Gainesville District Supervisor Pete Candland’s attempt to pre-emptively stop the county from considering reallocating any police funding in its 2021-2024 strategic plan fell at the hands of the Board of County Supervisor’s Democratic majority Tuesday night.
The county’s strategic planning development team had presented a sampling of some of the community feedback it received from citizens in the early strategic planning stages at a previous board meeting. Included among them were suggestions from community members that the county reallocate some police funding to other social services.
Also included were messages of support for maintaining or increasing levels of police funding. So far, the board has not considered reallocating any police funds the strategic plan is still being developed by county staff. County staff has held an online survey and held 12 “community conversation” sessions.
But Candland said his resolution was an attempt to “set the guard rails” of the planning process and reassure the county’s police that the board was not going to “defund the police.” A number of county residents used Tuesday’s public comment period to express support for the resolution and police funding, with others calling it an attempt to silence community members.
“I believe that this outpouring of support really speaks to the importance of this issue,” Candland said Tuesday night. “When folks call 911, they expect someone will pick up the phone and the necessary resources will be sent to help. … We need to take firm action today and remove any doubt on where this board stands.”
Candland’s resolution would have directed the strategic plan development team to “strike all language, references, and consideration to defunding the police or reallocating funds away from the police.”
But it was promptly voted down on a 5-3 vote, with all five Democrats voting against the resolution and all three Republicans voting in favor.
Democrats accused Candland of trying to gin up fear that the board was attempting to defund the police or otherwise cut into the department’s budget, actions many activists called for during protests over police violence this summer. Woodbridge Supervisor Margaret Franklin called the whole thing irresponsible and an attempt to “rile up the community around something that doesn’t actually exist.”
“I spoke to a couple of police officers where I explained to them the process and they said, ‘Wow, I thought A, B and C was happening.’ No, officer, A, B and C is not happening,” Franklin said. “There has been no talk of anything, at least from members of this board. … I just question the intent of it and I think the intent was to sow discourse again, create chaos and create further divisions between the board and members of our law enforcement community.”
In June, the board voted to include an “equity lens” in the planning process. On Wednesday, the strategic planning committee will meet again, with the finalization of the plan slated to come later this month, after which the county will create a plan “accountability and reporting committee” to report on the plan’s implementation.
In its first budget under the new Democratic majority, the board voted this year to maintain funding levels for the police department and recently announced the hiring of current D.C. Chief of Police Peter Newsham to be the county’s police chief. During Tuesday’s public comment, supporters of Candland’s resolution largely praised the selection, while those speaking in opposition to it criticized the decision, citing allegations of police misconduct in D.C.