Open letter to the Santa Barbara City Council
CLUE joins the Santa Barbara Clergy Association, Families Act, and others in strongly supporting the City of Santa Barbara’s proposed police department budget, and opposing the amendment to add funds for more police officers to this budget.
In the proposed budget, significant additional staff will be on the streets next year: two officers moved from administrative tasks, a restorative police officer, three outreach staff, and six “hosts.” CLUE and others have long advocated for additional trained outreach staff on our streets. The cost and funding source for these extra “boots on the ground” is within budget and will not take funds away from other programs.
The restorative policing officer, three outreach workers, and six “hosts” already in the proposed budget are to be paid with RDA (Redevelopment Agency) funds. This cost would not need to be added to the city budget. We acknowledge the need for more staff to reach out to the needs of the vulnerable on our streets, extending the effective work of the current restorative policing program as well as the social service outreach staff. We strongly recommend that these outreach workers be under the restorative police officer. In addition, there needs to be measurable outcomes for these outreach workers, stated for the public to review, outcomes similar to those of the Casa Esperanza outreach workers, before this funding is approved.
In this proposed budget, the two officers moved from administrative duties to patrol would be replaced by non-sworn employees, costing $144,000. Since one police officer costs about $150,000, this allows for two more officers on the street for less than the cost of one. The Council could shift the cost of a proposed $200,000 allocation for playground update from the general fund to RDA to cover this cost. Enough money would be left over to fund the Rental Mediation Task Force, which CLUE is on record as supporting.
This makes a total of 12 more trained staff on our streets for the coming year. Therefore, we strongly support implementing this proposed budget and restructuring plan as the best solution to the additional “presence” requested for Milpas Street, State Street, and the Waterfront. We believe it makes needed increased human contact available on our streets, and appropriately addresses the “inappropriate behavior” that, while not illegal, is nonetheless viewed as a problem for some businesses and hotels and creates negative comments by some residents and tourists.
We oppose the amendment to add 10 more sworn officers, with guns and badges, to accomplish this presence when we have not tried the more humane, more proportional, and less costly solution outlined in the currently proposed budget and restructuring.
In addition, a funding source has not been identified to cover the $1.5 million needed for 10 more officers. We support retaining funds for other programs, eliminating them as a source of income for this purpose. We support protecting the reserve funds from use as one-time grants for this expense; this is an excessive amount of money and it is not reasonable to assume it will be available for the ongoing costs of these10 new officers’ salaries and benefits in the future.
If we have $1.5 million available, a more effective and efficient use would be to provide a room for 150 of the most vulnerable without homes, as identified in the Common Ground Survey, at the estimated cost of $10,000 each per year. According to survey results, almost 60 percent of those without homes have mental illness. The savings in jail costs and emergency room costs would recapture a portion of this expenditure. Not only is this a more caring and humane use of additional funds, this too would go a long way toward providing an appropriate solution to the reported “inappropriate behavior.”
Maureen Earls is writing on behalf of CLUE Santa Barbara