A Year In Mill Valley

Archive for June, 2020

Fixing America: Things to ask about our social and police services – a list

1. Analyze the nature of 911 calls to determine what most were for. How many were for public safety issues like assaults or burglaries, versus how many were for mental health services, health, EMT, fire and other services which are better served by professionals from those professions.

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Fixing America: Things to watch and read.

  • Confessions of a Former Bastard Cop – American policing is a thick blue tumor strangling the life from our communities and if you don’t believe it when the poor and the marginalized say it, if you don’t believe it when you see cops across the country shooting journalists with less-lethal bullets and caustic chemicals, maybe you’ll believe it when you hear it straight from the pig’s mouth. https://medium.com/@OfcrACab/confessions-of-a-former-bastard-cop-bb14d17bc759

  • we need more. Song by Taylor Fagins dedicated to George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Ahmaud Arbery, and the countless Black sisters and brothers who have died.)
  • If only the Dems had the guts to do these things…”Democrats would have you believe they are victims and have no power in this situation — which is, in a word, horseshit. And not just run-of-the-mill horseshit we’ve all gotten used to — this is especially dangerous horseshit, because we need them to actually use the power they currently have to oppose what’s going on. Right now.” https://sirota.substack.com/p/10-things-dems-could-do-right-now

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Fixing America: Start with zero-based budgeting for police and social services.

Zero-based budgeting is the concept that one returns to basics each year(*) in order to justify the budget for a project, department or other entity.

I’d like to see us use this concept for justifying the social services and police and sheriff budgets for Mill Valley and Marin County.

In order to do this we must first define what the goals are of these systems. Then we define the SLIs (Service Level Indicators) and SLOs (Service Level Objectives) against which we plan to measure these systems.

In the case of a police department, one indicator (SLI) would be whether the level of staffing is appropriate to provide the expected delivery of service. Think of a bank, if there are too few tellers there’s a line, and if there are too many, you’re paying for unneeded staff sitting around doing nothing. Same for the police – it may be that Mill Valley needs 22 staffed positions, but it also may be that that’s too high, or too low. We should start by looking at staffing levels historically over the past 50 years, comparing that to the population growth, the budget growth, as well as the number and types of incidents being responded to. Only by looking at real numbers can we make informed decisions about staffing levels.

Another SLI would be how often officers are responding to situations for which they are a) not needed, or b) not trained. For example, if a large percentage of their callouts are responding to homelessness, young people being young people, drug addiction, or other “social ills”, then it may be that we should be funding alternative response methods which are geared towards responding to these types of incidents with a social service rather than law and order mindset.

The same goes for social services. What are their SLOs and SLIs, and are they properly staffed to serve the communities that need their attention?

I am not an expert in policing or social services, so I don’t know what all the SLIs are, and what the SLOs should be set at. But I am very interested in learning more, and hearing from those who are experts in these areas.

And it may be that we have the exact right budget split between policing and social services. But I doubt it. Which is why I think we need an open and honest conversation about where our priorities lie, our needs lie, and whether we are funding all of them appropriately.

(* It doesn’t have to be every year, it could be every two, or five years as agreed upon by the community. The most important thing is that it happen regularly, so that everyone can question why things are the way they are.)

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Fixing America: Where to start? Start at home!

I sent this letter to all of the Mill Valley council members, and all the Marin County Supervisors. I intend to attend meetings of both, and ask them to “perform a fully transparent, open to the public, review of all of policing and social service policies and budgets.” Because if we can’t do it in Marin County, how do expect it to be done anywhere else?


In this article “How Much Do We Need The Police?” they ask and answer some interesting questions around how we have gone from police being here to “Protect and Serve”, to them being asked to solve all of our societal ills — mental health issues, homelessness, drug addiction, and all the other things that we have defunded over the years.

I would like to suggest that both Mill Valley and Marin County take a top down approach to reviewing its social services and police and sheriff departments, and to review the police and sheriff department’s charter, operations and budget.  It may be that we have the right number of officers.  That they are perfectly trained in the latest techniques of de-escalation before force.  That they don’t have any military equipment in their arsenal.  That they investigate, and fire, officers for misconduct.  That misconduct charges are fully searchable and transparent to all citizens, and that they are never deleted or redacted.  And that their contract does not contain egregious clauses and language which makes it impossible to discipline or fire officers.  

It may be that all of those things are perfect and true, but it’s unlikely.  And so I would like to see us perform a fully transparent, open to the public, review of all of these policies.  Because if we can’t do it here, in Mill Valley and Marin County, where we haven’t (yet) had any problems, how can we expect it to happen anywhere else, where tensions are higher?

Please don’t wait until it’s too late.  Please do this now, while you will be sure to get the backing of the citizens of this great city, county and state.

I leave you with two articles that I think you’ll find interesting.

What do protesters want? Here are 10 demands sent to the Dallas Police Department, local leaders

How to Actually Fix America’s Police: Elected officials need to do more than throw good reform dollars at bad agencies

Frank Leahy, A Dad In Mill Valley

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