In the last working session of the current Culver City Council, a lengthy meeting was expected, and the five-plus hours of discussion and policy making filled the bill. The meeting on November 9, 2020 was the last one to seat Mayor Goran Eriksson, Vice Mayor Alex Fisch, Council member Thomas Small, Council member Daniel Lee, and Council member Meghan Sahli-Wells on the dais. The incoming council will see new members Albert Vera and Yasmine Imani McMorrin, with the third seat going to either Eriksson or Freddy Puza, still in a race too close to call.
Cleaning up the year end business included bringing the Culver City Police Department’s jail in compliance with required standards.
The matter of staffing the jail, which has been out of compliance with the standards set by the California Board of Corrections, had been before the council multiple times in the past year, and had seen several proposed solutions rejected. The 30 bed facility can hold people for up to 96 hours, and is required to have one jailer supervising at all times. The jail typically accommodates about 120 people a month, usually no longer than overnight.
The proposal to hire three more jailers offered to bring the facility up to the minimum.
While this item has seen dozens of community members offer comments, only Mark Lipman was present to address the council. “This money needs to come out of the police budget. That budget eats into all the community services that are needed. We need to think about how we sit on the fence … and end up siding with the status quo. Police salaries take up the majority of the budget. This is not against the police, but this takes away from other things that are needed in the city.”
Departing council member Sahli-Wells noted that “This council has struggled with this for a couple of years, [and there have been] a host of different proposals. . . I understand the current concerns, but with the evolution and thought put into this, I am comfortable with this this evening. The broader question about public safety is important and is longer term, but I can’t ignore this immediate need. . . It is uncomfortable to pass anything in a lame duck session. But this is unfinished business. . . We need to follow professional standards.”
Council member Lee, who was open in his opposition to the motion, also agreed that it was long overdue to get the matter taken care of. “I’ve been honest with [Chief Cid] about my opposition to this. I will not be voting in favor of this, [but] I’m glad we are voting on this now. We’ve been out of compliance for years and put people who are jailed to some degree of not [being] safe.”
The cost of $282,042.00 per year for three new hires for jail staffing was approved by a vote of four to one, Lee voting against.