Just over a week ago, the Mountain View Coalition for Police Reform and Accountability (MVCPRA) was formed in response to a truth that the brutal murder of George Floyd and many others before (and even after) him have laid bare yet again: The institutions that were set up to dehumanize and keep power out of the hands of Black Americans cannot be the institutions that protect our communities and people. We joined MVCPRA because we have a firm belief in addressing public safety, health, and social issues with non-punitive and community-led restorative measures.
This year, $44.8 million of our tax dollars will fund the Mountain View Police Department. Although Mountain View police seem to be making a true effort to be "kinder and gentler" than average, it is not enough. At its root, police work is violence work. Over the past decades, governments have tasked police with addressing issues such as drugs, mental health crises, and homelessness. The shift of these issues onto police’s plates has criminalized poverty instead of preventing it. What if social workers, physicians, teachers, and psychologists -- people who don’t have a gun in their waistband -- were the ones responding?
Currently our police department pays Lexipol, a privately held company based in Texas, to write its policies. Lexipol’s policies are written to protect police from civil liability rather than aiming to protect the civil rights of the residents of Mountain View. MVCPRA is urging the Mountain View City Council to establish an independent, citizen-led commission to audit and rethink our policing policies and budget.
In a letter to the Mountain View Voice published on June 13, MVPD Chief Max Bosel claimed that in the last year “just 26 calls total resulted in use of force.” That’s good. But it begs at least two questions: 1) Is this statistic true? There is no independent auditing of police interactions. 2) Why does the Mountain View proposed budget for fiscal year 2020-21 include requests for funding 30 new patrol rifles? This is just one example from the $44.8 million being proposed to fund MVPD. Our money would be better spent on programs, people and tools to uplift our community.
Although this will not be an easy or comfortable process -- returning power to the people -- we are optimistic that the people of Mountain View can come up with non-punitive ways to address issues of poverty, mental health, homelessness, sexual violence, and drug abuse. We shouldn’t rely on the police to perform all these functions - it criminalizes vulnerability. Let us instead prevent crime by working with people to address their needs. Let us reimagine public safety.
Leslie Zeiger and her daughter Ana live in Mountain View.