Guest Commentary: Redefining Public Safety in Yolo County

UC Davis students lead protest

by Linda Deos

It has been two weeks since George Floyd was murdered by four police officers in Minneapolis, Minnesota, and the resulting protests have spread across the country and gone global. The authoritarian response from our federal government and many local police departments has been shocking, even to some who have long protested police violence. Jamelle Bouie, writing in the New York Times, shared the following:

Across the country, rioting police are using tear gas in quantities that threaten the health and safety of demonstrators, especially in the midst of a respiratory disease pandemic.

None of this quells disorder. Everything, from the militaristic posture to the attacks themselves, does more to inflame and agitate protesters than it does to calm the situation and bring order to the streets. In effect, rioting police have done as much to stoke unrest and destabilize the situation as those responsible for damaged buildings and burning cars. But where rioting protesters can be held to account for destruction and violence, rioting police have the imprimatur of the state. Read More

Here in Yolo County, as we have come together by staying apart these past few months to protect our community from the threat of coronavirus, now is the perfect time to ask ourselves, what does public safety actually mean?

Is it more important to hire more sheriff deputies, house indigent suspects in jail for months simply because they can’t afford bail, purchase expensive equipment, push for long sentences for non-violent crimes, maintain a youth jail with an average of six occupants while investing millions in expanding our two main jails, or are there better ways to ensure both the safety and overall health of our community?

UC Davis students lead protest

It seems clear, particularly during a global pandemic, that to truly protect the health and safety of residents requires a real investment in support services for families, seniors, young people and our most vulnerable residents, not simply more men with guns.

In the last few days, the Mayor of Los Angeles has proposed cutting the budget for the LAPD by over $100 million in order to fund more community services. We should be this bold right here in Yolo County.

But right now, there is no leadership moving Yolo County in this direction. Just last month the Yolo County Cannabis Tax Citizen’s Oversight Committee was presented with the plan for how our county proposes to spend the anticipated $1.2 million the county receives from the county cannabis tax (Measure K) we passed in June 2018.

Along with money allocated to the General Fund, the county proposed allocating $150,000 for law enforcement, up from $70,000 last year, $0 for early childhood education, down from $100,000 last year and $0 for youth development, down from $100,000 last year. As a member of this Committee, I was shocked and disturbed that children and youth were sacrificed for the benefit of law enforcement.

It currently costs an average of about $81,000 per year to incarcerate an inmate in prison in California. Due to COVID and the Statewide Emergency ‘0’ Bail Schedule, Yolo County released 117 people from our jail. And of these 117 people released, less than 10 percent have been re-arrested for a subsequent crime.

If Yolo County simply committed to maintaining $0 bail moving forward, permanently reducing our jail population of people simply awaiting trial, the county could potentially save several million dollars a year that could be invested in more support services…and this is just a start.

We are still in the beginnings of a global pandemic that is likely to last for a year or longer. Over the coming months, I want to lead a debate on how we can create a People’s Budget for Yolo County that puts the overall health of community residents at the fore. Please join me in this conversation.

Linda Deos is an attorney and candidate for Yolo County Board of Supervisors, District 4.

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Disclaimer: the views expressed by guest writers are strictly those of the author and may not reflect the views of the Vanguard, its editor, or its editorial board.

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9 thoughts on “Guest Commentary: Redefining Public Safety in Yolo County”

  1. Ron Glick

    $1.2 Million anticipated, $150,000 for law enforcement means $1.05 million for the general fund and doesn’t necessarily mean “sacrificing children and youth.” It depends on how the money is allocated in the budget.

    I remember a few years ago when the Crisis Nursery needed some emergency funding. Don Saylor argued that the funding should happen as part of the regular budget process. Jim Provenza fought to make the emergency appropriation on the spot and he carried the day and saved the Nursery.

    Deos doesn’t say who is responsible for the proposed budget or what was the budget proposal for the other $1.05 million. Was it the staff or the Supervisors that came up with that proposal? Of course this comes with a backdrop of unprecedented budget cuts from the pandemic.

    A vigorous budget debate should be welcomed  but claiming there is a lack of leadership before the Board of Supervisors takes up the budget seems self serving.

    Perhaps it would be helpful if Deos were to put out her own complete budget  proposal so that we could compare and contrast her budget with what the current Board of Supervisors comes up with.

  2. Keith Olsen

    And of these 117 people released, less than 10 percent have been re-arrested for a subsequent crime.

    So far, it’s only been a couple of months.

    1. David Greenwald

      One of the key points made by Chesa is you have to look when they were going to be released anyway. So if they don’t commit a new crime before they were going to be released anyway, you’ve lost nothing.

  3. Tia Will

    From the perspective of an MD, prevention is always more cost-effective than are remedial steps once an adverse condition has occurred.

    As you all know, I have little experience in budgeting. What I do have is the firm belief that investing in the basic needs of our community including adequate food, housing, early childhood care, and education will pay off in terms of less perceived need for incarceration in the future.

    The current pandemic, economic harm incurred, and now protests sparked by the murder of George Floyd have created a perfect storm of public unrest, but also have provided the opportunity to rethink how we want to spend limited funds. Do we want to double down on our current police structure, training, and equipment, or might a preventative approach prove to be wiser?

    1. Bill Marshall

      Prevention is not always possible… own that… early detection of a dangerous, fatal condition is often near impossible (pancreatic cancer comes to mind, in both cases).  There are no guaranteed treatments that will result ‘excise’ the cancer… even ‘isolation’ is ineffective.  It is what it is.

      That said, where something is KNOWN to be preventable, prevention is indeed better than remedial measures.  Sometimes ‘isolation’ is needed to prevent the spread of a ‘disease’, be it preventable, treatable, or neither…

      It is what it is… the key is to work to prevent disease where you can, and use other appropriate measures once it manifests… help the victim, minimize the spread.

    2. Jeff Boone

      First of all let’s be clear that we are talking about Davis and not Chicago.

      But I agree 100% that upstream solutions are generally more effective and more cost-effective that are the downstream attempts to fix what is broken.

      basic needs of our community including adequate food, housing, early childhood care, and education will pay off in terms of less perceived need for incarceration in the future.

      Interesting that you bring up human needs.

      Using the Maslow hierarchy, the immediate psychological and safety needs of the black community had been improving a great deal up until the state orders in reaction to the virus pandemic.

      1. Psychological needs – air, water, food, shelter, sleep, clothing, reproduction

      2. Safety needs – personal security, employment, resources, health, property

      3. Love and belonging – friendships, intimacy, family, sense of connection

      4. Esteem – respect, self-confidence, status, recognition, strength, freedom

      5. Self-actualization – become the most that one can be

      And with years of experience debating you on this general topic, I know it is your idea that society should pay for the psychological and safety needs of all Americans that lack their own ability to achieve them.

      It is the standard socialist model of to those that cannot (or will not) from those that can (and do).  It is a proven unsustainable model for many reasons, but a fundamental one I try to explain below (IMO).

      The problem with this is fundamental human psychology where one moves up the hierarchy pursuing the next level of need, but cannot effectively when the lower basis is provided by someone else.  The reason is three-fold.  One – there is a lack of security when others pay your way… the payer has control.  Two – people generally don’t develop the self-competence and self-confidence necessary to effectively advance if they don’t achieve/earn their own needs fulfillment.  Three – without earning your own way in the mainstream societal and economic system, there is the risk that you head to a non-mainstream path in pursuit of the next level of needs… and one that would likely be negative and more-likely criminal.   There are exceptions, but this is a scientifically proved theory of human psychology.  And let’s not conflate temporary benefits to families of need to multi-generational dependency that is common in the urban black community.  I support temporary assistance as the “hand-up” not the “hand-out”.

      And here is where I see the modern “white privilege” (which does not exist)… it is needs-attainment privilege. 

      The American professional class generally has little concern over fulfilling the first two needs (although some are freaking out over-counting the potential impact of a few extra carbon molecules in the atmosphere… and ironically under-counting the potential impact of running out of other people’s money).  And most also have their love and belonging needs fulfilled from their reasonably stable family experience.

      Now look at the black community in Chicago.  Using your ideas for universal basic income, free healthcare and copious other benefits, you are basically advocating that the first two rungs on the needs hierarchy ladder be paid for by those privileged to have theirs fulfilled.   But this is elitist because it tends to lock people into a cycle of dependency rather than self-sufficiency, and prevents them from reaching the upper levels of needs that us privileged professional class people enjoy.

      Another problem with the black community is the third rung where so many families are broken and thus this need is more difficult to attain.  Gangs form to exploit that missing piece.  Then they also become a placebo for the next rung of esteem… where the pursuit is negative and at odds with mainstream criminal law and law enforcement.

      My thinking on how to invest in these communities starts at the ground level for developing people to earn their own way to achieve their own needs within the mainstream social and economic system.  Progress on this was being made before the pandemic response… where we favored the risk of old Baby Boomers dying a few years before their time over the lives of the working class and poor minority class.  Ironically it is this same prioritization of social and economic policy that has contributed to so much misery in the urban black community.

      Invest in greater access to more working class prosperity for those Americans that struggle to earn what they need to cover their lower needs.   But don’t defund the cops as they are a scapegoat for the decades of failed policies that hamper the ability of the black urban community to access mainstream prosperity and needs attainment.

      I think everyone should watch this…

  4. Ron Glick

    “Is it more important to hire more sheriff deputies, house indigent suspects in jail for months simply because they can’t afford bail, purchase expensive equipment, push for long sentences for non-violent crimes, maintain a youth jail with an average of six occupants while investing millions in expanding our two main jails…”

    Let’s examine these claims with an eye towards reducing the hyperbole:

    First, are we hiring more deputies or reducing cuts in existing positions? Is the $150,000 mandated by the Cannabis Tax the voters passed? Its hard to know but $150,000 is likely the cost for one deputy or two deputies at most. Is this a one or two deputies line in the budget that big a deal?

    House indigent suspects in jail for months simply because they can’t afford bail. Are there any left in custody that aren’t accused of violent crime? Haven’t the courts been letting non-violent people go without bail to reduce Covid 19 transmission?

    Maintain a youth jail with an average of six occupants. There is a serious debate here that has been going on for a few years. Do we house our own kids that are in custody or do we contract to send them to juvenile facilities in Sacramento County. I’ve heard it from both sides. One Supervisor thinks it will save money. Jim Provenza thinks these kids will not be better served  if placed in Sacramento County. Deos raises the question but give no answer. Where does she come down on this?

    Investing millions on new jail facilities. Wasn’t this a result of moving people out of State Prisons and back to the Counties? Isn’t this money coming from the State? Does the County have any discretion on how to spend this money? What does Deos suggest instead? So many questions so few answers.

    As for pushing for long sentences, does the BOS have any say in sentencing? How is this relevant?

    Buying equipment. How can the County go to the MRAP round up without an MRAP? Just poking a little fun here. This is actually a good topic for the County budget discussion. What do the Sheriffs need and why?

  5. Elizabeth Lasensky

    Thank you Linda for starting this dialog on how Yolo County can do better to address criminal justice reform and redirect funds from policing to serving the social needs of our communities. Now is certainly the time to question the militarization of our police while also working to redirect funds to bolster preventative measures.

  6. Bapu Vaitla

    Thank you for this post, Linda. I’m glad to see that candidates are making substantive statements on criminal justice. The Black Lives Matter movement has energized the entire country, and now’s the time for candidates to tell us how Yolo County can be a leader in reforming the criminal justice system.

    I’m glad you focus on bail elimination as a necessary first step. Wealth should not be a determinant of who gets to be free in the pre-trial period. The county’s current bail practices place us far behind the leading edge of evidence-based best practices.

    I also agree that investigating police budgets line item by line item is critical. Police officers are ill-equipped to be first responders to the wide range of possible emergencies, and in many cases their presence exacerbates the situation. I’m a person of color myself living in Davis, and I would hesitate to call the police unless I felt I was under immediate threat of bodily harm—and even then I’d be wary. It’s time for us to consider how expanding support services can replace police response in most cases.

    Please keep driving the conversation on criminal justice forward. The county needs a voice like yours.


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