A long anticipated city council meeting on April 26, 2021 saw the approval of both hero pay and public safety reform. While the approval of ‘hero pay,’ a bonus for grocery and retail workers in regard to the pandemic, had been controversial on its introduction, it passed on a three to two vote without a great deal of discussion.
The bulk of the meeting was taken up by hours of comments and discussion on reimagining public safety. With 528 people registered to watch the meeting, there were dozens offering the allotted two minutes worth of commentary. Local political organizations, including the Culver City Democratic Club, had weighed in with their members to address the meeting, and many speakers offered their various affiliations as a part of their remarks. The seven-plus hours of public meeting seemed to contain almost every possible perspective on policing, public safety and the reform of community interaction with law enforcement. But the majority of speakers held that it was time to create substantive change.
The city had commissioned two different consulting firms to study and report on the Culver City Police Department, and both the reports from Solidarity Consulting and the Center for Public Safety Management were cited often in the discussion.
Police Chief Scott Bixby went on a medical leave of absence last summer and was replaced by the current Acting Chief Manny Cid, who has been performing all duties since. The CPSM report specifically cited that during periods of transition between administrative leadership “some organizational realignment” was both expected and beneficial. The recommendations from the Solidarity report were more focused on long term changes and structural shift.
One speaker, Culver City resident Abby Wood, made a simple statement to the heart of the controversy; “I know we aren’t abolishing the police tonight. But they certainly should not dominate our city’s budget to this degree. It is time to shift resources to social services.”
The motion that passed in the final hour of the meeting was to create a police staffing baseline that would be reviewed annually at the time of the city’s budget process, a response unit specific to metal health crises, and a public safety review committee that would eventually become a civilian oversight committee. In addition, ‘alternatives to incarceration,’ a focus that is already being fostered by Chief Cid, will be included going forward. There would also be quarterly updates on the public safety process, to keep the transition on track both for the administration and the public.
Mayor Alex Fisch, Vice Mayor Daniel Lee and Council member Yasmine Imani McMorrin all voted Aye.
Both Council members Goran Eriksson and Albert Vera, Jr. prefaced their “no” votes with specific remarks that it was “confusing.” Fisch countered by offering to “break out the motion” – to break it into separate motions – on the hope that there could be more agreement on at least one or two points. Vice Mayor Daniel Lee came back with an offer to vote on the original motion and see if that could move without negotiation.
Slightly after 2 am Mayor Fisch noted that “There will be another meeting, probably just as long as this one, before we get all of this finalized.”