scissors cutting money with the text - Defund SLCPD - demands, details and resources

Intro

The total general funds for Salt Lake City for FY 2020-21 reach $326 million. Of that, $79 million is allocated to the Salt Lake City Police Department (SLCPD). This represents a substantial allocation of funds dedicated to policing in Salt Lake City instead of supporting residents experiencing hardship.

The $79 million does not paint the full picture of police funding, however. Additional funding is granted for police under the non-departmental budget. The department also receives grants from the federal and state governments to supplement its budget. As if that were not enough, the SLCPD established a nonprofit in 2011 so that donors and philanthropists could contribute even more to their operations.

In addition to all of that, the SLCPD uses thousands of volunteer hours every year in their efforts to “build community trust” in the form of Neighborhood Watch and Volunteer Corps programs, as well as through oversight commissions such as the Citizen Advocates Group. Asking for people to donate their time to involve themselves in police operations is a PR move the police use to convince the public that they are working in tandem with people who represent our community, when the truth is that the police drain resources from what the people in our city actually need.

The SLCPD has not been around forever, nor do we need to guarantee its continuity. The police do not prevent, solve, or heal our community from harm. Instead of relying on them to respond to calls, we can empower people who make up the fabric of our community by investing more resources into mental health providers, housing services and social workers, violence interventionists—even neighbors, family, and friends, since they are more likely to be our actual first responders. We can create non-police intervention programs in our city to reduce harm in our schools, neighborhoods, workplaces, and homes, cultivating a healthy and thriving city.

Click here to download a copy of our zine to #DefundSLCPD, and watch this short video about why the demand is to defund the police.

What is police abolition?

Our culture encourages people to call the police for nearly every problem—be it a mental health crisis, broken taillight, or a loud party next door—creating multiple opportunities for the police to intervene in interpersonal relationships. This increases the scope of surveillance, harassment, and violence from the police. As police departments grow, so do their responsibilities, to the point where even the police in SLC admit they are asked to solve things that are not in their job description.

Police abolition invites us to think differently about ways to solve issues both large and small. It recognizes that the historical role of policing is based on upholding oppression and managing structural inequalities. As Critical Resistance states, “Abolition is both a practical organizing tool and a long-term goal.” We believe that with enough willpower, we can create a new culture in which we meet people’s needs and eliminate social disparities created through race, gender, ability, and class.

The police in the U.S. take away the life of around 1,000 people each year, meaning that every day we lose at least three people to their violence. The abolition of policing recognizes that a world with zero police is a world where we have zero police killings. Police reform measures, such as community oversight boards or calls for more training, do not alter or question police’s role in protecting property over people—in other words, reforms uphold the systems that perpetuate harm from policing rather than eliminating it. Abolition seeks to divest from policing with the recognition that investments in housing, healthcare, and education are what really creates safe and secure communities.

For more information about police abolition and strategies to take away their power, we recommend turning to 8toAbolition and A World Without Police. Another way we can make police obsolete is by simply not calling them in the first place. Check out our webinar about what other resources we can tap into within ourselves, our neighbors, and our larger community to create systems of care and security.

Our Demands:

In comparing Salt Lake City to other U.S. cities of similar size, SLC has 129% more officers per capita. There are currently 711 full-time employees in the SLCPD, but it could have as few as 229 officers and still be in line with national, state, and local averages for cities of a similar size. Since 2013, Salt Lake City has continuously increased the police department budget by 58%.

With this information in mind, we are once again demanding that the Salt Lake City Council and mayor defund the SLCPD. The Salt Lake City Council and mayor should cut the number of police in half and cut the budget in half as well. The money diverted from the police department’s budget should then be invested into under-resourced services that our community desperately needs, like housing and mental health resources.

This bold demand comes with the recognition that in order to heal our community and take the demands for racial justice seriously, we must make dramatic changes to our city budget. This means the members of the City Council and the mayor should take these actions:

  • Reduce the number of police and administrative personnel in the SLCPD by 50%, from 711 full-time employees (FTEs) to 356.
  • Reduce the police department budget by 50%, from $79 million to $39.5 million.
  • Take steps to eliminate the funding from the non-departmental budget and other departments reserved for policing operations.
  • Invest the funds diverted from the police department into supportive community programs.

To voice your support for these demands, you can bookmark our post about calling in to the city council meetings. Keep reading for a more detailed outline of how we propose the city should use a divest/invest model to cultivate a thriving and healthy community.

How Salt Lake City can divest from policing

We advocate for budget cuts to the following programs and units in order to fund social services for people experiencing a diversity of hardships throughout our city. Many of the so-called “problems” in our city stem from a lack of supportive governmental services, while funding is instead given to surveil and harass our community through policing operations. We view the city’s police department budget as having room for divestment in the following areas.

Cut $3.9 million of the funding to the Office of the Chief to $1.95, and reduce the department size from 24 to 12 FTEs, prioritizing cuts to the PR department.

Outside of the department of airports, the SLCPD is the only department in Salt Lake City that receives funding for a public relations team. The police’s PR department has two interests: to convince the public that our city is dangerous, and to convince the public that the police are keeping our community safe. They work with the media to distort the truth in favor of their own narratives. By divesting from the PR department, the public can discern for themselves whether the actions or inactions of the police are helpful or harmful.

Cut $27.7 million of the funding to the Administrative and Operations Support to $13.85 million, and reduce the size from 263 FTEs to 132. Prioritize cuts to the School Resource Officers, Narcotics Unit, SWAT, Internal Affairs, Training, Compstat, and Organized Crime Unit.

Why cut school resource officers?

School resource officers (SROs) are police officers stationed in public schools throughout the city. There is a vast amount of research in the arena of the school-to-prison pipeline (STTP), the process by which students who are traditionally marginalized in schools (those who identify as Black and Indigenous people of color, or BIPOC; LGBTQ+; and students with disabilities) are pushed out of schools and into the criminal justice system. Keeping police out of schools is one way to reduce the harmful impacts of youth involvement in the criminal justice system.

Research shows that police officers do not make schools safer as a whole, and that in fact, student arrests and exclusionary practices like suspension, which contribute to the STPP, increase with each additional police officer placed in schools. Furthermore, data on which students get arrested in schools reflects a large racial disparity. Black students in particular are arrested at disproportionately high rates. In Utah, compared to their white peers, American Indian students are 8.8 times more likely to be arrested at school, and Pacific Islander students are 3.3 times more likely to be arrested.

At the same time, essential school services are significantly understaffed, according to the American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU):

  • 1.7 million students are in schools with police but no counselors.
  • 3 million students are in schools with police but no nurses.
  • 6 million students are in schools with police but no school psychologists.
  • 10 million students are in schools with police but no social workers.
  • 14 million students are in schools with police but no counselor, nurse, psychologist, or social worker.

In response to research and community demands, numerous cities have already begun to remove cops from schools. We demand that Salt Lake City join the ranks of these forward-thinking local governments that have chosen to invest in student wellbeing rather than the criminal justice system.

Why cut the Narcotics Unit?

The Narcotics Unit is an aging relic of the racist legacy of the war on drugs. Rather than targeting people—particularly people of color—to enforce drug laws like possession or trafficking, Utah could decriminalize drug use so that people can use drugs safely or safely recover from addiction. Even the LDS church-owned Deseret News has published opinion pieces calling for an end to the war on drugs, arguing that harsh punishments do not deter drug use. The war on drugs has damaged our country by incarcerating people for low-level drug offenses that disrupt their network of care through separation and financial dependency.

Read more about why we urgently need to address the racial disparities of drug enforcement over the years in our post titled “Our Kids or Drug Couriers?

Why cut SWAT (Special Weapons and Tactics)?

SWAT teams were created in the 1960s to deal with extreme situations like prison escapes and hostage situations. Now, most of their time is spent serving warrants for routine drug searches, and with over-militarized police departments, they frequently barge into people’s homes, causing severe trauma and harm. Over two-thirds of SWAT searches don’t even uncover a weapon on the scene (ACLU 2014).

For more about SWAT teams and the harm they cause to local communities, we recommend reading Rise of the Warrior Cop by Radley Balko.

Why cut Internal Affairs?

Every year, thousands of police are investigated for cases of abuse, misconduct, negligence, or violence. Most of these investigations are shielded from the public view and mainstream media.

Police should not investigate their own. Instead, the city should have a department separate from the police with paid staff to examine officer complaints, investigate reports of excessive use of force, and compile data about officers. When the police are the ones defining their own measurements of success, they are no longer servants of the public but of their own interests alone. Internal Affairs housed within the police department is appallingly susceptible to bias due to its inherent motivation to keep itself intact.

In 2019, USA Today started collecting officer misconduct information to create a public database and found that over 30,000 police officers had lost their law enforcement licenses in 44 different states. Explore the database here.

Why cut the training unit?

Historically, many forms of police training are either ineffective at their stated purpose, forgotten, or dismantled by the police department over time. Focusing on training assumes that it is the individual officers who are choosing to enact racism against residents based on the onboarding process, and not that they are joining a system built on inequality and bias toward BIPOC. This furthers the belief that better training would ensure that we can rely on police for safety, and that instances of police harm and violence occur because of lack of training.

For more about police training, we refer to this document from Critical Resistance about reformist reforms vs. abolitionist steps in policing. You can also read our post about the recommendations from the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing in Salt Lake City, who have largely advocated for more funding for training SLCPD officers.

Why cut CompStat?

Predictive policing programs like CompStat use so-called data collection to gather and analyze information about crime rates in the city. These programs often generate false positives that are used to promote the efficacy of the product by creating feedback loops based on previously formed police biases. Racial inequality then becomes coded as risk, and rebrands the police as arbitrary and neutral, rather than operating within a framework of white supremacy.

For more about predictive policing programs, we refer to Stop LAPD Spying’s report, “Before the Bullet Hits the Body

Why cut the Organized Crime Unit?

The Organized Crime Unit uses a variety of operations that “aim to interdict prostitution, underage beer sales, park lewdness, gambling, and other related crimes.” In many industries—like sex work, drug use, and alcohol sales—decriminalization is a practical choice that reduces police power and allows for individual autonomy in career choices. Instead of arrests and assaults that fuel the trauma and life disruption of jails and the court system, which further marginalize economically disadvantaged residents, our city could provide workplace protections and harm reduction resources. Further, through decriminalization, we can provide safety and protection without the expensive licensing and regulations that legalization requires.

Read our post about how decriminalization is the only way forward to lift sex workers out of harm’s way.

collage with text that says decriminalize sex work

Cut $47 million of the funding for the Operations Unit to $23.5 million, and reduce the size from 419 FTEs to 209. Prioritize cuts to the K9 Unit, Community Intelligence Unit, Gang Unit, Social Worker Partnership and Homeless Outreach Service Team, and the Crisis Intervention Team. In addition, reduce the number of police on patrol units, which are geographically based but driven by CompStat data.

Why cut the K9 Unit?

In October, the city released 19 videos showcasing police violence from the K-9 unit. Police weaponization of animals is inhumane and cruel. Dogs do not want to bite humans; this desire is forced upon them by police trainers. Further, K9 dogs do not accurately detect drugs—dogs are trained to “detect” assets using skewed incentives. The elimination of these weaponized animals would reduce the risk of trauma enacted on people bit by reluctant dogs within a rogue police unit. Read more in our post about abolishing the K9 Unit.

Why cut the Gang Unit?

The Gang Unit in the SLCPD is “responsible for prevention, suppression and investigation of gang involved crimes.” In practice, police use gang suppression measurements to categorize and target people primarily based on race and class. Gang enhancements are then often tacked onto sentences, as we saw attempted after the arrests made on the July 9 and May 30 protests last year, as well as how prison guards in Utah intentionally house rival groups together to encourage fighting, sometimes lengthening their time served by up to four times the original sentence.

Threats, intimidation, and humiliation by the police often ramp up opposition, especially when police increasingly try to assert their force through militarization and tactics of terror. People need stability, inclusion, and pathways out of poverty—long-term commitments to their wellbeing instead of arrests and harassment.

For more information, we recommend reading The End of Policing by Alex Vitale.

Why cut the Social Worker Partnership and Homeless Outreach Service team?

While mental health crisis intervention and outreach services are important, we know that co-responder models with police presence can be threatening and escalate a situation regardless of the amount of training that the paired mental health or medical provider has. Mental health and substance use concerns are best supported with de-escalation techniques and safety measures, which police presence threatens by nature of their ability to fine, arrest, or commit violence against someone in a crisis. Police presence, regardless of their role within the agency, is often perceived as a threat due to the historical and current violence to which police agencies subject individuals struggling with mental health issues or homelessness. Mental health and substance use services can and should exist outside of the scope of police departments to increase safety for those seeking services and engaging in outreach efforts.

For more on this subject, read “Social Workers Are Rejecting Calls for Them to Replace Police” by The Appeal.

Why cut the Crisis Intervention team?

The Salt Lake City Crisis Intervention Team (CIT) provides training and coordination on a local level, in partnership with local agencies, of specially trained officers certified in crisis management response and follow-up. The team conducts academies and other training for all SLCPD officers to ensure consistency among all CIT officers. The team also provides follow-up on mental health-related issues encountered by SLCPD officers.

Unfortunately, Salt Lake City police officers have shown an alarming disregard for crisis intervention. Recertification in CIT is currently optional and, according to a report by the Commission on Racial Equity in Policing, 60% of SLCPD officers have chosen not to recertify. Why should taxpayers give more money to a training that officers don’t take seriously? This disregard has resulted in violent police responses to people with mental illnesses. Just last year, after the City Council increased the police budget for more trainings, police shot a 13-year-old boy with autism, causing permanent motor damage and the loss of the boy’s arm. The Salt Lake Tribune found that in 2020, “at least 40% of people Utah police shot at were experiencing a mental health event.” Even after these events, SLCPD spokesman Michael Ruff said that the police department is “very comfortable with the program we used and with the individuals who are teaching it.” If this is SLCPD’s idea of effective training, we worry about what future training models they will choose with added funding.

We believe that all professionals who work closely with the public should be well-trained in responding to mental health crises. However, training is only effective when matched by intentions for community growth and safety. Rather than paying for more training of a disinterested and dangerous police department, these funds could be used to bolster and improve crisis intervention programs outside of the police department. Instead of relying on heavily armed “warriors” to respond to mental health crises, the city could utilize peer support and mental health practitioners for more holistic and transformative care.

Why reduce the number of police on patrols?

Officer patrols are ostensibly intended to prevent and suppress criminal activity and effective responses to victims of crime and other calls for service within the city. Patrol resources are deployed based on geographical beats and the CompStat focus areas. Patrol officers also create community partnerships and improve community relationships through community-oriented policing.

SLCPD patrols do not prevent crime; they only respond after the crime has taken place. The presence of police patrols does not deter criminals, and it does not increase effective responses to criminal behavior. Instead, they increase surveillance on marginalized communities and criminalize non-harmful behaviors, such as sleeping on park benches or “loitering” on sidewalks. Police rely on internal and external biases to determine “suspicious behaviors,” often targeting Black men and boys. With less patrolling, police have fewer opportunities to criminalize and surveil.

In 2020 and 2021, the City Council increased SLCPD’s budget by millions, partly in response to Chief Brown’s claims that police were unable to adequately respond to too many 911 calls. It is too reductive to say that increased 911 calls for service correlate with any actual increases in danger or harm. A quick glance at the SLCPD calls for service log will show that police patrols are often responding to a “suspicious person,” noise complaints, or car towing. We do not believe that these incidents warrant rapid police response. In regard to more serious harms, George Mason University Center for Evidence-Based Crime Policy has found that “there is no evidence that rapid response to most calls increases apprehension rates or decreases crime (Spelman & Brown, 1984)” and that police “should not expect crime control gains to come simply by decreasing response times to the vast majority of calls.”

Instead of funding police patrols, the city could instead invest more in actual crime prevention, like accessible housing and rental assistance programs, free and culturally appropriate mental health services, transformative justice models that center the needs of victims, needle exchanges, and free, safe detoxing sites.

How Salt Lake City could invest the money to keep our communities safe

If the city chose to divest $39.5 million dollars from the police department, we could bring dedicated community members together to create a new path forward for Salt Lake City. Through collective work, we can determine how healing, conflict resolution, safety routes, and providing for people’s needs can transform our city. The people of SLC should be deeply engaged in the research, imagination, creation, and testing of these programs prior to adoption of formal plans. Without public participation in implementing new programs, there is a risk that the demands will be manipulated to reshape the same system under a different name, as reform efforts have done many times in the past. Many projects also risk making only superficial changes to the police or pass the responsibility of policing onto the private or nonprofit sector.

The following are our proposals for different programs the city government could invest in, should they choose to join us in the fight for a world where housing, healthcare, education, and safety are human rights and not commodities. Some of our ideas encourage the city to shape a new system from scratch; others suggest boosting funding for existing programs under the city’s jurisdiction.

You can use this tool to calculate how much funding the city would need to achieve particular program goals. You can also refer to the report “What’s Next?” for more ideas about how we can create safer communities without policing.

Supportive housing services

Boosting rental assistance programs.

Rental assistance is not only a form of crime prevention—it is a way to invest in our community and its future. Rental assistance offers a hand to those who need it the most. Around two-thirds of those who need assistance are either seniors, people with disabilities, or children of families living below the poverty line. With 23 million Americans having to spend more than half of their income on rent, rental assistance has lifted many above the poverty line.

When we invest in rental assistance, we invest in children’s current wellbeing and their success in the future. In the U.S., 1.3 million kids live in shelters, on the streets, crammed in with other households, or in hotels and motels. Kids living in those conditions are shown to score lower on reading tests, complete less schooling, and sometimes even experience damage to their neural development. Rental assistance combined with a practice called supportive housing, which includes things like chronic disease management as well as mental health and substance abuse help, has been linked to nearly $6,000 in savings per person. People who receive supportive housing and rental assistance also spend less time in the hospital or nursing facility.

Studies show that rental assistance leads to a median decrease of household victimization (burglaries, vandalism) by 6% and a median decrease in social disorder of 15%. Among adults, there is a decrease in domestic abuse and drug and alcohol misuse. In situations where the police are either ineffective or dangerous to the community, or have absolutely no ability to aid in the most pressing crises such as the struggle to afford rent, it only makes sense to boost funding for rental assistance, which helps keep people housed and secure.

To get involved with tenants’ rights in Utah, we recommend turning to Wasatch Tenants United.

Providing grants for supportive housing and unsheltered programs.

Supportive housing is a combination of affordable housing and integrated services, such as mental health and case management resources. Such programs are designed to help people stay permanently housed, as opposed to transitional services or shelters that only provide a temporary solution.

Supportive housing has a tangible effect on those utilizing the services and the community at large. It has been shown to assist individuals in exiting homelessness quickly—in one study, in an average of two months—and remain housed, at a success rate of between 75–98%. People in supportive housing are also more likely to participate in job training programs, attend school, discontinue substance use, have fewer instances of domestic violence, and spend fewer days hospitalized than those not participating, costing less in tax dollars than if they were to not have access to these services.

For more about supportive housing resources, you can read about how they save taxpayers money and how they help vulnerable people to live and thrive in their community. You can also read more about Housing First programs here.

Issuing more vouchers for temporary housing at hotels and motels.

Vouchers for temporary housing can help ensure that all residents of our city have access to safe emergency housing when needed. A robust temporary housing voucher program can help make sure that no one needs to spend a night in the cold when shelters are full, and they give families a way to safely stay together rather than facing separation in overcrowded, often dangerous shelters. Further, they support the dignity and wellbeing of all individuals by allowing for privacy, in contrast to the typical shelter environment, which can feel dehumanizing, overwhelming, and unsafe.

From DC to Kansas City, many communities around the U.S. have been offering temporary housing vouchers for hotels and motels. Salt Lake City has offered some motel rooms to unsheltered people after the closing of the Road Home, which eliminated 400 beds from the city’s shelter plan. In light of the dire need for emergency housing, though, SLC should dramatically expand the emergency housing voucher program as part of a broader housing assistance strategy.

But assistance shouldn’t end with a voucher for short-term housing. According to the three-year-long Family Options Study, longer-term vouchers for stable housing options are the best way to keep people off the streets permanently. These programs involve directly paying a housing subsidy to the landlord on behalf of the tenant.

Investing more into community land trusts and other programs that lower the barriers to home ownership.

Community land trusts (CLT) are community-owned, managed, and acquired land lots that lease land parcels to people for residential, commercial, or agricultural uses. A CLT is a way to ensure community-led development of individually owned buildings on community-owned land. Last year, Moms 4 Housing in Oakland bartered with a development company, Wedgewood Inc., by occupying a vacant house in Oakland to highlight disparities in affordable housing. In May 2020, OakCLT purchased the home to secure its community ownership, highlighting how CLTs can be used as a powerful tool for putting properties back into community hands.

In Salt Lake City, only $500,000 is currently allocated to our Community Land Trust. Learn more about community land trusts from Detroit Justice.

Mental health resources

Implementing community-based public safety systems that exist without partnership with the police department.

Social work, like policing, has its own history of racism, structural harm, and systemic biases. We are not under the illusion that social workers are the least harmful alternative to police officers—however, we can imagine a new kind of social work that is de-professionalized, rooted in solidarity over charity, and anti-capitalist. The only way to do that is to de-program social work initiatives that exist in partnership with the police.

Some guiding questions to ask about any program that responds to mental health crises and other forms of social welfare to ensure they are rooted in abolitionist values and principles include:

  • Is the work accountable to the people it proposes to be working for and with?
  • Does it provide material relief?
  • Does it perpetuate ideologies of good vs. bad, deserving vs. undeserving, violent vs. nonviolent, criminal vs. innocent?
  • Does it legitimate or expand carceral systems?

For an example of a healing resource that does not partner with the police, we refer to the Black Emotional and Mental Health Collective.

Provide grants to therapists and social workers to offer free therapy programs for residents facing economic and other hardships.

Many people recognize the value of mental health care, yet few are able to access it. By establishing a grant program that covers therapy sessions, the city could provide material support and resources enabling residents to connect with therapists and social workers. City staff could build a database on the city’s website and provide free sessions for up to six months, with exceptions given under special circumstances. This would also empower social work professionals to continue their therapeutic practice unburdened by the financial hardships of others while they continue to contribute to our community’s healing processes.

Invest in peer-support programs and counselors in schools that center non-punitive interventions.

Recent trends have shown that more people are opening up to the idea of implementing restorative justice (RJ) programs in schools, but more often than not, these programs are run by police or school resource officers. One of the key tenets of RJ is that participation is voluntary. When people are threatened with punishment, it takes away the integrity of the process. By divesting from SROs, schools can help students feel safer and more comfortable with the idea of going through an accountability process or mediation without the fear of suspension, arrest, or even imprisonment.

To learn more, read about how many RJ programs can result in a net widening of the criminal punishment system.

Community spaces

Invest more in public spaces like parks, libraries, outdoor spaces, and community centers, with free public restrooms (including showers) and programming.

Public parks in urban centers provide important reprieves for residents to enjoy the outdoors and gather with friends and family. In Salt Lake City, parks and trails are especially important for their ability to help us clear the air. Having green spaces where we can connect to our environment helps root us in place and commits us to keeping those spaces intact for generations.

In addition, public spaces like libraries and community centers offer more structural support to residents who need help connecting to resources, information, recreation, or even education. When these places have committed staff who can guide residents through questions and a variety of issues, we can provide for each other’s needs and operate from a place of solidarity with our neighbors.

Furthermore, all humans require restrooms, and there is a lack of them except for in private businesses. Not noticing the lack of public restrooms is a privilege that is held by those who don’t suffer from houselessness or certain disabilities that require frequent bathroom use. The lack of public restrooms that is so pervasive in the U.S. has become obsolete in most European and Asian capitals. Access to bathrooms is not only a human right—it is also a public health issue. Hepatitis outbreaks can be linked to lack of restrooms and fecal matter seeping into the water supply. If we want to invest in our cities, we have to invest in spaces for basic human functions.

Create safe spaces for harm reduction services.

Harm reduction includes a variety of services and policies that reduce adverse effects of drug use and protect public health. These include needle exchange programs, safe injection sites, detox centers, medication-assisted treatment (MAT), peer support services, overdose prevention and reversal, and detox and treatment centers. These options have been shown to improve survival, retention in treatment, ability to gain and maintain employment, and birth outcomes for women with substance use disorders, while decreasing illicit opiate use or other harmful activity. Salt Lake City has implemented some of these services but is lacking the funding to meet the needs of our community. Those who use substances have dignity and deserve access to life-saving services.

Learn more about harm reduction and consider supporting local organizations in Utah such as the Utah Harm Reduction Coalition and Utah Naloxone. You can also find a syringe exchange schedule.

Maintain the city zoning in place over the “Fleet Block,” and ensure the murals portraying victims of police violence remain a public space where residents can determine its use.

picture of the murals of portraits at the fleet block

People in any city benefit from deep connections to the history and culture of the place they live and interact in. Salt Lake City is experiencing rapid gentrification, with new apartment buildings going up faster than residents can afford them, as rent prices climb at far faster rates than our wages.

The murals portraying people we have lost from police killings at what the city terms the Fleet Block were created spontaneously in response to the rage, grief, and disillusionment about policing both here and across the country. Since their creation, the community has forged a space for people to gather to make themselves heard, share ideas, celebrate, mourn, provide necessities, and connect. The city now wants to create apartment complexes out of the Fleet Block. This would ruin the integrity of the space and drive the community away. Instead, the city should allow that space to continue to operate with public determination and autonomy.

Offer other direct assistance programs for people of color, survivors of violence and police brutality, and people affected by economic hardship.

Systemic practices and policies rooted in racism, such as Jim Crow segregation, redlining, and criminalization, have stolen from African-American communities in countless ways. Reparations is a process of healing and restoring people who were injured because of their group identity. They require a reckoning, acknowledgement, and repair of past and ongoing harms; monetary compensation to individuals and their descendants, as well as family and community members of individuals harmed; public education and memorialization; and an end to present-day policies and practices that perpetuate harm rooted in a history of anti-Black racism. They are owed in a manner to be determined by Black people in our community.

For more about reparations, we look to this toolkit from the Movement for Black Lives. Salt Lake City could also consider how to support the healing of people marginalized by policies in other ways as determined by those directly affected.

What else do you want the city to invest in?

Of course, there are many other programs that we would like to see implemented in order to foster a holistic community rooted in achieving equity, accountability, sustainability, and reparations. There may be several organizations, operations, or systems that we have overlooked that you feel are vital to creating wholeness and health in our city. When calling on your city councilmember, we encourage you to read the budget for yourself and speak on the things you’d like to see funded over the police department to create the city that YOU want to live in.

How to make your voice heard

Share your voice on how taxpayer dollars are spent in your community by attending city council meetings, or by submitting your comment beforehand. You can call or email the city at any time to leave a comment. All comments related to the agenda will be added to the public record.

City Council Comments: council.comments@slcgov.com
24-Hour Comment Phone Line: 801-535-7654

You can also reach out directly to the representative of your district to make an impact. As a constituent, you have a right to tell your elected officials how they should prioritize the budget. Find out what district you are in by using this map. Learn more about how to make your voice heard by the City Council in this post.

Or, if you’re interested in getting involved in our work, we invite you to fill out a form to bring your ideas forward.