Dear Kalamazoo City and County officials,
I am a constituent living in Kalamazoo County and I am writing to you regarding excessive force used by police at the protests against police brutality, as well as the Kalamazoo Department of Public Safety's place in our budgets. The police's behavior at the peaceful protests in early June were aggressive, unnecessary, and intentionally provocative. It's clear from all footage that the only people in danger were the protesters, surprised by police cruisers speeding towards them, the National Guard boxing them in, and tear gas -- a tactic not allowed in war but evidently perfectly fine for a medium size city's oversized police.
This kind of behavior is a long standing pattern with KDPS, a police force with multiple questionable in-custody deaths, excessive force accusations, a documented habit of pulling over Black drivers disproportionately, and enough unnecessary lethal equipment to outfit a small army. The time for hiding behind canned apologies, promises of diversity training and "community policing" is over. It's time to reduce police spending and reallocate those funds to programs that have real tangible benefits, especially to communities harmed by decades of over-policing and discrimination.
Kalamazoo Public School officials have been sounding the alarm that due to COVID-19 tax shortfalls, they could be facing unprecedented cuts to per-pupil funding. Yet KDPS is accepting applications for new officers despite already having more employees than any other city department.
Public health workers in Kalamazoo have had to sew their own face masks to serve consumers safely during the pandemic. Yet KDPS has a stockpile of face shields they are using for public intimidation, not protection. Kalamazoo Public Safety takes up 48% of the entire general fund budget for 2020. Other public services account for a paltry 8% and parks and recreation a depressing 4% of budget. That is outrageous and needs to change. Kalamazoo needs dollars for services that actually improve and lift up our community.
Dollars for education, for food assistance, for housing, for people. Not policing.
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