The Jewish Center for Justice recently delivered the following letter to members of the California legislature urging support for the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems (C.R.I.S.E.S.) Act (AB 2054), a significant effort to accomplish police reform. Here’s the letter in full:
The Jewish Center for Justice proudly endorses the Community Response Initiative to Strengthen Emergency Systems Act, a critical measure towards achieving equity in our emergency response systems. The C.R.I.S.E.S. Act establishes a pilot grant program which tests the effects of diversifying types of emergency responders. Under the program, grants will be awarded to selected community-based emergency response organizations to intervene in place of law enforcement officers in certain emergency situations. This includes instances of mental health crises, intimate partner violence, community violence, substance abuse, and natural disasters.
When a significant portion of Californians have reason to fear interacting with police officers, it is clear that our system for responding to emergency situations must change. Under the pilot program put forth in this bill, we look forward to emergencies being handled in a sensitive manner, and responders facilitating long-term solutions to the underlying causes of emergencies. We encourage our California elected officials to listen to the cries of the people, who are telling us that our current policing system is not working, and we urge them to support this legislation.
We understand that a looming deficit this fiscal year presents challenges for funding government programs. However, funding should not be a barrier when human lives are at stake. Governor Newsom and members of the legislature must make this C.R.I.S.E.S. Act a funding priority. As Californians and Jews, we strive to create a state where all residents — including Black, Latinx, LGBTQ, formerly incarcerated, homeless, immigrants, people struggling with addiction, and individuals with mental health challenges — feel that their protection is a priority and feel completely comfortable interacting with emergency responders.
Judaism teaches us to value the sanctity of human life over all else, and that those who seek refuge from oppressors and those who are persecuted should receive equal protection as any other in society. As Jewish people, we are tasked with the mission of Tikkun Olam, repairing the world. Advocating for justice where we see clear injustice is paramount to this repair. Our Torah says, “Tzedek Tzedek Tirdof” (Deuteronomy 16:18), meaning Justice, Justice you shall pursue . Police brutality and inequity in emergency response systems are a clear societal injustice. The JCJ community firmly believes that this bill will address this injustice, build trust between emergency responders and all Californians, and preserve lives.
Rabbi Joel Simonds
Founding Executive Director
Jewish Center for Justice
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