City council contemplates significant changes to Culver City Police Department budget

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In response to the widespread protests of police brutality in the wake of the George Floyd incident, Culver City’s city council held a meeting Monday to discuss how to move forward with the Culver City Police Department. One of the primary plans examined would cut approximately $7.5 million from the current police budget.

Currently, the police department’s budget accounts for 38% of the general fund expenditures in the city, which many police detractors argued was far too high within the city.

There were over 150 speakers and comments for the discussion, with some for the reallocation of funds, others against, and some suggesting the more drastic route of entirely defunding the police. As comments continued to pour in, Mayor Goran Eriksson was concerned with language in the agenda stating that ‘all comments would be read.’ Eventually, city council decided to deliberate at 10 p.m., and continued reading comments following a deliberation period. 

The mayor also signed a “My Brother’s Keeper’ pledge, based on an initiative started by former president Barrack Obama to address persistent opportunity gaps facing boys and young men of color and to ensure all youth can reach their full potential.

The pledge has four key components: a review of the city police’s use of force policies,  engage your community by including a diverse range of input, experiences, and stories in that review, report the findings to the community and receive feedback, and reform police policies based on results from the previous three components.

Councilmember Meghan Sahli-Wells called the signing of the pledge ‘a good first step,’ and Vice Mayor Alex Fisch had previously publicly advocated for the signing of the pledge.

“It’s very important to find a way to do this that shows the community how self-critical we are, and how seriously we take it. I expect nothing less from our police department.”

“The department understands the need to show the hard work that they are doing and the hard work that is going to come as a result of this movement.”

The motion to sign the pledge passed unanimously.

The conversation then moved to the police budget. Cpt. Manuel Cid — who was named police chief at CCPD following an illness to Chief Scott Bixby — spoke first to the council. He recognized the issues within policing as a whole, and expressed disgust at the George Floyd situation.

“Any lack of compassion or an abuse of authority doesn’t just tarnish our badge, it tears at the very fabric of law enforcement and community relations, particularly the trust and legitimacy that we work so hard to earn,” Cid professed.

He also acknowledged the history of CCPD, but said that “this police department is not the same police department it was 10 years ago, much less 40 years ago.”

Following Cpt. Cid’s speech was over two hours of comments were heard before deliberation began. People commented on a wide range of topics, and at the heart of it was the perception of Culver City Police. 

While many people believe that CCPD is exceptional among departments, others shared personal anecdotes, including councilmember Daniel Lee, who told a story about being pulled over early in the morning while trying to get an oil change.   

“When I asked the officer why I was pulled over, he said that my back taillight was out. Having two uncles who owned auto body shops in the south, everybody in my family know how to change lights,” Lee explained. “Coincidentally, I had changed all of the lights in my car the day before. I do believe that I was being pulled over because I was a young African American man driving early in the morning.”

While no official decision was made at this meeting, plans to reallocate the police budget, as well as putting together a Civilian Oversight Committee. These topics will be discussed at future meetings to be announced.