By Ryan Hagen, The Sun
SAN BERNARDINO >> Shootings in a pair of economically distressed California cities were skyrocketing, leaving the impression of an epidemic, but analysis by California Partnerships for a Safe Community revealed relatively few people are behind many of those shootings.
Working with police and the community, the consultants found the people at risk of those shootings and developed relationships to encourage actions other than violence.
Then homicides dropped — 30 percent in Oakland, 55 percent in Stockton.
The professional services agreement with California Partnerships that the City Council unanimously approved March 6 isn’t the first step toward implementing the program, known as Ceasefire, in San Bernardino.
For more than two years, community groups — particularly Inland Congregations United for Change, known as ICUC — have pushed the city to implement Ceasefire. Police and city officials studied and then began preparing to implement the program, with the City Council directing City Manager Mark Scott in October to pursue the contract.
The vote won’t be the last word either.
Scott warned in October that visible change — a dramatic drop in homicide rates like the 55 percent seen in Stockton — would take perhaps two years.
The next step is filling the positions that will be charged with running the program.
A job description for the civilian head, who will likely work out of the city manager’s office, is being put together now, Police Chief Jarrod Burguan said Thursday.
“Once that person is in place, they’ll start working pretty intensively with us to go over the data,” Burguan said. “The intent of the data analysis is — and we think we have a pretty good idea of this already — to drill down on what the root causes of violence are, and try to get a snapshot of who’s responsible for it or at risk of it.”
The key to that analysis is its specificity.
“Typically, if we’re trying to figure out where do we need to prevent the next shooting, we’ll focus in on groups and locations,” Burguan said. “They will try to actually identify people: John Smith, who lives at this particular location, is at risk because of that. And the outreach will specifically go to John Smith.”
In addition to the analysis, California Partnership promises to develop local capacities — through shooting reviews, meeting coordination and performance measurement — and help with communication messaging, strategic enforcement and outreach.
“This has also enabled the (Oakland Police) Department to reduce its reliance on tactics and strategies — such as gang injunctions, curfews and aggressive street-level drug enforcement — that tend to sweep African-American and Latino young men at low risk of violence into the criminal justice system with little or no public safety benefit,” California Partnership wrote in its submission to the city.
These are all invaluable goals, said Tom Dolan, executive director of ICUC, which is why the group has been marching and holding community events advocating for Ceasefire since 2015.
“I sure wish it could have happened more quickly, but I understand this is kind of a change in culture and the mentality of how we approach this issue. It does take time,” Dolan said. “We’ve been marching and requesting this for quite some time. We’re hoping that now that the decisions have been made that we can move forward quickly and with strong community representation.”
The community representation is key, though, he said, and ICUC plans to stress that in a set of recommendations they intend to give the mayor’s office Monday.
“We’re communicating directly with the mayor’s office to show our support and enthusiasm,” Dolan said. “And also our recommendation that Ceasefire is, by definition, a partnership with the community. We’re calling on the city to schedule regular community meetings where the community is involved.”
Small meetings are key in Oakland, according to California Partnership’s literature.
“Community, clergy, street outreach and criminal justice leaders gather around dining or conference tables with 10 to 20 young men at high risk of violence,” they write. “The partners share their commitment to making neighborhoods safe and keeping the young men alive and free, while providing them with clear and accurate information about the risks of violence and incarceration. The tone is serious, but also respectful and compassionate.”
ICUC also wants to ensure that the management position is open to the public, Dolan said.
The two full-time staff positions for the city are projected to cost about $400,000 per year, according to the city, plus program costs and eventually additional part-time community outreach providers.
The contract with California Partnership itself costs the city $175,000 per year — about $87,500 for the current fiscal year, which ends June 30.
Funding will come from Measure Z, a sales tax measure San Bernardino voters approved in 2006.
Measure YY, an advisory measure also passed in 2006, stated that the proceeds of Measure Z “be used only to fund more police officers and support personnel, and to fund anti-gang and anti-crime operations, including drug resistance education and supervised after-school youth activities.”
Police continue to hire aggressively, and Ceasefire will be just added to the department’s efforts, Burguan said.
“The reality is this is another tool in our toolbox,” Burguan said. “This program, when done correctly, has proven time and time again to effectively reduce (shooting and homicide) numbers. However, it does not solve necessarily underlying problems, and it does not replace traditional policing. We’re never going to stop doing traditional policing.”