Protecting our Communities

Public Safety

Dr. Jennifer Tran for Congress CA-12 on the Issues

What’s the challenge:

Public safety concerns are at an all time high for residents of the East Bay, with violent crime in Oakland up 7%, and robberies up 12% in 2023 compared to 2022. Our communities need action to make our spaces safe but public safety, which has long been handled primarily by law-enforcement, is complicated by the long history of institutionalized police discrimination and brutality, particularly against BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and immigrant communities. Both these truths must be addressed in any approach to public safety that actually meets the needs of the community.

What our community deserves:

  • To feel safe, to have the resources available to them as individuals and communities to become safe or seek recourse in the event of conflict or crime.
  • To have robust public safety resources and options beyond the police to call upon in crisis moments. And to feel that the police, when called, can serve the community in a just, timely, and equitable manner.
  • To have a public safety network, that includes the police, that is held accountable both internally and externally, and has the training and resources that they need in order to do their jobs well, with a no-harm approach first.

Dr Tran’s Plan for Public Safety

Comprehensive Coordinated Public Safety

… that gives more resources to the first-responders and to our communities by emphasizing de-escalation, un-armed response, and mental health.

Treat Public Safety as a Public Health Issue

…to better coordinate the local and federal responses, information sharing, and funding that our communities need to adequately, safely act.

Drive Accountability in Law Enforcement

…by building internal and external processes that better equip our first-responders with the training they need, and deeper protections for whistleblowers.

How has Dr. Tran served here before?

  • Community Leadership: President Oakland Vietnamese Chamber of Commerce
    In my role, I was responsible for convening and collaborating with the community, including first-responders and law enforcement, county and state elected officials, to build comprehensive policing initiatives that were shown to work
  • Local Advocacy: Oakland Community Policing Advocacy Board
    I was a former board member of this organization, and advocated for more restorative-justice, trauma-informed approaches to crisis response
  • Grassroots Service: Stop AAPI Hate
    I participated in park and neighborhood activations to improve the safety of AAPI communities facing violence in the wake of COVID-19 and anti-immigrant, anti-Asian rhetoric

Protecting our Communities with Restorative Justice: Public Safety

Policy Details + Additional Resources

Comprehensive Coordinated Public Safety

Today, calling 911 is the default response to most crises. Police are responding to a broad range of issues that include civilian complaints to ‘civil disorder’ to mental health crises. When police are the first to be dispatched, not only does this stretch their department resourcing, it is also often the case that they lack the training to manage the situation with de-escalation and care as the focus. 

The police have also widely and rightly become scrutinized for militarized tactics that are disproportionately deployed against BIPOC, LGBTIA+, and immigrant communities. This has led to fatal interactions that have garnered national attention but also has a broader impact on the quality of life and life expectancy of individuals within these communities.

Coordinated public safety responses that emphasize non-violence and de-escalation have been trialed across the country since the 1990’s and have been particularly expansive in the last few years, including in the East Bay. What’s lacking is funding to scale local efforts, and a national implementation of a more comprehensive response to public safety.  

My plan to develop Comprehensive Coordinated Public Safety Response is as follows:

  • Formalize and expand cooperation between East Bay police departments, licensed health professionals, and civilian peacekeepers
  • Get federal funding for existing coordination efforts that can inform and scale across both the East Bay and the country
  • Support legislation such as the George Floyd Justice in Policing Act that would create federally mandated coordination for comprehensive public safety. 

Public safety should have responses that include unarmed, non-police responders, especially to address nonviolent social and medical issues. These can include mental health crises or traffic enforcement. These have been defined as ‘co-responder’ or alternative first responder programs across the country, and the successes of these programs gives the East Bay, and the country, a blueprint for our own success. 

Not only does this provide real care for our communities, so that we can address violence and other crimes while limiting the violence enacted by our institutions, but we can also produce long-term cost savings that can be reinvested into our community. In Eugene, Oregon, alternative-response public safety saved the city an estimated $14 million in emergency medical services in 2019. San Francisco has also enacted a comprehensive response initiative that has shown success: 
“San Francisco’s Street Crisis Response Team (SCRT) has also expanded significantly since its founding in 2020. In its first year, SCRT responded to more than 5,000 calls related to substance use and mental health, with 59 percent of encounters resolved at the scene (allowing clients to stay in their community), 14 percent of clients receiving non-ambulatory transport (often to urgent care clinics or shelters), and 15 percent receiving ambulatory transport. SCRT diverted 58 percent of mental health calls that would have previously gone to law enforcement, requesting police backup for only 3 percent of encounters. (There have been no reported instances of violence.) The program has now grown to seven teams of paramedics, clinicians, and trained community members who have themselves dealt with mental health or substance use challenges. The teams are operative all day and night, citywide.”

What informed our plan?

Treat Public Safety as a Public Health Issue

Reports show that one in 10 calls to 911 include someone in a mental health crisis, but when the police are the main responders, people with behavioral health problems are on pathways to incarceration or violence rather than treatment and support. 

Police often lack the training necessary to respond to these crises and can end up exacerbating situations, which puts the lives of those struggling and in need of help on the line, “indeed, people with untreated mental illness are 16 times more likely to be killed by law enforcement than other members of the public. Such risks are even higher for people from marginalized groups. A 2018 study found that Black men with mental illness were more likely to be killed by police than people from any other racial or ethnic group, with or without a behavioral health disorder.”

Beyond institutional responses to neighborhood crises and conflicts, the resources available to many Californians to address their care needs are inaccessible. Accessing mental health services remains a barrier for many Californians during a time when reports show a growing number of us, especially women and those experiencing poverty, are experiencing severe psychological distress. 40% of non-elderly Medi-Cal enrollees and 55% of non-elderly Californians with private insurance that have mental health or substance use needs reported not receiving treatment because of a concern over costs or issues related to scheduling. While the state has taken some actions to improve access to care, more funding, resources, and training is necessary to support our communities that are in distress and in need of care. 

My plan to develop treat Public Safety as a Public Health Issue is as follows:

  • Work to get more funding available for mental health resources, including in comprehensive coordinated public safety efforts, available for organizations working to serve our communities, mandate mental health de-escalation training for police and all first responders
  • Give public healthcare workers the support, training, and tools they need to utilize a culturally sensitive, unbiased approach towards intervention and care
  • Build more technological and strategic alliances between different departments serving public good

What informed our plan?

Drive accountability Inside and Outside of Law Enforcement Institutions

When law enforcement is discriminatory against specific identities, it not only impacts our perception and confidence in these institutions, it contributes significantly to the actual safety and overall health we experience. 

Many law enforcement tactics that statistically lead to violence or incarceration, disproportionately occur against BIPOC, LGBTQIA+, and immigrant communities. These “are linked to adverse mental health outcomes, including anxiety, depression, and PTSD. Moreover, studies on neighborhood-level frisks and use of force have similarly found that those policing strategies lead to elevated levels of distress among men living in those neighborhoods. This is troublesome given the effects stress has on health. Feelings of fear, anxiety, anger, etc. produce cardiovascular, neurological and other bodily responses that put strain on body organs, negatively affecting health and increasing mortality.” 

Police violence and its impact upon our societies are well documented but methods to hold our law-enforcement agencies accountable are lacking. “Less than 2 percent of police killings result in charges…That figure has not budged since 2020. The number of people killed by the police is holding steady — last year it was 1,200, compared with 1,147 in 2021, according to Mapping Police Violence.” 

At the same time, the bodies that are meant to drive accountability, like the Oakland Police Commission and Community Police Review Agency, aren’t getting the resourcing necessary to properly ethically and impactfully drive positive change. And law enforcement bodies lack the protections necessary to audit themselves, in fact, whistleblowers within law enforcement often face wide-spread retaliation and punishment.   

My plan to develop Accountability for law enforcement is as follows:

  • Deepen protections for whistleblowers through legislation, focusing on incentivizing and protecting internal police accountability within law enforcement bodies
  • Federal mandated auditing of our law enforcement bodies with partnerships between more local organizations to support driving actual institutional change
  • Providing more mandated resources for law enforcement related to anti-bias training, de-escalation, in addition to mental health services

What informed our policy?

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