The Oakland City Council approved a budget on June 24 that will redirect $17.4 million from its police department to other programs over the course of two years.
The city council voted 7–2 to adopt the plan that would cut $17 million from the police department and direct the funds instead to a violence prevention program, according to CBSN Bay Area. The council’s website was not yet updated with the vote tally on Sunday morning.
The funding diversion was approved amid a surge in violent crimes in the area, including a mass shooting at Lake Merritt the weekend before the vote.
The city’s mayor, Libby Schaaf, opposed stripping funds from the police department.
“Unfortunately, it [the budget] also cuts 50 police officers who respond to Oaklanders’ 911 calls and enforce traffic safety. It also cuts much-needed future academies, which will significantly reduce police staffing and delay response to Oaklanders in their time of crisis,” Schaaf said in a statement, according to CBSN. “It will force our officers to work even more overtime shifts, which are expensive and unsafe for officers and residents alike.”
“I believe that until we have proven alternatives, we cannot destroy Oakland’s current public safety system at a time when we are losing so many to gun violence,” the mayor said.
The Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) supported funding the violence prevention program, but not at the cost of cutting funds from the police.
“The two no votes are from council members in districts that are most impacted by violent crime. The message they’re saying is ‘we may support your programs but we do not want less public safety at a time of skyrocketing violent crime,’” OPOA President Barry Donelan told CBSN.
According to Donelan, the $17 million cut means 50 vacant police officer positions will go unfilled, reducing response times to 911 calls.
Defund-the-police activists lauded the move.
“This historic budget ensures a comprehensive audit of the Oakland Police Department and a thorough examination of positions that could be civilianized, moved out of OPD, or a combination of the two,” the Anti Police-Terror Project said in a statement.
The $17 million from the police department will go to the Department of Violence Prevention, which hires “violence interrupters” and “community ambassadors” with the intent of preventing violence.
“We can make adjustments if we need to but, right now, we have to focus on our violence prevention, affordable housing, our homeless populations and that’s what this budget helps us move forward and do,” council member Dan Kalb said, according to CBSN.