently made a call for the hiring of four more police officers in the district she represents.
In an Instagram Live video aired on Saturday, July 17, the Councilwoman explained:
"Right now people are saying, ‘We need help. I don’t want to keep paying these high rents and we can't even come outside of our house. Our kids can’t even play outside, we can't even go to the store.’ [...] And they know that more police is not the answer, but we have to think about the short term solutions while we dive into the long term solutions and people need relief right now."
The Mayor, in turn, gleefully posted the full transcript from this statement on his e-forum. The implication is that her stance is hypocritical: according to the Mayor, she is “listening to her constituents'' in Antioch while voting “to reduce the RPD budget by over $10 million, which would result in a reduction of up to 35 sworn officers.”
This different approach isn’t the “gotcha” that Butt thinks it is. If anything, his latest e-forum again indicates that he has made no effort to understand Richmond’s groundbreaking public safety proposals. The Mayor should focus on learning these proposals and listening to his community, as Councilmember Torres-Walker is doing in hers.
The number of police officers in Richmond has never been the primary issue. That’s why the progressive City Council majority moved to not reduce any police positions this year. The motion to prevent any police layoffs was approved on June 8, now over a month ago, during a City Council meeting the Mayor chose not to attend.
So, to continue to scaremonger constituents around a drastic reduction in police positions is disingenuous. It’s a handy talking point provided by the Richmond Police Officers Association that Tom Butt can’t seem to get enough of. And beyond this misrepresentation, the Mayor is once again showing his inability to understand the approved slate of public safety recommendations.
Richmond and Antioch are different cities with different public safety needs. Hiring four more police officers in Antioch does not contradict the work of Richmond's Task Force.
The Task Force has spent a year compiling data about policing in Richmond, interviewing experts and constituents, and studying cutting-edge safety programs successfully employed across the nation. A close study of Richmond’s 911 dispatch data, for instance, clearly showed that the majority of calls (61%) were non-urgent and would have been best addressed by community health and safety professionals. Conversely, only 10% of the incidents were urgent public safety issues in which the use of force might have been needed. Based on this data, the Task Force recommended the creation of the Community Crisis Response Program, a non-police mental health crisis team who would respond to such calls instead of police officers. This alternative approach would both lighten the RPD’s workload and is tailor-made for the needs of Richmond residents in distress.
The Task Force’s work provides a package of public safety recommendations that are specific to the needs of Richmond residents. The proposals and programs funded are based on Richmond's needs, not Antioch’s.
Mayor Butt needs to do his homework and learn about the Task Force's incredible work and proposals. The work of building a safer city requires a multi-pronged approach and the input from our diverse community. Try as he might, the Mayor cannot undermine the work and voices of the many in Richmond.