Local activist Faye Kennedy calls on elected officials to stop funding police and invest money in the community. (Photo By Russell Stiger Jr.)

In the wake of George Floyd’s death in Minneapolis, Minn., the Sacramento community and social justice organizations have been leaning heavily on the governments of the city and county of Sacramento.

For the most part, their ire has been directed toward the policies of the Sacramento Police Department and Sacramento County Sheriff’s Department — entities that consume a majority of the budgets.

Earlier this week, Decarcerate Sacramento held a news conference and rally in front of the Sacramento County Administration Office at 700 H Street. With a call to “defund the police,” members of various organizations called for radical reinvestment in the community and social safety nets.

“Now is the time to make way for community voices, particularly Black voices, as we envision an equitable and just future for Sacramento,” Decarcerate Sacramento said in a written statement to The OBSERVER. “In listening to those voices, Decarcerate Sacramento, in chorus with growing numbers of organizations and individuals across the world, is calling for our elected officials to stop feeding our precious dollars into unaccountable and militarized law enforcement agencies.”

One of the forces Decarcerate Sacramento has collaborated with is Sacramento’s chapter of the Poor People’s Campaign. Members of this organization, started in 1968 by Dr. Martin Luther King Jr., are concerned with the city and county’s leadership.

The COVID-19 pandemic, some members say, has exposed local governments’ willingness to direct funds to law enforcement agencies, neglecting community needs such as education, youth programs, housing, homelessness and employment.

“A lot of our tax dollars are going to support the police and not supporting us,” said Faye Kennedy, a member of the Poor People’s Campaign and the Sacramento Black Caucus. “We have to make them aware of that.”

What was also discussed at the event in front of the county’s Administrative Office in downtown Sacramento was the Measure U Citizen Advisory Committee meeting held later that day of June 15.

At that virtual meeting, Dr. Flojuane Cofer, the advisory committee’s chairperson, expressed her displeasure of how the budget talks were progressing. The city is going to use some of the Measure U funds for core services, including the police department.

Before Measure U passed by the voters, it was the understanding that the funds would not be used for the police. But the conarovirus crisis zapped most of the city’s coffers and forced it to financially supply the police. The budget goes into effect July 1.

Dr. Cofer said the city’s move to move the funds to the police department is a “travesty.”

“It shouldn’t even be considered it is so ridiculous,” Dr. Cofer told Sacramento Mayor Darrell Steinberg of the city’s intentions. “We should be screaming and furious about this because this is a travesty.”

Steinberg tried to sell the committee on the usage of the COVID-19 funding the city received last month. Nearly $90 million is allocated for the recovery for small business, housing, arts, homelessness, and more.

Dr. Cofer said the federal COVID-19 funds have to be used up at the end of the year and she demanded that the $47 million for the police department from the Measure U pool be returned.

“We have lost our way,” Dr. Cofer told Steinberg. “All people are asking us is that we do right with the money. It’s personal to me because this money matters. You sit up on this dais and tell us that you care. But I need you to go back to the drawing board (of the budget) and do better.”

By Antonio R. Harvey | OBSERVER Staff Writer