Community members took to the streets Friday evening in San Luis Obispo to protest an increase in the police budget for the 2021-23 term.
“I believe San Luis Obsipo needs to spend less money on police and more money in the community helping those who need it, rather than policing those who don’t need policing,” said protester Daniel Foote.
One key aspect of the approved budget, is the new proposed public safety pilot program. This will start sending EMT and social workers to homeless-related 911 calls, instead of armed police officers. If needed, the budget also adds a second social worker to serve with the police department’s Community Action Team.
“The lead response is that social worker, paramedic being able to respond to mental health crises in a different way, plus proactively,” said San Luis Obispo City Council Member Andy Pease.
Councilmember Pease explained that other reasons for the rise in the budget for the police department include operational expenses, like the replacement of equipment and salary inflation.
Earlier this week, more than 25 organizations called on the City Council to not move forward with the budget. Protesters are fighting for a $5 million investment to transition away from policing, and direct the money toward issues like rent relief and very low-income housing.
“I hope they’ll finally listen to all of the voices of people asking them to spend money on the community, rather than policing the community,” said Foote.
Councilmember Pease responded by saying, it’s a work in progress and the City Council is working to reevaluate the budget for the next fiscal term as they go.
“We’re all having a conversation about reimagining policing, but it’s a longer conversation. So we want to put these other measures in place first,” said Pease.
Some protesters say the City Council’s plan to include more social workers and mental health responders to address homelessness is a start, but they’d like long-term community efforts like rent relief and low-income housing.