New Santa Rosa Budget Bumps Up Police Spending, Community Forums Set to Begin

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Even as a series of promised community forums over policing and police violence are set to begin next week, the Santa Rosa City Council approved a $437 million budget Wednesday that bumps up police funding by $1.6 million.

Still, the increased funding is the least possible under a controversial 2016 voter-approved ballot initiative, Measure O, that requires funding for police to remain at least a third of the city’s expenditures.

In the hours of virtual budget hearings conducted on Tuesday and Wednesday, council members heard from hundreds of citizens demanding that police funding be cut or re-distributed.  This comes in the wake of more than 10 days of continual marches and rallies in Santa Rosa and nationwide following the death of George Floyd on May 25th in Minneapolis.

The demonstrations here and elsewhere sparked a nationwide call for local departments to address issues of police violence, use of force, and systemic racism.

Here in Santa Rosa Mayor Tom Schwedhelm, himself the former chief of police and the current chief Ray Navarro have pledged to involve a diverse segment of the community in a wide-ranging discussion of police reforms.  They both have also pledged to embrace the nationwide reform proposals called “8 Can’t Wait” which outline 8 steps police departments can immediately make to address police brutality and improper use of force.

In the past few weeks advocates for defunding police gathered and submitted to the city a petition signed by 17 thousand county residents. The first formal gathering to address changes to police policies and their impact on people of color will take place at 4PM on Tuesday, when the public can begin to weigh in on what changes should be make.  That session will be immediately followed by a council discussion of the so called “community empowerment plan”, a response by the city to demands for changes in local police funding and policies.  Information on upcoming meetings, and how to participate virtually can be found here. Police Reform – Community Empowerment Plan Info

Then, on Wednesday of next week the first meeting of the city of Santa Rosa’s newly formed subcommittee on police department reform will convene.  That session will include a report on police response to the George Floyd protests, the progress of 8 Can’t Wait reforms, and discussion of the independent auditor position charged with reviewing complaints against local law enforcement.

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