Councilor Marianne Bullock has proposed a “City/Community Public Safety Task Force” with a long-term vision of creating a “community engagement process for defining a transformational vision for public safety that shifts resources from enforcement and punishment to prevention and wellness into subsequent budget cycles.” We like the sound of that–and the devil’s in the details.
Community task force vs. independent audit
The community task force proposal is in part a response to the Mayor’s proposed audit of GPD following the racial discrimination lawsuit against the city and Chief Haigh and the ensuing public outcry. The task force will be run by volunteers. The audit will be performed by hired professional consultants.
The audit can address policies and stated procedures of the Greenfield Police Department, but as Councilor Bullock’s proposal already states, any community task force should not focus on GPD. We already know that most of the calls directed to the police could be better handled in other ways. We know that the kind of safety many community members urgently need cannot be delivered by law enforcement. We know, per the American Public Health Association (here and here), that the best ways to reduce the racialized harms of the criminal legal system are to reduce people’s contact with police and invest in community support and prevention. That’s why we are calling for the task force to focus on addressing our community’s safety more broadly.
Councilor Bullock’s proposal is framed that way. But who’s going to steer this task force? The mayor? The police? The mayor holds final say over how this task force is structured. That makes us very concerned.
The task force must prioritize addressing the material needs of our neighbors, especially those most harmed by policing and by shortfalls in essential services.
In order for our group to support the City-Community Task Force, the following changes must be made:
- No police or public safety commission members on the task force (See all of our reasons here). Include police and other officials and professionals in the process through a non-voting advisory board to avoid conflicts of interest and reduce the currently excessive number of proposed seats on the task force.
- The mayor must agree to appoint the members that the city council recommends.
- Fund administrative assistance for the task force.
- Provide meaningful stipends; participants can opt out of a stipend if they choose but should be encouraged to take stipend if it’s helpful for their participation, with no explanation needed.
- The task force must be able to make recommendations on a rolling basis before 18 months, as they see fit.
- The scope of the task force’s work must include community needs assessments, as well as feasibility studies for the implementation of best-practice programs like housing first and non-police crisis response. Feasibility studies are necessary if the task force’s recommendations are to have a clear pathway to implementation.
Call or Email the Mayor and Council ASAP
The Mayor’s final proposal for a task force must include these provisions in order to take meaningful steps toward re-envisioning public safety in Greenfield. Please reach out to the mayor and city council to make these demands. Please email them ASAP, because the task force proposal is getting written right now. Then please join us to make these demands at the August council meeting, August 17.
Police have run local government for far too long. Let’s change that.