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Proposed Budget Cuts Could Cost Richmond Police Department Almost 2 Dozen Officers

RICHMOND (KPIX) -- The defund the police movement has moved from theory to budget item in the city of Richmond, where the Reimagining Police Task Force has recommended taking $10.3 million from the police department's budget.

Chief Bisa French says if the department loses that much money, 12 vacant positions would be eliminated and 23 officers would have to be laid off. In addition, the department would have to cancel a ShotSpotter contract, eliminate Police Activity League funding and decimate the city's heralded community policing model.

French said she agrees with re-allocating dollars to mental health and social services, but the proposed budget cuts are too much, too soon.

"My hope is that we can focus on the vacant positions that we have so that we can fund some of the initial recommendations of the task force and we can look at the transitional model so that we can fund some of the other programs," French told KPIX.

Richmond Vice Mayor Demnlus Johnson III characterized the projected 23 layoffs as a worst case scenario and fear mongering. He also noted that transferring that money to new projects will help alleviate crime.

"We can't deal with poor people in an impoverished community by continuing to criminalize poor life and poor people activity. We have to find ways to get to the root causes of things that is causing them pain and that's pushing them into the underground economy," Johnson told KPIX.

Two shootings happened in Richmond Tuesday afternoon, tying up all nine officers on shift for hours according to Chief French.

Cat Brooks, founder of the Anti-Police Terror Project, says now is the time to make the change.

"What about the violent crime that you're actually not preventing and in most cases not solving. So the argument that we should keep giving you money to do something that is not working is ludicrous," Brooks told KPIX.

At Burq Park, KPIX asked parents what they'd like to see happen with the police budget and social services.

"If we lose officers, but still can increase services, that could possibly decrease the crime and homelessness and issues that we have. If it's a wash and it evens out, I don't see it being a problem," said mother of two Lisa Reed.

"We need that all over this country, and we especially need it here" said father of two Shawn Dunning. "But to take it from the police department is like defunding the fire department to pay for fire prevention education. I just doesn't make sense. We need both. It shouldn't be an either or false dichotomy."

Tuesday night at the Richmond City Council meeting, council members directed the city manager to come up with some budget options that wouldn't require the department to lay off 23 officers.

The city of Richmond spends about 18 percent of its budget on the police department. By way of comparison, Concord -- a similarly sized East Bay city -- spends 58% of its general fund on the police department.

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