Statement on the Detroit City Budget 2023

The Detroit Justice Center opposes how the Detroit city budget is being used. We’ve seen community members call for community-based violence intervention and sustainable funding for initiatives that benefit them, and time after time we’ve seen money funneled into the law enforcement surveillance apparatus. As long as we keep reinforcing the apparatus of incarceration, we will remain stuck in a system that punishes poverty and keeps people trapped in cycles of violence.

We strongly supported organizers and the demand for creating an Office of Violence Prevention (OVP) funded at $50M. The OVP should include an unarmed response team/non-police first responders; mental health outreach and support; an impact study offering safety alternatives outside of police intervention; and universal basic income. Unfortunately, City Council did not include a line item for OVP work or the establishment of it as an office in the budget. While we recognize that the City has a gun violence task force, we know that the task force is not nearly sufficient to truly address violence and what preventing the occurrence in the first instance looks like. The Mayor’s $10M ShotStopper initiative is being funded with discretionary ARPA dollars, but this small pilot program is not enough.

In addition to community-based violence prevention, we’re also in solidarity with organizers and the Right to Counsel Coalition calling for a fully funded Right to Counsel Ordinance. By applying consistent pressure on City Council and speaking out about the real-life perils of eviction, we saw the Right to Counsel funding increase from $6M to $18M over three years. This is an important victory that we claim, as these funds will go towards the necessary legal representation to keep Detroiters in their homes. However, the $18M allocation was through ARPA funds which is not a permanent funding source. As is law, the RTC Ordinance requires that any and all Detroiters facing eviction be provided with an attorney at no cost to the tenant. Therefore, there must be a permanent funding source identified with at least $27M that covers the actual amount needed to allow for a full legal defense for every household. Through the work of organizers in the Detroit Housing Court Watch project, we know that Detroiters are not currently being represented.

Alongside a demand for permanent funding for Right to Council, we continue to support and organize for compensation for Detroiters who were overtaxed and foreclosed upon illegally, some of whom lost their homes due to these over-assessments. We demanded monetary compensation for the thousands of Detroiters who have been impacted. The city has merely presented these homeowners with preference in certain city programs, a choice which we believe to be woefully inadequate and does not remedy the loss that many faced. We recognize that there are legal barriers in the way of directly compensating folks but we know they can be overcome. Until Detroiters are made whole from over-assessments, there can be no question of why the city cannot retain a steady population increase. How much is the life of a Detroiter valued when the city refuses to make any impactful gesture to right its wrongs? 

While the lack of accountability to Detroiters has been pervasive in the budget, we’ve seen time and again the reliance upon faulty surveillance technology to solve the city’s law enforcement issues. The Board of Police Commissioners approved Detroit Police Department’s specification report for automatic license plate readers (ALPRs) so the request to add more ALPRs in the city is in City Council’s lap. In 1-2 weeks the Public Health & Safety Committee will be discussing DPD’s request for more ALPRs that would cost 5 million dollars. Similar to the ShotSpotter issue, we support organizers in their fight against this costly surveillance tool that curtails people’s freedom of movement. Folks should speak out against this proposed acquisition at City Council.

On this Thursday, 7/13 at 6:30 pm, the Board of Police Commissioners is holding a Community Meeting & Public Hearings on revisions to Gunshot Detection System Policy (aka ShotSpotter) and Officer Involved Shooting Investigations Policy. We encourage community members to attend and make their voices heard.