See below for JUFJ testimony opposed to spending additional ARPA funding on increased policing and surveillance. Heidi Rhodes, member of the Montgomery County Leadership Council, wrote this testimony.
My name is Heidi Rhodes and I live in Colesville, Maryland. I was an analyst for the National Security Agency for over 30 years before retiring and joining the work of Jews United for Justice.
Today I am testifying on behalf of JUFJ against the special appropriation for the Police Department from the COVID-19 ARPA relief funds. My Jewish tradition teaches that we should not put a stumbling block before the blind (Leviticus 19:14); we must proactively remove the barriers that prevent members of our community from thriving in our County. Instead of mitigating the barriers of poverty, lack of housing, and disinvestment in public health, this special appropriation further invests in programs that may lead to over-criminalization of our County’s BIPOC communities.
Reducing gun violence is about so much more than policing and criminalization. The Treasury Department recognized this when suggesting a range of non-carceral approaches for ARPA funds. The Council’s proposed special appropriation ignores this holistic approach and continues an outdated insistence on policing as the primary way to address gun violence. There is no reason for the programs in this request to be funded through MCPD. The money should go directly to the Street Outreach Network, the Family Justice Center and the Recreations Department.
I am deeply concerned by the proposal for a Violent Crime Information Center (VCIC). In my previous career I too often saw analysis of datasets of incomplete and biased data being used to make life changing decisions — and that is my fear for the VCIC. What data is going to be analyzed? Police reports coming from already over-policed Black and brown communities? Will data include gun seizures from cars, when we know that Black drivers make up 50% of traffic stops though they are 20% of our County’s population? Will the results from the “analysis” lead to more no-knock warrants and the unnecessary criminalization of more individuals?
Ultimately, data proves that the best way to prevent crime and violence is to address the underlying issues that lead to crime, such as mental health care and stable housing. Instead, this special appropriation has the potential to lead to more police involvement where it doesn’t belong, to more decisions being made based on analysis of faulty datasets, and to more harm and trauma.