OAKLAND (KPIX 5) – Oakland City Council approved a budget early Thursday evening that will cut $ 17.4 million in funds from the Oakland Police Department and divert the money into other programs.
There were some expectations that the council would delay the controversial decision, but 7-2, Oakland City Council approved a plan to divert funds from the police department to the violence prevention department to improve public safety.
The move comes as Oakland has seen an alarming increase in street violence and deadly shootings, including the mass shootings during the Juneteenth celebrations at Lake Merritt last weekend.
The city council had budget discussions that began at 10:30 a.m. on Thursday during a special session that included hours of public contributions. Councilors Nikki Fortunato Bas and Carroll Fife led the push to disempower the Oakland Police Department by voting on the revised budget.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement in which she opposed the revised budget and police cuts.
“Sadly it is [the budget] Also cuts 50 police officers responding to Oaklanders 911 calls and enforcing road safety. It also cuts much-needed future academies, which will significantly reduce police staff and delay the response to Oaklander in their time of crisis, ”Schaaf said in a statement. “It will force our officials to work even more overtime, which is expensive and unsafe for officials and residents alike.”
“I believe that if we have lost so many to gun violence, we cannot destroy Oakland’s current public safety system unless we have proven alternatives,” added the mayor.
A number of activist groups, including the Anti Police-Terror Project, applauded the redistribution of funds.
“This historic budget ensures a comprehensive review of the Oakland Police Department and a thorough review of positions that could be civilized, extracted from OPD, or a combination of both,” the group said in a released statement.
After the Minneapolis police murder of George Floyd last year, many people in Oakland have called for Oakland officials to redirect a large portion of the city’s police budget to alternative public safety measures.
Some claim that the police do not prevent violence, they only respond to it.
Schaaf’s proposed budget was about $ 650 million for the police in the 2021-23 budget.
The more than $ 17 million that the city council’s budget team would divert to the violence prevention department doubles that department’s budget. It would also quadruple the amount the city allocates to the department from the general fund.
The extra money would employ violence interrupters and community ambassadors in lowland neighborhoods.
“With violence on the rise in Oakland, the Council must act by addressing the roots of violence and poverty,” Bas said.
She said the city needs to do this by investing in prevention in the most dangerous neighborhoods, as well as in homes, workplaces, libraries, parks and art. The city also needs to improve its police system, which is bringing more guns off the streets and focusing “police responses and investigations into serious and violent crime,” Bas said.
“We have to fight violence long before it happens, and when we reopen we have to allow allowed, organized events across the city for our residents, artists and cultural workers,” she said.
Bas and her team also suggest spending $ 4 million that would have been spent on police academies to test and eventually expand the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland program, also known as MACRO.
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