In response to George Floyd's murder in May 2020 and the larger pattern of unarmed people of color disproportionately being killed by law enforcement officers, calls have increased to defund the police. The "defund" rallying cry means different things to different people, ranging from abolishing police departments to shifting some existing public safety funding to a more diverse set of roles and practices (e.g., including mental health intervention experts in certain 911 call responses).
Matt's perspective on this debate, especially in the context of San Jose, is that we should focus on improving policing practices and accountability, not reduce the number of officers serving our community. Every city is unique. San Jose has the lowest per capita police staffing levels of any big city in the country. Over the course of knocking on 10,000 doors during his campaign, Matt heard consistently that residents want more engagement and more support from our police department, not less. In fact, our department's low staffing levels make response time targets hard to achieve and mean that far too many 911 calls experience significant delays and incomplete follow up.
Matt does believe that we have significant opportunities to improve policing. Last year, he wrote a detailed blog post outlining some of the investments SJPD is already making to assess and improve policing outcomes as well as other opportunities for improvement, including changing the way that we handle calls involving mental health crises and/or non-violent homeless individuals. SJPD and the County have recently partnered to launch a Mobile Crisis Response Team that specializes in responding to mental health crises with an emphasis on de-escalation. The City also launched a Reimagining Community Safety Advisory Group as part of a larger workplan focused on potential police reforms. Matt serves on the City's Public Safety, Finance and Strategic Support Committee, where he advocates for increased training, greater use of diagnostic data, and community policing strategies. Please send your ideas and feedback to Matt via our office email address (firstname.lastname@example.org).