Norman Citizens for Racial Justice Announces “Invest in Community” Proposal, Asks City Leaders to Take Black Lives Matter Pledge
NEWS RELEASE - FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
June 14, 2020
Norman, OK - Members of Norman Citizens for Racial Justice met with Mayor Clark, Police Chief Foster, and City Manager Pyle on June 9th to discuss racial inequities in Norman, particularly with regard to the Norman Police Department. We made our demands clear. While we don’t agree on every issue, NC4RJ appreciates the willingness of city leaders to remain engaged in dialogue. We will continue to provide materials to help increase the literacy of city leaders on racial equity and racial justice. We are counting on them to do the work.
NC4RJ also appreciates the efforts of City of Norman employees, who are working to make local government more transparent and accessible to all residents. During the June 9th City Council meeting, many residents expressed frustration that they could not understand or follow the budget process. In response, Chief Communications Officer Annahlyse Meyer and Chief Financial Officer Anthony Francisco hosted a live stream on Youtube called “City Government 101: How the Budget Gets Made.” Valuable efforts such as this will help ensure that city government serves all residents, including those who cannot attend City Council meetings.
The wide racial disparities in confidence in local police forces within the U.S. are well documented. For example, a September 2016 report of the Pew Research Center noted that Black people are roughly half as likely as white people to have a positive view of their local police. Racial disparities in police violence are also well documented. To respond to these realities by suggesting programs focused on improving public perceptions of policing (“community policing” initiatives, youth outreach programs, etc.) or bureaucratic initiatives (listening sessions, advisory boards, etc.) is to support the idea that what needs changing is perceptions in marginalized communities, rather than police behavior.
A review of NPD’s use-of-force policies will be ineffective if the lack of transparency and accountability for NPD remains unchanged, as it has after the establishment of the Norman Citizens Advisory Board. More rules do not mean less violence if the police are still granted virtual immunity for wrongdoing. If proposed “reforms” do not make police accountable to the public for their actions, they will fail. As long as it is true that NPD officers can have functional immunity for all kinds of misconduct, including overt racism and even murder, the conversation cannot move forward. This means that our city leaders must have the courage to publicly acknowledge and oppose any obstacles to transparency and accountability, including the contract with the Fraternal Order of Police. We must not conflate labor rights, which are scarce and severely limited in a “right to work” state like Oklahoma, with granting immunity for misconduct to publicly paid employees. Labor rights are supposed to protect those without economic power, not embolden those who serve the powerful.
The demands NC4RJ announced last week were developed in alliance with the broader global Movement for Black Lives, which calls for a broader vision of public safety. We ask that city leaders, including Mayor Clark and the City Council, commit their full support to the Black Lives Matter movement by pledging to:
Vote no on all increases to police budgets
Vote yes on decreases to police spending and budgets
Vote yes on increases to spending on health care, education and community programs that keep us safe.
NC4RJ is currently collaborating with community leaders to develop an “Invest in Community” Proposal for the City of Norman that will make specific recommendations on how the city can correct inequities in the budget. According to budget documents, for the coming Fiscal year (July to July), the City of Norman plans to spend a total of $32.4 Million on the NPD, while we are only spending a total of $1.5 Million on all community development projects, which include things like services for the homeless and affordable housing. If next year’s budget remains unchanged, the amount we spend on policing will be twenty times the amount we spend on community development.
Particularly during a global pandemic that has caused unprecedented unemployment and economic precarity, it is essential that the City of Norman immediately make investments in underfunded areas that directly support public health, including but not limited to:
Mental Health Resources - This could include the creation of Mental Health Crisis Response Teams, which would include professionals who are licensed to provide mental health care in emergency situations and who can respond with unarmed support to 911 calls.
Child Care and After-school programs
Establishment of Racial Equity Initiatives
Emergency Funding to Prevent All Evictions in Norman during COVID-19
Domestic violence prevention and education, using Transformative Justice models
Increased Accessibility - neighborhood infrastructures and affordable housing to be ADA compliant
NC4RJ encourages the residents of Norman to contact their City Council representatives and Mayor Clark with additional ideas, and to express support for divesting from policing and investing in our community, in alliance with the Movement for Black Lives.
Norman Citizens for Racial Justice (NC4RJ) is a local advocacy and action-oriented collective of grassroots activists in the Norman area founded in October 2017.
1. This public pledge can be found at https://www.defendingblacklives.org/defund-police-sign-on/