Tracy’s city leaders have been to the marches and declared that Black lives matter. On Tuesday, the City Council discussed the next step in creating justice in a diverse community.
The Tracy Equity and Empowerment Initiative, drafted by council members Dan Arriola and Rhodesia Ransom, could change the way the city’s police operate and give citizens more avenues to hold city leaders accountable should incidents arise where police are accused of misconduct.
The council discussed and reviewed a draft 12-page document that spells out the actions the city plans to take next. It highlights some of the initiatives that have already taken hold across the country, such as the #8CantWait campaign, which Tracy Police Department Chief Sekou Millington addressed last month.
The two council members drafted the initiative after their attendance at a series of local Black Lives Matter protests. Those demonstrations followed the May 25 death of George Floyd as he was detained by Minneapolis police who had responded to a report that he had passed a counterfeit bill at a neighborhood market.
Tracy’s proposed initiative calls for a review of the city’s budget priorities so that police response isn’t the only tool the city has to respond to public safety issues.
“This is something that we’ve heard from many officers, is that there are particular types of responsibilities that our officers have that where perhaps they don’t have the best training for or it’s maybe not their highest duty related to public safety,” Arriola said.
He noted that as a deputy district attorney for San Joaquin County, he sees how police are often called when some other type of intervention would be more appropriate.
“Those are things like using officers for homelessness, for domestic calls,” he said. “What we’re seeing is that there are other opportunities for us to supplement some of these services. For example, through the district attorney’s office, we’ve been leading efforts for cross adoption of policies with things like social workers going out and talking to homeless individuals, with trauma-informed responders going out to domestic incidents, with bringing out victim witness advocates whenever there’s a call for violence.
“What we need to do is really consider holistically, what are we going to do bringing this forward and how could we have the best responses?”
The other part of the initiative is a social equity policy, aspects of which would include a provision that all city policies and programs be evaluated in terms of accessibility and fairness to all, regardless of ethnicity, gender identity, sexual orientation, religion, disability or income.
To that end, the city would create a government accountability commission, a standing body that could listen to citizen complaints and identify systemic injustices, looking at and evaluating historical policies to see if discrimination exists.
“This is really about making sure that we have a just community, an equitable community. That accountability commission would be an opportunity to not just hold staff accountable, but also our council accountable, all of us accountable to this.”
Ransom said that the series of protests in the past month and a half highlighted the community’s insistence and sense of urgency that the city take these measures now.
“There were five (protests) that I attended in Tracy with the young adults that were out protesting,” Ransom said. “We asked them, ‘What are your demands?’ and really what they were asking for was not unreasonable. They were asking that they live in a community that values them based on who they are, the content of their character. As a city, that’s something we should definitely be able to deliver on.”
Ransom said that, among the desired outcomes, the city should promote policies affirming that city leaders trust the city’s police officers.
“There are some references in this document, the larger document, that point to some evidence regarding the types of training that basically give the officers the confidence in knowing that these different policies that they adopt are actually a way to protect them while they’re doing their job, but also help them gain trust with the community,” she said.
She added later that efforts to rethink the role of police in the larger context of public safety and social equity should not be oversimplified, as happens in calls to “defund” police departments.
“We’ve even had conversations with the young people, and Councilman Arriola and I said that you really need to be careful when you’re using those terms, because those terms are triggers for people and they don’t hear anything you say once you say something like that,” Ransom said.
Tracy City Council members Dan Arriola and Rhodesia Ransom drafted a Tracy Equity & Empowerment Initiative that was discussed at the July 7 co…
“There is no proposal, nothing here about defunding the police. We’ve said to look at the city-wide budget,” she added. “We also made that clear when we had our conversation with the police association representatives. We think it’s important to make sure people do not hijack this conversation and make it a divisive conversation, one that says you cannot support police and stand up against racism.”
The rest of the council supported the initiative and asked what the next step would be. City Manager Jenny Haruyama told the council that it would have full agendas for the next several months, so to prioritize this would cause something else to get dropped from the council agenda.
Haruyama said that a public safety policy could be ready for the council’s review within the next month or so, but a social equity policy, including an outline for a government accountability commission, would take a couple of months or longer.
The conversation follows a June 30 forum, hosted by the city, where a group of community leaders talked about racism. Council members gave mostly positive reviews of the forum when they discussed it as part of a previous agenda item on Tuesday and said they hoped that future panels would include local elected officials.
As a follow-up to that forum, the council unanimously passed a resolution “in support of racial justice and declaring Black Lives Matter.”
The resolution acknowledges the demands of residents and protesters, and seeks to prevent violent encounters with police while also strengthening relations between police and people of color. It also acknowledges the disadvantages racism creates for people of color in terms of homelessness, education, health and economic hardship.