1. Make a long-term commitment to dismantle the police.
Abolishing the police is not a radical ask. Other cities have already taken steps toward abolition. For example:
- Minneapolis City Council has vowed to disband the police, giving itself a one-year grace period to develop a strategy for the process.
- Los Angeles, a city bigger, more sprawling, and with more crime than Houston, is moving forward with commitments to cut $150 million from the LAPD.
- Seattle is moving forward with bans on tear gas, riot gear, rubber bullets, and other weapons.
- Milwaukee is cutting its police department budget by 10%.
- Austin’s Mayor and all ten City Council members have signed a No Cash From Cops pledge, agreeing to reject all campaign contributions from the police union.
Houston, meanwhile, just approved a raise for its police officers, an HPD budget of almost $1 billion and no cuts. The Public Safety & Homeland Security Committee needs to follow the lead of other cities across the country to commit to the steps outlined by the #8toAbolition platform and the guidelines released by Critical Resistance, including to defund, disarm, and demilitarize the police.
2. Invest in Communities.
Our Black and brown communities deserve better. The City has to commit to investing in communities; we need to dismantle the mindset that says the city can afford an increased police budget when housing, healthcare, and neighborhood programs are starved of cash.
- For each dollar that goes to HPD, 1 cent goes to Youth and Family Services, 5 cents go to Libraries, 10 cents go to the Health Department, and 1 cent goes to Neighborhoods and Planning & Development.
- Mayor Turner rejected proposals from council members that would guarantee funds for social programs in the City budget on the grounds that “the City can find the money elsewhere.” So show us the money. Let’s see multi-million dollar programs for housing, health, and jobs in Black communities first.
- The City needs to take radical steps to end homelessness, acknowledge the climate crisis, protect at-risk neighborhoods from chemical disasters, and invest in public transit.
3. Defund the Police Now.
Mayor Turner’s budget is fiscally negligent. Community Impact reports that the Mayor’s budget severely underestimates the shortfalls coming from the pandemic.
- We asked the Mayor to #DefundHPD when it mattered; we cannot afford to give police officers raises when huge portions of our community are jobless, facing eviction, and trying to survive a pandemic without healthcare.
- The City Controller estimates our budget at $108 million lower for the FY 2020-2021 than the Mayor’s budget predicts, which means a fiscal crisis is coming and neighborhoods will suffer.
- Economic crisis affects Black and brown workers first. BIPOC (Black, Indigenous, People of Color) are more likely to be essential workers, to live in neighborhoods with low access to healthcare, and to struggle with food insecurity. Another economic crisis will only make the criminalization of poverty in Houston more severe.
- Mayor Turner has received recommendations from experts in the past to defund police by 75% over 10 years. We’re demanding that he cut the police department’s budget by 25% percent per year and reinvest into communities until the police are obsolete.
4. Hold Leaders Accountable.
Publish police department audits, return campaign donations, and demand that Art Acevedo step down.
- City Council members should return any and all campaign donations received from the Police Officers’ Union PAC.
- The City Council must publicly release unredacted budgets for the coming year and the last five years for public analysis.
- The police department must release all internal audits and videos from the six officer-involved shootings in the last two months.
- Art Acevedo must step down.
- Art Acevedo ran on a progressive platform in support of policies like bail reform, but has stopped actions that would actually reform bail every time it crossed his desk.
- Art Acevedo spoke with protesters in videos that went viral, and was commended for his peaceful tactics, while his officers tear gassed, kettled, beat, and arrested protesters that same day.
- There have been no answers about the five men of color who were killed in officer-involved shootings whose cases are supposedly under investigation, but let’s be clear that even guilty men do not deserve to be killed by police. These are negligent, community-threatening actions by officers regardless of the circumstances.
- Art Acevedo appearing before congress was a slap in the face to Houstonians who had been protesting, calling in, writing in and requesting that the City take defunding demands seriously. He is no longer fit to represent the community in elected office.
- Despite the overwhelming surge of COVID-19 cases threatening the lives of detainees in Harris County jails, Art Acevedo has repeatedly stated his opposition to compassionate release, belittling the severity of the threat. People are dying in our jails and streets; we need to care for each other, and we can’t let someone as callous as Art Acevedo represent us.