At the June 15, 2020 City Council meeting, City Manager Jim Schutz and Chief of Police Diana Bishop made comments about racial justice.
City Manager Jim Schutz
Thank you Mayor and Council.
As you know, this is the time on our agenda when I typically make some announcements and updates and call out special events that are coming up.
Lately, I’ve been devoting all my City Manager Report time to the Coronavirus and the City’s response, and I will provide a brief update on that.
But tonight, I would like to focus first and most importantly on the murder of George Floyd at the hands of Minneapolis Police which was a breaking point in this country.
George Floyd’s life mattered.
Breonna Taylor’s life mattered.
Ahmaud Arbery’s life mattered.
Black lives matter.
The list of names in headlines and flashed across our screens is too long and has to stop.
The City Council and staff of the City of San Rafael share the outrage of the world community over the cycle of violence and racial injustice playing out across the country at the hands of too many public servants whose job it is to ensure public safety.
What we have seen in Minneapolis and throughout the country does not represent the policing we do here in our community. We are committed to good policy in our police department, we have amazing human beings of all races who care deeply for the community, and we know there is still more work to do to guarantee that justice and non-violence prevails.
We recognize that words won’t wash away the hurt from so many years of police violence and systemic racism against the black community in the United States.
We are not immune in San Rafael and Marin to the plague of racial injustice or the unequal access to housing, employment, healthcare, education, and resources that has culminated in an unprecedented crisis in America’s cities and towns. These social and economic challenges disproportionally impact not only our black community, but all people of color.
We know our community is looking to City leadership to make right these injustices through concrete action and changes to how policing and government work for everyone in our community.
There is much we are doing well right now and there is more we can do. A few quick examples.
Body-worn cameras became standard equipment at the San Rafael Police Department six years ago.
Though unusual for a City our size, we hired a Mental Health Liaison in our Police Department and she does truly amazing and innovative work with our most vulnerable populations every day.
Also unusual for a city our size, we hired a Director of Homeless Planning and Outreach and he has played a key leadership role in facilitating a 28% reduction in chronic homelessness in San Rafael from 2017 to 2019, one of the few locations in the Bay Area where the rate of chronic homelessness is decreasing.
The City Council has also made getting affordable housing units built a top priority and has been approving projects that will house our lowest income residents. But even with these few examples, there is so much more to do.
- The Mayor has recently appointed a Task Force to review San Rafael Policing policies as they relate to the “8 Can’t Wait” guidelines, which is a project of “Campaign Zero” to reduce and provide alternatives to the use of force. This task force includes city staff and several community members who attended the June 4 Black Lives Matter protest in San Rafael and also high school students to provide recommendations to the City. We understand the 8cantwait is just one step and not an ending point.
- Mayor Phillips has signed President Obama’s “Mayor’s Pledge” for ‘mayors, city councils, and police oversight bodies to address police use of force policies.’
- We are continuing and enhancing equity training for all City employees, including our Police department.
- Vice-Mayor Colin had hosted a workshop last year for Marin County Elected Officials facilitated by Showing Up for Racial Justice (or SURJ Marin) and more of these workshops will be taking place countywide in the coming months
- We are developing a process for applying an equity lens to annual goal setting which we will be doing in a couple months, that is where we look at our service goals, and City Council decision-making process – so that this will be an on-going conversation.
Still, there will be more work to do and we are looking to the community to be part of the solution.
This is the beginning of the conversation. It is time for City leaders to listen and hear. We don’t pretend to be the experts or have all the answers. We must first listen to our community and synthesize the pain into actions that make a true difference.
The City of San Rafael City Council and staff are committed to finding solutions to address systemic racial injustice that pervade our society and community.
We invite every voice in our community to be a part of the conversation to ensure the public safety and economic opportunity of all San Rafael residents, regardless of color, and work to eliminate the barriers facing people of color in our community.
Now I would like our Police Chief Diana Bishop to say a few words.
Chief of Police Diana Bishop
Thank you, Jim.
I want to echo the words of our City Manager and City Council in condemning the violence that ended George Floyd’s life. I have spoken out against this atrocity and marched in solidarity with protesters earlier this month to decry the racial injustice that underlies the violence against black lives in the United States.
I know, that for some, law enforcement in our country doesn’t always live up to the motto “to protect and serve.”
I want to assure our community that the San Rafael Police Department is committed to being part of the solution and working with City leaders and our community to find better ways for us to serve; to help uplift, build trust, protect, and guarantee the health and safety of all people in San Rafael.
We acknowledge the efforts made by our Police Department to address the problems of racial and social inequity through training, de-escalation techniques, the use of body cameras, and our focus on community engagement. Although we are leaders in our profession, there is still work to be done by all Police Departments to deter the violence we have witnessed at the hands of Police officers nationwide.
We also recognize that the same injustice and prejudice seen through the unlawful use of force against black and brown Americans lies at the foundation of so many other challenges facing our communities, including equal access to housing, education, and employment.
In my 35 years in law enforcement, I have seen Police Departments become the default agency to respond to the social crises that have arisen throughout our communities as the safety nets of society are stripped away. The consequences of systemic racism, unequal access to education, poverty, mental illness, and homelessness all too often result in a call to 9-1-1 looking for a response.
We have become the call of last resort. People are unsure of whom to call, or, the help they need is not readily available to them. They call us when a person with mental illness is acting strangely in public, or when a drug user has almost overdosed.
We must reimagine ways to make us safe that don’t necessarily involve traditional law enforcement. If this means taking some of the above responsibilities away from us and placed with an organization whose primary training and existence is to deal with these issues, I am all for that.
But, there will always be the need for highly trained, ethical police officers. That is the makeup of the San Rafael Police Department. If after thoughtful dialogue and planning, some of what we do is directed towards others, I support that.
The world is watching as City leaders and Police Departments respond. People are waiting for actions, not words. I stand ready, along with my fellow officers, to work with our community to listen and make changes that guarantee the safety and security of human and civil rights for all people in San Rafael.