A recent Black Lives Matter protest in front of the Police Department
Protestors marched to the Santa Barbara Police Department in May to protest police brutality. (Joshua Molina / Noozhawk photo)

The Santa Barbara City Council passed a resolution Tuesday condemning police brutality and declaring racism a public health crisis.

The vote was 7-0.

“Thousands of people showed up at the courthouse,” Councilman Oscar Gutierrez said. “Thousands of people showed up at City Hall. Thousands of people showed up at State Street and marched and let us know what they wanted. We listened to them and we’re taking action on it. It’s a long time coming.”

Gutierrez said he’s not saying that the police department is guilty of anything, but “we’re just asking them to do better.” Gutierrez said this isn’t the only thing that is going to change and that it is a “continual thing.”

The community organization Healing Justice SB pushed the city to pass the resolution. 

The resolution acknowledges not only the high profile death of George Floyd, an unarmed black man in Minnesota who was killed by an officer who kneeled on his neck for 8:46 seconds, but also 26-year-old Oxnard resident and former Santa Barbara resident Meagan Hockaday, who was fatally shot in her own home by the Oxnard Police Department, and other deaths of African-Americans by police officers. 

“From slavery to Jim Crow laws to the modern criminal justice system, black people in this country have been brutalized and dehumanized for centuries, including Santa Barbara County’s first black enslaved resident, Jerry Forney,” the resolution states. 

Councilman Mike Jordan said the Police Department is already doing its best to combat racism and that they are “exemplary,” but that view is from a “middle-aged white man.”

“It is not a sufficient frame of reference what my view is, of how the police act in those situations,” Jordan said. “The view is from a person of color and there is no reason, I don’t believe, for us not to make sure we as a body continue to lead in a direction of requiring our Police Department to continue to commit to those fair and impartial policing policies.” 

City Council OKs Budget

The City Council approved a $350 million total budget Tuesday.

Among the changes hashed out over the past few weeks were setting aside $1.15 million in Measure C funding for the Library Plaza and approving $50,000 in funding for the Point-in-Time homeless count. The city also plans to conduct an outside evaluation of the Police Department to look at how resources are spent. It is also considering moving parking enforcement tasks from the Police Department to the Public Works Department. The city also plans to find funding for a minimum of four positions related to social work, mental health and/or code enforcement.

Plans also call for the city staff to work with the black community to fund and find a way to build a community center. 

The budget also calls for a 5 percent budget reduction for all departments. Although the members of the City Council were set to receive a consumer price index raise, all members of the council agreed to forego the raise and either donate it to a community group or back to the general fund to show solidarity with the other departments receiving budget cuts. 

Noozhawk staff writer Joshua Molina can be reached at jmolina@noozhawk.com. Follow Noozhawk on Twitter: @noozhawk, @NoozhawkNews and @NoozhawkBiz. Connect with Noozhawk on Facebook.