Stephen Tyler Holman
Mayor Breea Clark
Mayor Breea Clark
April 18, 2021
To Our Elected Officials,
As you know, last year, on June 6, 2020, Norman Collective for Racial Justice announced 5 demands in solidarity with the international uprisings against the violence of policing:
Transparency and Accountability
Justice for Marconia Kessee and all victims of NPD
End the SRO program in NPS
These demands were drafted to support the platform of the national Movement for Black Lives.
Hundreds of people from our community came to occupy City Hall on June 9th and again on June 16th, and many hours of testimony about the impact of police violence were given. Last year, you were moved by the strength of the community demands and personal stories to remove $865,000 from NPD’s budget and reallocate the money to community services. We hope that you will uphold this promise to invest in community.
We know the backlash from the police and their political supporters was both immediate and intense, and that these funds have been tied up in litigation until now. However, we remain unwavering in our demands that our municipal government must divest from the violence of policing and invest in the things that actually create safety for all residents including mental health crisis response teams, affordable housing and eviction relief, public transportation, transformative justice for domestic and sexual violence, and fully funded racial equity initiatives.
There is consensus even among law enforcement agents that many of the emergency calls being responded to by police could be better handled by other professionals. In a July 2020 interview, Robert Wasoski, president of Norman’s FOP lodge said he agrees that other professionals should handle some emergency calls, stating: “There are certainly types of calls that we respond to on a daily basis that don’t need an enforcement action … we would gladly hand over that type of responsibility.”
NC4RJ maintains that the mandate of NPD has been too broad, and this has been harmful to our community and draining on our city’s budget. The police do not have the tools to address every social problem, and it is not fiscally or morally responsible to ask them to intervene in problems they are not equipped to solve. A better investment would be to call on the right professionals to intervene, and to change the cultural beliefs and social conditions that create violence.
Other communities who have invested in alternatives to policing such as Mental Health Crisis Response Teams have seen significant cost savings from their investments in these programs. For example, the CAHOOTS (Crisis Assistance Helping Out On The Streets) program in Eugene, Oregon costs around $2.1 million a year and is estimated to save $15 million a year through ER diversion and jail diversion cost savings. Considering the amount of resources that even one arrest can take away from a family, the savings to vulnerable Norman residents will be significant as well.
The many hours of testimony given at the June 9th and June 16th meetings last year are evidence that many people in our community who have not been included in budget conversations in the past want to have a say in how our city money is spent. While we understand that the new rules on public comments are intended to limit the strain on city staff and to prevent the meeting from running late into the night, it also must be acknowledged that these new rules create a significant barrier to access for many in our community. For this year, we ask you to include participatory budgeting sessions throughout the budget process, so that community members may engage in more meaningful dialogue with elected officials and with each other about what kind of services the municipal budget should prioritize. You can read more about participatory budgeting here: https://www.participatorybudgeting.org
We hope to continue this dialogue with you throughout the budget season this year.
Norman Collective for Racial Justice