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Monica Montgomery Responds To Criticism Over SDPD Funding

 June 16, 2020 at 10:11 AM PDT

Speaker 1: 00:00 Despite hours of demands from San Diego wins the San Diego city council last week, not only declined to defend police, but also increase the department's budget by $27 million. Since that vote, a consensus is emerging that the oddly branded quote defund police movement is a large, long discussion requiring not only time, but also thoughtfulness and care beyond the scope of a budget deadline. Joining me to discuss her vote. And this contentious issue is Monica Montgomery. She represents district four on the San Diego city council. Welcome to midday edition. Speaker 2: 00:33 Thank you for having me. Speaker 1: 00:34 So what were some of the factors that played into your decision to vote in favor of the city's budget, which increased police funding? Despite as I mentioned, long hours of testimony to reduce the funding? Speaker 2: 00:46 Yes. Well, it was a very tough decision, but as you are probably aware when the mayor brings us a budget in order to significantly change that we do need a consensus from the council that requires six votes. And so, uh, you know, we have to keep that in mind. This is a, a major change. I think that, uh, rightfully so, uh, protesters across the nation are pushing us to change our systems, to make them better serve the people. And I am in 100% agreement of that. Um, it's going to, uh, it's a marathon and not a sprint. So I have been dedicated to this type of police reform for a while and will continue to be, um, through my time on the council. Speaker 1: 01:38 Now, in general, do you support the defund, the police movement and what does that mean to you? Speaker 2: 01:43 I do support diverting funds from police departments, uh, budgets to more adequately serve, uh, community members. And what I mean by that is I do believe that there is a core public safety function. I do believe that, um, but I also believe that there may be others that are well equipped to handle some situations that we deal with out in our communities, such as, uh, mental health, uh, situations, uh, our unsheltered population and getting resources, building trust with the population. Um, there are quite a few different things that other folks with other professions may be able to be utilized as opposed to police officers. And so I do agree that we need to change, uh, the, the system. Um, you, you may find some officers may agree with me that we have a lot of societal issues and we end up putting all of them on officers. And I just believe that our funding should reflect, uh, diverting, uh, some of the resources, uh, to other, uh, other things other so that we're not so dependent on police officers to deal with these issues that at the, at their core function, um, they, uh, trained or, uh, don't don't have that as their core function to deal with. Speaker 1: 03:12 And can you give us an example of that? Speaker 2: 03:14 Sure. There are programs across the nation. One that comes to mind is a cahoots program in Oregon that actually deploys either social workers and or folks who are in the profession of mental health, out to certain calls that, um, that are mental health specific. And so they don't use, uh, armed officers as a first resort. I would love to see us try something like that in San Diego. I, I do believe which is one of the complicated parts of this. Uh, we, as a city, don't provide those services, mental health services, the County does. So that's part of, you know, the collaboration, the work that we have to do around this subject is that I think that that is an, is an awesome program that we should try here in San Diego that we would probably be successful in. Um, but it is, it does go on across the nation. Speaker 1: 04:12 And as you said, police reform and accountability has been a major priority for you, but where does cutting police funding or rearranging police funds to other areas specifically fall on your list of priorities? Speaker 2: 04:25 And so, um, it is a priority of mine. I also, um, made a statement, uh, the day, the night of, or the morning of the budget vote saying that I was dedicated to looking at ways to divert resources. And I also have submitted a memo to our independent budget analyst to, uh, look at the police department budget in a more line by line approach. Um, it, hasn't definitely, hasn't been done since I've been on council so that we can understand better, more. We understand the better decisions that we make. Um, it is a top priority. It is a cry from our community, uh, from the protesters that are here in San Diego, throughout the County and across the nation that we have to look at this in a different way, and we can't keep blindly, uh, funding our police departments. I definitely understand that. I think part of the, um, additional funding came, most of that really came from a contract that had been signed before I got there as well. Um, it's, it's okay. Um, we had an obligation to that, but we do need to look at it in a different way, and I'm thankful to the protesters and activists and folks that are pushing us, you know, to look at it in a different way, because it is needed. And now is the time Speaker 1: 05:49 you held a virtual healing town hall last Friday. What did you learn from constituents there? Speaker 2: 05:54 Well, I learned from constituents all last, uh, there was a lot of hurt pain anger. A lot of folks were upset about the vote. One thing that I said was that I was able to do a lot of self reflection last week. And one thing that I did not do that I wish I had was to communicate a bit more effectively about just the realities of that vote and, uh, what we were up against as a council. And so I did not do that and I promise and committed to doing that in the future. But I also believe again, that anything that we do, we have to do it for the generation that comes behind us. And that will take some time that will take some thought that will take some effort that will take collaboration. And so right now with looking at the budget, the way we're going to look at it line by line, determining what, you know, as we can divert those, those resources, what the smartest way to do that will be. I told the community, they deserve a plan. They deserve a vote that is backed up with substance. And so that's what I have always promised. And I will continue to give them, uh, even in this time and under these circumstances, Speaker 1: 07:09 and you were able to convince the mayor and your fellow council members, uh, to create an office of race and equity, what will that do? Exactly? Speaker 2: 07:16 Yeah, well, we will have a few different functions and, you know, it will take a moment for us to dive into those functions, but big picture, you know, I see this as an opportunity for the city of San Diego, to be an example in our region that we are facing, uh, the issues of race and equity head-on, there is structural institutional racism built into our systems. Um, and we have to face that before we can change it. So this office will provide that function so that everyone knows, and is on the same page about how our policies, our procedures can sometimes benefit some over others. We have to root out those policies and procedures and we have to change them. We also, as we pass additional policies, um, we need to be looking at those from a racial equity lens. How will this affect, you know, an 18 year old, just graduating from Lincoln high school in district four, how will this policy affect that? Speaker 2: 08:18 How will this policy affect a single mother in Sherman Heights? You know, how will this, how is what we are doing at the city helping to provide equity so that every single person has the opportunity that they deserve. And so big picture, that's what this office will be doing. We've also committed $3 million to a community equity fund that we believe will assist our community partners in this work. As we move forward, there are some things, some types of outreach, some connections that we don't always have at city hall. We need those in order to move forward in the right direction. So I'm excited about this office. I'm grateful to have the support of my colleagues and the mayor, and, you know, we, I want to do it right. So it may take us a little bit of time, but we will build a strong foundation for the city with regard to race and equity. Speaker 1: 09:18 And since the last time you were on the program, the police department has banned the use of the controversial carotid neck hold. The mayor's thrown a support behind an independent police review commission. And the police department says it's implementing a new deescalation policy. How important are these reforms? And are they enough? Speaker 2: 09:36 Well, you know, we have, uh, 400 years to make up for. So as we put these reforms in place, I think it's, it's notable and it's very important, but I think we have to do it knowing that these are and should be part of systemic change that we should make in our communities and not sort of just one off political decisions. Um, and I think that, you know, we're all on the same page with that message that we need to dig deep on this issue. And I'm very grateful that, you know, the San Diego police chief stood up and said, we're going to immediately and unequivocally ban the carotid restraint. And you saw the effect that, that had in our County. And now at the federal level, there is a legislation being introduced with the, in that same vein. Um, also we're going to be taking a look at the independent review board, the commission on police practices coming up on June 23rd as a council. You know, that is huge. And something that folks have been fighting for for years in the city city, but we have to merge those reforms into a system that is attacking systemic racism. And so there's a larger picture that will allow these reforms to work. Otherwise they'll just be a, you know, another thing that we pass another press conference that we do, and I am dedicated to making this city more than that in a place where everyone can thrive. Everyone can be treated fairly. That's my goal. Speaker 1: 11:11 I've been speaking with Monica Montgomery who represents a district four on the San Diego city council. Thanks very much. Speaker 2: 11:18 Thank you.

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The criticism comes after the City Council declined to slash police funding despite hours of public testimony, mostly from people urging council members to slash
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