Justice for Steven Taylor

Tiny - Posted on 25 June 2020

Photo- Steven Taylor. Source Lee Merritt



It has been a little over two months since Steven Taylor was shot and killed by a police officer inside a Walmart in San Leandro and there has been no justice to his memory. Taylor was unhoused at the time and experiencing a mental health crisis, but rather than calling for a trained mental health expert or the city’s homeless bike police unit, police officers shot him, for holding a baseball bat. National attention to similar police brutality cases has galvanized local San Leandro organizers, and over 70 people attended the June 15th San Leandro City Council meeting to demand justice for Steven Taylor and call for defunding the police. 


In a meeting that lasted well into the early morning hours, the San Leandro City Council was split on approving the city budget. While three councilmembers voted to delay the budget vote, the remaining four councilmembers voted to approve the budget and re-allocate $1.7 million dollars that would have gone to the police department to other community services. This should not be interpreted as truly ‘defunding the police’ as the original city budget included increases to the police department annual budget of over $40 million. 


Among the police budget cuts for the $1.7 million is the popular San Leandro police homeless bike unit. A component of the San Leandro homeless compact, two officers work as case managers to unhoused individuals and assist the Recreation and Human Services department in providing transportation, resources, and social services. A recent media article frames the issue of defunding police as pitting this service to the unhoused against reducing police brutality, a particularly cruel irony given Steven being unhoused at the time of the incident. In reality, the police department has no reason to be involved in mental health services or community outreach to the unhoused. Even if the officers are acting as case managers for the individuals, they are still being called on by businesses and residents to protect property and profit. There is no need for a militarized presence in communities, let alone in unhoused communities.  


The choice between services for the unhoused and reducing police brutality is a false one. To truly keep communities safe and cared for, such services need to be invested in and placed under more appropriate departments such as Recreation and Human Services. The police budget needs to be cut more drastically and funds need to be reallocated to community programs such as mental health services and resources for the unhoused. This is what justice for Steven Taylor needs to look like. 


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