Police Budget Reallocation:
Challenges and Opportunities


eDemocracy Webinar Series - Social

Webinar Summary

0:00 - Host Andrea Reimer introduces the Webinar topic, the speakers, and first interactive polling question (results found above under Resources): Is your local government discussing a potential redistribution of police funding? 
5:11 - Councillor Lindell Smith gives some background context of black history and the city council in Halifax. 
"What I would say to the folks who are listening is…when you have people who are in the margins, marginalized people, saying there are are issues happening within a community, don't tell them they should fix it. We have to be allies and realize how we all can contribute to fixing those issues and being part of the solutions." 
9:56 - Andrea Reimer reads Councillor Kristyn Wong-Tam’s bio and brings up next interactive polling question: Is your local government currently discussing a potential redistribution of police funding?
11:56 - Cllr. Wong-Tam gives a sense of what is happening in the City of Toronto and the power - or lack thereof - that city council has over their police budget. She speaks to her recent motion calling for council to request that the Toronto Police Service defund a minimum 10% of their budget. 
"Really when it comes to police budget as a city council, we are the last people in control, and yet we’re the ones footing the bill on behalf of the citizens."
17:51 - Cllr. Wong-Tam is asked to expand on the Police Service Board and the Ontario Civilian Police Commission, which are two bodies run by political appointees without oversight from council. 
19:40 - Andrea Reimer introduces Councillor Sharmarke Dubow, the second black councillor in the City of Victoria, and puts up the third interactive poll question: where would you look for more information on alternatives to current police service models?
21:36 - Cllr. Dubow contexualizes Victoria city council and the challenges they are facing in the defund movement, such as the financial strain left by COVID19.
"As we imagine what type of society we should live in, and talk about recovery and centering our work in equity…it’s very important to revisit where we spend our money and ask the question, ‘Who are we serving?’"
29:25 - Last interactive poll question: if you'd like to take action, but aren't yet what's holding you back from engaging your community on redistributing police funding?
30:59 - John Richardson, Ethelo CCEO and former founder of Pivot Legal Society, where he did work on police accountability at Pivot Legal Society. John walks participants through policebudget.ethelo.net, a tool that empowers citizens to develop their own budget plans and policy reform agenda.
44:30 - Andrea Reimer asks panelists the question: can you enter into a discussion of re-allocating police budgets without analyzing levels of implicit bias and systemic racism?
46:35 - Cllr. Wong-Tam discusses how they considered what kind of language to use in their defund motion, as well as her experience talking to front-line police officers who do not feel equipped to deal with many of the social service-related calls they get. 
“In so many ways, we have been setting up police service to fail...frontline officers have been struggling for years because we're asking them to do far too much and they don't have the right tools to do it."
51:22 - Cllr. Smith discusses the importance of a number of issues: the power of data; pressure from the local community to push council to change; reforming the Police Act; and educating other elected officials about real experiences that marginalized people go through. 
“Many folks’ only interactions with an officer is usually, ‘hey, how you doing? I know you.’ If that was your only engagement, why would you see that there’s any issues with policing? How do we educate folks that there actually are issues outside of your own world?” 
58:12 - Lastly, Cllr. Dubow discusses implicit bias, systemic racism, and points to how crucial it is to centring the communities who are impacted most by asking the question ‘what does safety look like to you?’

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