Mountain View residents call for city council to cut police budget

By Cedric Chan and Tomoki Chien

Today, at 6:30 p.m., the Mountain View City Council met to address public concerns about police reform and budget cuts, among other agenda items. The meeting opened with a statement by Mountain View Police Chief Max Bosel.

“A hate for all police officers … is a phobia that I suggest is as unjust and misplaced as other biases,” Bosel said. “We as a community and a police department must do a better job of understanding each other.” 

The statement, while applauded by many councilmembers, drew much criticism from residents during the public comment time slot. 

“Being judged for being a police officer is nothing like being murdered for being black,” Mountain View resident Eva Tang said, addressing Bosel’s comment about bias against police. “You can take your uniform off when you get home. Black people cannot take their skin off.” 

During public comment sessions, many residents demanded that the city cut funds from the MVPD and reallocate resources to community and social services. 

Police funding constituted $41.6 million, or 31.0 percent of Mountain View’s General Operating Fund Expenditures for the fiscal year of 2019–20. The proposed budget for the fiscal year of 2020–21 includes $44.8 million of police expenditures, or 30.3 percent.

Public safety spending—including fire and police—constitutes so much of the general operating budget because it requires 24/7 staffing, according to Mountain View Finance and Administrative Services Director Jesse Takahashi.

City Manager Kimberly McCarthy said that the high public safety budget also reflects the high cost of living in Mountain View, as well as increases in all costs due to general inflation and other causes. The total city-wide general expenses are increasing by 7.5 percent compared to police expenses increasing by 5.2 percent, she noted. 

Many residents also called for broad police reforms to fundamentally change the role of law enforcement. Suggestions included implementing #8Can’tWait, which provides eight policies that police forces should implement to reduce the use of deadly force, as well as using psychologists and social workers to respond to 911 calls related to mental health.

Some accused the MVPD of unfairly targeting black and Latinx residents, citing statistics that they said showed that black and Latinx residents are far more likely to be pulled over or arrested than white residents. 

One resident also called for Bosel to be removed from his position, citing a 2016 sexual harassment lawsuit. Other residents also brought up the lawsuit during the first public comment session. 

In his statement, Bosel commended the MVPD for its work amid the coronavirus pandemic and the recent protests. Some councilmembers expressed sympathy for the many concerned residents that called in during the public comment sessions. 

“If your frustration is anything like I had growing up during the Vietnam War with the frustration of injustice and the government not listening to us, I have to say that I commend you for the respectful approach that you’ve taken tonight,” City Councilmember John McAlister said. “You are providing great advocacy for a cause you believe in and I always appreciate people that are committed to making social change for the best.”