We are writing to encourage Cambridge residents to ask the City Council and City Administrator to support and fund a truly transformative approach to public safety. The 2020 riot in response to the racist and brutal police killings of George Floyd, Breonna Taylor, Tony McDade, Ahmaud Arbery and others is a call to change our existing punishment and punishment-based systems within the police, childcare and psychiatric wards , Prisons and detention centers; These systems do not protect all members of the public and often lead to violence and social disturbance. Although the city set up a task force to investigate alternatives to public safety, it operated without transparency. In recent months, a diverse group of Cantabrians have come together to redefine public safety through a fully participatory process. This group included members from activist, neighborhood, health, human services, and faith organizations and represented a wide range of ethnic, age, and socio-economic backgrounds. Together we have developed a paradigm-shifting approach to public safety, based on transformative justice, in which the community, not the police, ensures many aspects of public safety. This would follow similar successful programs as Cahoots in Eugene, Oregon.

The proposed program, the Cambridge Holistic Emergency Alternative Response Team, will be informed through interviews with the community members most affected by current police practices. Heart’s services are therefore based on the needs of the community. We also consulted with experts who have developed and successfully implemented alternative public safety programs in cities like Oakland, California and Eugene. The services of the program include a first response team; Conflict resolution through restorative and transformative practices; mutual auxiliary services; and community-based training. Community members receiving EMT and conflict resolution training would provide the services, and the program would reside in a government-related agency accountable to the community it serves. The program would of course have adequate liability insurance. We know similar programs have worked safely for many years.

Heart promotes dignity, self-determination and the well-being of everyone in our community. It would protect those most vulnerable to violence from our existing institutions, including blacks and browns, the disabled, homeless, low-income people, immigrants, and those who live on the intersection of those identities. Please join us in advancing this truly transformative approach to public safety by emailing the city council and city administrator asking them to fund Heart.

Louise Parker for our Cambridge Revolution

A BETTER one

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