Public safety isn’t as simple as a slogan. Keeping all of our people safe is a complex layered system.
When you aren’t happy with a system or it doesn’t meet a standard set for it, just arbitrarily slashing its budget (“defunding”) is a mistake. When Carver Elementary was caught in a cheating scandal, we didn’t slash school funding did we?
As recently as 2005 Richmond was in the top 5 for most dangerous cities and in 1997 was the murder capital of the country. Richmond cannot afford to return to that. If we lose the progress we have made in the last 20 years it is the low-income communities that will suffer the most.
Let’s have a productive conversation on how to make our communities safer, not demonize all police to the point where we are talking about abolishing them. I do not believe in defunding the police. Like with any essential city service we should always be talking about how do we make it better. Any candidate expressing that we should just arbitrarily slash spending in any department without having intimate knowledge about it is just another typical politician, not a serious leader.
I will bring the following matrix to every city department. It is a simple formula that can be adapted to each department, including the police department.
- Accurate and timely data
- Rapid deployment
- Effective tactics
- Relentless follow up and assessment
We must focus on better policing not less police.
Here are some of my thoughts on policing. I will implement these approaches if upon my review of the department I find that they aren’t already being done. The budget then will be adjusted, if necessary, to meet this standard I will set.
- Social Services.
I firmly believe that an effective public safety system is driven by the idea that crime can be prevented, not just responded to.
I support increased resources and investments in mental health professionals and social work programs. We have cut funding to those areas and have the police responding to fill in the gaps. Let’s take some of the burden off of officers so they can do what they are best at and trained to handle.
One example is bringing back the Second Responders program that was cut. Second Responders are social workers assigned to police precincts that arrive at crime scenes to help victims especially young victims or those involved in domestic violence. It allows detectives and officers to focus more on solving the crime while the social workers offer on the spot counseling.
- True Community Policing.
Community policing has shown to be effective in preventing and solving crime.
When trying to solve any problem, the first step is to establish exactly what the problem is. You must know what and where they are. To do that with policing you must go out into the neighborhoods to find out. Listen to the people that live there. Ask what they think the biggest issues are. People on the ground probably have a different perception of the biggest issue because they have different priorities. Like the multiple moms I have talked to on Southside that have told me they have to sit in the car with their daughters waiting on the school bus because it isn’t safe. Nobody should have to live like that.
Building these relationships can break down the current ‘us vs. them’ mentality between the police and residents by showing them that we are all in this together. In the long run this helps police start to prevent crime and allows them to solve more crimes.
- Accountability and Training.
The police department will be a part of my extensive analyzation of every city government department. After the analyzation we will develop a plan of action for changes that need to be made and the standard that is to be met. It is then up to the Mayor to provide the oversight required to hold the accountable to that standard.
I believe the answer to better policing is not more elected officials, it is better elected officials.
With police it all starts with training. Police are always told what not to do but then aren’t taught how to effectively do their jobs. We say don’t use choke holds but then they are not taught alternatives to subdue. It is not enough just to tell them to not do the wrong thing but we must teach them how to do the right thing.
We know that Richmond’s police department had no training in riot control before being sent out to handle the recent unrest.
Training should emphasize the policy on deadly force. The highest priority of the police department is the protection of human life. I will make sure our officers are instructed to use every other reasonable alternative before resorting to firearms. The firearm is a defensive weapon, not a tool of apprehension.
Training will also include an emphasis on the fact that police must deal with crime in a lawful and respectful manner. If it is not an emergency police should explain each act before taking it. If they were wrong, they should apologize. The old police motto “to protect and serve” will be taken seriously.
Some specifics in the area of accountability include the reduction of VCU’s jurisdiction and an improved complaint process.
Last year VCU Police’s jurisdiction was expanded to essentially include all of downtown. I believe police patrolling the city should actually be accountable to the city leadership, not VCU.
Police have a very tough job and the vast majority are in it to serve and protect us all. Let’s help them instead of demonizing all officers for the actions of the few.
- Jobs and Opportunities Limit Crime.
Part of my strong emphasis on quality schools that provide opportunities for our people is that lifting people out of poverty can address issues with crime as well. Studies have shown that the average drug dealer makes between $6 and $15 an hour. Alternative paths can cut down on people turning to crime for income. The level of crime in a city is a reflection on the level of opportunities a city provides to its people.
Ultimately organizations are reflective of their leader. I am a hardworking optimist that wants to serve people. That is how our police department will be.