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Fit For Life

ISSUES | Crime / Creating a Culture of Peace

Pre- & Post-Ferguson

Real Police Reform Takes Root in Richmond

by Steve Early

In the wake of a Missouri grand jury decision not to indict Darren Wilson, the police officer who shot and killed Michael Brown on August 9, it can be difficult to imagine a city in the United States where a police department and a largely black and Latino population work together productively.

But it's happening in Richmond, California, a gritty town in the San Francisco Bay Area best known for its massive Chevron refinery and, in past years, for its high crime rate.

Thanks to a decade-long experiment with “community policing,” violent crime in Richmond is down. Last year, this city of 100,000 had only 16 killings—the lowest number in 33 years—and far fewer unsolved homicide cases.

Gun use by the Richmond Police Department (RPD) itself is also way down. Despite making thousands of arrests and confiscating one gun or more every day in the city, the RPD has averaged less than one officer-involved shooting per year since 2008. On September 6, The Contra Costa Times ran a story, citing these and other statistics. It was headlined: "Use of Deadly Force by Police Disappears on Richmond Streets."

Continue to the full CounterPunch story.

Cops Stop Shooting People, Crime Drops Dramatically

When Liberals Take Control of Police

Exerpt from the East Bay Express, September 10

by Robert Gammon

One police department in the East Bay is proving that the law-and-order crowd has been wrong all these years, and that overwhelming force—especially lethal force—is not only unjustified, but completely unnecessary. Since 2007, the Richmond Police Department, under the command of Chief Chris Magnus, the most progressive police chief in the Bay Area, has not had a single fatal shooting by one of its officers, a fact that was first reported last weekend by the Contra Costa Times.

When Magnus took over the troubled Richmond PD in 2006, he quickly realized that overwhelming force was not the answer. In 2006 and 2007, Richmond cops shot five people, killing one of them. So he instituted numerous reforms, including training officers to defuse tense situations without firing their weapons. Magnus also emphasized the importance of investigating crime, and eschewed so-called hotspot policing, in which a department saturates an area with cops like an occupying force. "We are surgical," he told the CoCo Times earlier this year. "We concentrate on people that need to be focused on."

Magnus also installed a robust community-policing program, deploying officers into neighborhoods to forge relationships with residents. The effort was designed to reverse a longstanding problem in Richmond in which residents distrusted the city's violent police force and refused to cooperate with it. Magnus also reformed the way police respond to political demonstrations, training officers to take a softer, gentler approach.

Continue to the full East Bay Express article.

Richmond On Pace For Another Year Of Record Low Crime Rates

Operation Ceasefire

In case you missed it, here's a 2 1/2 minute KPIX report on the success of Richmond's innovative (& controversial) community policing program.

In the Tradition of Studs Turkel

Interview with Richmond Police Chief Magnus

Richmond resident Steve Early talked with our Chief about the way he wants the force to work in this city. Here's some of what he had to say about community policing:

"If you're really committed to community policing, you have to make structural changes within your organization. Are you going to have community policing officers who are just this small cadre within a department—essentially its public relations wing—or are you going to integrate the larger expectations of community policing into the role of every officer? The latter is what we've tried to do here—to say no matter what your assignment, we expect you to, first and foremost, build quality relationships."

It's a new and apparently effective vision, another one of the ways Richmond is better now.

Read the whole piece, published in In These Times.

San Quentin Richmond Project

Getting the Word Out
Getting the Word Out

I, along with my office staff, have been making regular visits to the men of the San Quentin Richmond Project (men from Richmond serving time in San Quentin) and are making connections for them with the "outside community." We are circulating this video, produced by the men, among our violence prevention groups, youth groups, city staff and the community at large.


It is deeply important that we showcase the transformation that these men are making while in prison and share their message with our community, especially our youth.


Please feel free to forward this video link to your lists. We'll continue to update the community on efforts of the Richmond Project as we continue to prioritize this "inside/outside" connection in the interest of a safer, more peaceful Richmond.  


You can help further the work of the Richmond Project by writing a check to San Quentin TRUST (write Richmond Project in the memo section of the check) and sending to:

Accounting, San Quentin State Prison, 1 Main Street, San Quentin, CA 94964


--Gayle McLaughlin,  

Mayor, City of Richmond

Board Votes  for Re-Entry Services

CCP Board

On Friday the executive committee of the Community Corrections Partnership (CCP) of Contra Costa County, meeting in Martinez, voted to:
  • fund the Community Advisory Board's  (CAB) proposals for comprehensive re-entry services for formerly incarcerated individuals in the AB109 prison realignment population  (6-1 vote)
  • remove funding for jail expansion out of the Sheriff's budget and put it into a general reserve fund (7-0 vote)
Thanks again to Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus for his strong support of the community's recommendations from the beginning, to Public Defender Robin Lipetzky [on right] for stepping forward and making the motion to support the CAB budget, and to Kiri Torre of the Court, Cynthia Belon of Health Services, Probation Chief Philip Kader and Sheriff David Livingston for adding their votes to support the CAB proposal.  The one dissenting vote was from District Attorney Mark Peterson [on left].

Bonus item:  Thanks also to Sheriff Livingston for dialoguing with community organizations and making plans to stop honoring ICE immigration holds for low level offenses.

Next steps:  RFP/RFQ process will be initiated, and the AB109 budget for 2012-13, as voted on by the CCP, will be submitted to the County's Board of Supervisors on January 15, 2013 for final approval.

This all happened because of the strong and unified community mobilization that started in Richmond and spread throughout the county, involving many grassroots organizations (including CCISCO, Safe Return Project and Richmond Progressive Alliance), non-profits, faith-based groups and concerned residents.  THANKS and CONGRATULATIONS to EVERYONE who was part of this effort!
--Marilyn Langlois

CCP Audience
Regular Community Testimony at CCP meetings was critical in shifting the funds

Recent News Shows Positive Results from Community Policing

Dear Friends,

I am delighted to share with you some encouraging news. Our collective work, as a community and as a City, in reducing crime is showing positive results.

Two recent media reports highlight Richmond's progress.

On July 30, KTVU-Channel 2 television news aired a report about Richmond's dramatic drop in violent crime, noting a 10% decrease overall and a 22% decline in the Central District. Homicides have dropped 60% so far in 2010, and gunshots are down 37% Click here for KTVU.

On July 26, the Contra Costa Times chronicled the significant drop in violence within the Parchester Village neighborhood, a turnaround due in large part to community-oriented policing. Click here for story

We can all feel proud and hopeful by these inroads, hard won by collaborative work by the enlarged and enhanced Richmond Police Department, local community and neighborhood groups, and many dedicated individuals working on the frontlines.

As we highlight these positive trends, we must also redouble our efforts to fight crime as we build a better Richmond. One gunshot is too many; a single homicide is unacceptable.

{he letter urged participation in "National Night Out" events on August 3rd. The event was an outstanding success with hundreds of people particiapting in neighborhood activities.--ed}


Mayor Gayle McLaughlin 8/1/10