The City Council meeting that began on Monday, Oct. 12, 2020, was so long, complex and challenging it was called back into session to finish on Oct. 13. While tremendous amounts of information were processed, at the end the council was only able to agree to revisit the issue at a later date. Disappointing, but not unexpected; the intransigence of the Culver City Police Department has been the topic of many previous council meetings. The community’s pleas to reconsider the budget for the police will be taken up at another meeting.
The notes on the reports released by city on Monday, Oct. 12, prior to the meeting, highlighted that two consulting companies had been hired to do research on the subject. The report presented by Jackie Gomez-Whitley of the Center for Public Safety Management (CPSM) was essentially an A-plus report card on the current status of the department.
Council member Lee pointed out that CPSM had not fulfilled the brief, that a statistical snapshot of what the department currently looked like was “not what was requested,” and framed the report as a “total waste of time.”
Both City Manager John Nachbar and Assistant City Manager Serena Wright-Black held that the report had value. Nachbar noted that it provided a “baseline” of information from which the department could be analyzed for shifts in structure and changes in budget. Wright-Black offered a much more narrow interpretation of the order given by council, saying that it was only to be in regard to ‘public safety’ and not to a budget reduction. Lee corrected her, noting that the “council voted to explore a 50 % budget reduction,” and on the second day of the meeting, after reviewing the tape of the meeting from which the initial request was made by the council. Lee offered again that the instructions were specific. Wright-Black acquiesced.
The second report, offered by Saul Serabia of Solidarity Consulting, took an entirely different direction on researching public safety, offering data on social justice and racial equity, and offering examples from other cities as options to consider in restructuring both the budget for the police and the department itself. Both Council members Meghan Sahli-Wells and Thomas Small were willing to engage with the information presented by Serabia, concerned that it did meet the council’s request for options on budget reduction.
With dozens of public comments heard both on Monday and Tuesday, it was clear that there was no one holding the middle ground. Some of those who spoke held that any restructuring of the police department would cause terrible damage to the community. Others held the police budget had to be addressed for two reasons; the enormous cost to the city of maintaining such a large number of extremely highly paid police officers, and the evidence of racial discrimination offered by both individuals and institutions.
While the council asked for both reports to included in the next stage of the process, it will fall to the next council to consider how the budget should be allocated.