Does Defunding the Police Work for Bremerton?
We’ve experienced several peaceful demonstrations over the past few weeks in Bremerton and across Kitsap County in response to the murder of George Floyd while he was in police custody. The demonstrations have exposed the racial injustices experienced by African Americans as well as communities of color in cities and states across the U.S.
During this time, there have been calls to “defund the police” and invest more money in social services for mental health, drug and alcohol addiction, as well as homelessness to address underlying factors in our community that contribute to poverty and racial inequities. In a previous message on June 3, I discussed police reforms, which can be viewed here. As Mayor, my focus is to continue those reform efforts, to maintain police funding (which I view as important to serve our City), and to initiate a number of new social programs to benefit our citizens. All three I believe are imperative for building a safe and healthy community.
In Bremerton, over the past two years, we have been creating new ways to support underrepresented and vulnerable populations and to address issues where officers may be called to handle situations. As part of long-term solutions, we have been putting in place new social services to help residents fairly receive housing, counseling and addiction treatment. I want to share some of these new areas that are under development and what we are continuing to work on:
- The first-ever Bremerton Rental Assistance Program was started two years ago, which provides funding for rental payments, security deposits and other assistance. This City program has helped eligible residents to retain their housing when faced with job loss or other unexpected financial situations that may result in homelessness.
- We created the City of Bremerton Weatherization Program, which has helped reduce heating and housing costs for low-income residents so they can afford to stay in their homes.
- The City of Bremerton developed a partnership with Kitsap Mental Health and Bremerton Housing Authority to locate Kitsap County’s first-of-its-kind Permanent Supportive Housing project, Pendleton Place, in our city. In addition to housing, residents will receive on-site counseling and assistance to help with addiction and mental illness.
- A new ground-breaking program between the Bremerton fire department and Peninsula Community Health Services will be up and running soon and will administer mobile health care, mental health, and drug addiction counseling and treatment. I have asked the City Council to back my request for a full-time Bremerton Medical Officer to staff the program.
- We provide support to Kitsap Connect and the Navigator Programs, which offers community crisis services for those suffering from the long-term effects of homelessness and untreated mental illness.
- The City has continued to invest in community-oriented policing efforts, such as de-escalation training, City-wide bicycle patrols, neighborhood programs and community outreach.
- We operate a summer playground program for youth through the parks department that encourages building relationships between young people of diverse cultures and backgrounds and provides free lunch to participants.
I believe we need real-world solutions to some of the issues facing our community. We must maintain a strong budget for our police department to serve the public while also offering programs that will make a difference to improving lives. We know there’s more to do and we will continue to adapt and change going forward.