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Real Real Systemic Change

Updated: Jan 20, 2022

On Tuesday, the Sacramento City Council unanimously voted yes on a public safety resolution. The first ever in the United States! We don’t talk about public safety as a definition anywhere in city code but in our budget it is continuously referred back to police and fire.

It was shocking to hear that our City (and most likely the County too) has dedicated more than thirty percent of the 2019-20 General Fund money to public safety without EVER defining what is public safety thus leaving it up to our City Manager and elected officials to gift our taxpayer dollars to police.

In the City of Sacramento’s proposed fiscal year 2018/19 budget, $47.3 million was allocated for Fire, Police, and Youth, Parks, & Community Enrichment (YPCE) departments as well as funding for the Sacramento Public Library Authority. More than fifty percent of that was allocated to Police ($23.9 million). And, why does our City lump parks in with youth?

As part of the All Children Thrive initiative that Public Health Advocates and UCLA are working on they developed a public safety resolution that redefines public safety as more than just police, fire, and emergency services and actually looks at youth preventive services. Part of the resolution acknowledges the harm that our institutions have caused our communities that create the conditions that make people unsafe. The resolution includes youth voices from across the Sacramento region and the ways in which they describe feeling unsafe.

The youth were instrumental in advocating for and meeting with every councilmember and the mayor. They took a lot of the definitions from the research that has been happening for decades around what safety is, around what is necessary and really thinking about what it looks like to make investments and what things are needed to be able to evaluate those investments and how the City can do this well This sets up a strong framework for considering its budget, its time investments, and the way it operates.

As Dr. Flojaune Cofer stated on VOICES: River City podcast,

“None of this happens because of one person or because of one organization. It’s usually when we come together collectively.”

So what happens next in order for the language in this resolution to become tangible and felt by our youth and our beautiful communities? Councilmember Angelique Ashby touched on this stating, “I’m not always a fan of resolution type statements because the real work happens after tonight. The hard part will be afterwards, turning it into action.” Councilmember Ashby went on to explain how impactful youth led coalitions can be and that the City Council has engaged in many discussions about this yet have failed to ensure the implementation of a citywide youth initiative. It is only a matter of committing funding for it.

Across the State of California, there are state funded charter schools such as the Oakland Military Institute founded by former Governor Jerry Brown and Public Safety Academy in Fairfield that is dedicated to providing academic program and career preparation to youth interested in law enforcement (ya, wtf). Our taxpayer dollars have been pumping the preschool to prison pipeline and that needs to be alarming to us all.

This resolution begins to redefine what is public safety and it is critical we get involved and engage in the process because it is our collective people power and lived experiences that can keep us safe!

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