Dear Petaluma City Leaders,
I am writing you today out of great concern for our community and our future. I am [INSERT IDENTIFYING INFO--AS MUCH AS YOU FEEL COMFORTABLE WITH--INCLUDING THE AMOUNT OF TIME YOU’VE BEEN A RESIDENT OF PETALUMA, IF YOU’RE A LOCAL BUSINESS OWNER, ANY OTHER COMMUNITY TIES LIKE FAITH COMMUNITY OR OTHER COMMUNITY-BASED ORGS]
As Black people across the United States are dying at the hands of law enforcement, our communities are mourning the deaths of George Floyd, tortured to death by Minneapolis police, and Breonna Taylor, an EMT killed by officers while asleep in her bed in Louisville. Their names are added to a devastatingly long list of Black people who have been killed at the hands of law enforcement - it is time for us to make different decisions. I write to demand change in the operation of the criminal legal system, and that we take care of our community instead of criminalizing those amongst us who need help. I ask for a system where police are not the front line responders to every emergency or call for help.
In Petaluma, fulfilling these demands requires making dramatic changes in our city’s budget. Our budget should reflect our values. The current budget does not. I am writing to you today to demand that the Petaluma City Council invest in alternative responses to law enforcement that actually keep our community safe and healthy.
Increasingly, The United States has responded to every emergency or call for help with law enforcement. Meanwhile, our communities desperately lack meaningful access to healthcare, employment, and housing. Instead, we have the largest military budget in the world, and some of the most well-funded and militarized police departments. Policing and militarization overwhelmingly dominate the bulk of national and local budgets. In fact, police and military funding has increased every single year since 1973, and at the same time, while funding for public health has decreased every year. According to the Urban Institute, in 1977, state and local governments spent $42 billion on police and corrections . In 2017, they spent $115 billion , a 270 percent increase.
In Petaluma, funding for local police is proposed to make up 39 percent of the city budget . Housing and community services accounts for only 2 percent . That is a staggering and illuminating statistic. What does it say about our community? It says that rather than responding to the needs in our community with meaningful support and resources, we respond with law enforcement. This is unacceptable. Where could that money go? It could go towards building healthy communities, to housing development, to neighborhood infrastructure, to education, to childcare. The possibilities are endless.
Therefore, I demand the following: The creation of a local police commission and a city council subcommittee on alternatives to policing. Investment in local alternatives to policing. This should include investments in existing community based organizations as well as additional funding to support the creation of alternative responses to community needs and emergencies. Some examples of alternative responses include unarmed mediation and intervention teams, social worker teams and mental health experts, and restorative justice programs. I further request that an emergency meeting of the full City Council be immediately scheduled to address these concerns.
[YOUR NAME][YOUR ADDRESS]
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