Arcata and Eureka reports request to defund the police
City councils will be going over their budgets for the next fiscal year at their meetings this week and a major point of discussion should be the topic of defunding the police, which has been a major demand of protests sweeping across the country since the death of George Floyd.
Arcata and Eureka’s city managers said both cities have received requests to defund the police, while Fortuna’s City Manager Merritt Perry said no such requests were sent to the city of Fortuna. Eureka received more than 300 emails, mostly with the same form letter, “demanding that the City Council adopt a budget strategy that prioritizes community well-being and redirects funding away from the police in the next budget evaluation session.”
“We have seen mounting evidence that police departments are ineffective institutions that marginalize minority communities and put citizens at risk of injury and death, yet the police budget accounts for 46% of our general fund,” the letter states. “This is wholly unacceptable.”
The letters ask the city council to “redirect a significant portion of the police budget” toward things like affordable healthcare and housing and demilitarize the police.
Fortuna was set to vote on a budget Monday night, Eureka is set to receive a report on the budget and provide direction Tuesday night and Arcata is set to vote on a budget Wednesday night.
About 55% of the city of Fortuna’s general fund budget, which accounts for the bulk of the city’s discretionary spending, goes to the police department. Arcata’s proposed budget allocates 48% of its general fund budget to the police and the Eureka Police Department receives 47% of the city’s general fund budget.
Arcata City Manager Karen Diemer said the police department’s budget is likely to be slashed just like all other departments as a result of the recession caused by the COVID-19 pandemic.
“All departments are receiving pretty substantial budget reductions this year,” Diemer said.
Arcata’s proposed budget includes a 2% cut, or $104,351, to the police budget compared with the 2019-20 fiscal year budget while departments like Public Works and Planning and Development are respectively seeing cuts of 49%, or $714,493, and 33%, or $316,977.
Fortuna’s budget includes a small increase of $22,875 to the police department. Eureka has not yet released a proposed budget, but Tuesday’s Eureka City Council agenda includes an item to purchase six new Ford Explorer police cars for a cost of $261,491.70 to replace current cars that have suffered wear and tear.
Beyond the budget, Arcata has started doing the work of addressing racial inequalities in the city, but Diemer said “there’s much more work that needs to be done” and that the police department is just one system perpetuating racial inequities.
“In local government, at times we have historically looked at things as silos,” Diemer said. “And now we need to take a broader and deeper look (about) how we got here and really formulate our steps forward centered around the voice of our local communities of color.”
A graph shows local police budgets, which some city residents have been calling to have reallocated to other departments, as they relate to cities’ total general fund budgets, which makes up the bulk of cities’ discretionary funding for city services. Arcata and Fortuna’s figures are based on the cities’ proposed 2020-2021fiscal year budgets while Eureka’s figures are based on the city’s 2019-2020fiscal year budget.