Councilman Richadrson: "Should We Defund the Police? Absolutely. Am I Advocating To Take Out The Police Completely? No." Acknowledges His "Reconciliation Framework" Agendized For June 9 Council Meeting Seeks To Reduce Police Funding And Shift Spending To Other Items
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|(June 8, 2020, 9:35 a.m.) -- Ninth district (NLB) Councilman Rex Richardson has acknowledged that his "Framework for Reconciliation" (agendized for the June 9 City Council meeting includes a provision intended to defund police spending.
In a June 7 webcast Richardson arranged and hosted to promote his upcoming agenda item, he said "Should we defund the police? Absolutely. Am I advocaing to take out the police completely? No" and indicated he supports shifting police budgeted sums to other Council spending items. Councilman Richardson said investing in libraries and public health shows a "thriving healthy city" while putting greater sums into police doesn't. .
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Unlike other area cities, the Long Beach erased budgeting for roughly 20% of the City's police level via Council votes (that included then-Counciman Robert Garcia and current incumbent Dee Andrews) during the "Great Recession." eliminating 208 previously budgeted officers over a five year period. 208 officer positions were eliminated; 22 have since been restored, leaving L.A. County's second largest city with a per capita police level significantly thinner than L.A. County's largest city (Los Angeles) and one of its smallest, Signal Hill. Among officers not restored to date is LBPD's former field anti-gang unit.
LB's police officers union didn't oppose the 20% reduction in police officers and hasn't called for restoring any number of erased officers for taxpayers. LBPOA's PAC was the largest financial contributor to the 2016 campaign for LB's 2016 Measure A General Fund ("blank check") sales tax increase (via a committee run by Mayor Robert Garcia) and has also contributed sums to re-elect nearly all Council incumbents and in many cases fund their "officeholder" accounts.
Following voter approval of the 2016 Measure A sales tax increase, the Council approved new contracts including pay raises for LBPOA members, tapping other General Fund sums effectively freed up by the infusion of Measure A General Fund revenue. (Measure A funds themselves were allocated mainly for infrastructure items and to maintain current police and firefighter positions.) .
School Board member Benitez took a position paralleling Richardson's budget/public safety stance, advocating reducing or eliminating LBPD presence on LB school campuses (via a current LBUSD-budgeted contract with LBPD.)
The June 9 agenda item calls for a potential November 2020 ballot measure but offers no description of its substance; Richardson continued to leave the ballot measure's substance vague, saying his "reconciliation framework" would offer opportunities to discuss what such a measure should contain.
The Richardson-Peace-Austin-Andrews item also calls for updating LB's "Citizen Police Complaint Commission," a body currently without power to discipline LB police officers which is left to the City Manager. Major changes in CPCC would require a LB ballot measure to change the CPCC portion of the City Charter. It's currently unclear if sufficient calendar days permit required notices for such changes for the November 2020 ballot (meaning any immediate changes would amount to tweaks to CPCC's current practices.)
The June 9 agenda item's other co-agendizers are Councilman Al Austin and Vice Mayor Dee Andrews, both of whom face November 2020 runoffs and are endorsed by the LB police officers union and Mayor Robert Garcia. Richardson has endorsed Tunua Thrash-Ntuk (spouse of Mr. Ntuk) in the Nov. 2020 runoff against Austin.
During his June 7 webcast, Councilman Richardson downplayed campaign contributions from LBPOA to his election ($400) and re-election ($400), sums (limited by LB ordinance) but acknowledged receiving about $3,000 in total since his initial 2014 election (unmentioned but apparently to his officeholder account). Richardson said he's not going to accept any contributions related to policing until city has gained comprhensive police reform said added that he's contributed $3,000 to a group (didn't give the name) supporting bail reform and $5,000 to a group (likewise no name) supporting criminal justice reform.
State Senator Gonzalez (endorsed for her 2018 Council re-election and her 2019 state Senate run by LBPOA) candidly acknowledged sums received and indicated she has or will donate $10,000 received and will no longer accept such police union contributions in the future. [In March 2020, Gonzalez was elected to a full four year state Senate term with no ballot opponent and is now in Sacramento office until 2024.]
Despite May 31-June 1 looting, vandalism and commercial burglaries (following a large peaceful downtown march) that ultimately impacted areas from downtown to uptown to ELB and SE LB, no Long Beach Council incumbents agendized discussion of actions by city management, LBPD or Mayor Robert Garcia ( or LB's thin police level), effectively allowing Richardson's "Reconciliation Framework" to frame discussion at the June 9 City Council meeting.
Councilwoman Suzie Price has agendized a June 23 meeting of the Council's Public Safety Committee she chairs (three of nine Councilmembers) for items including an LBPD/LBFD report on "lessons learned from recent protests throughout the city and subsequent vandalism/violence.
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