You are using an older browser version. Please use a supported version for the best MSN experience.

Oakland City Council approves budget with $14.6 million cut to Police Department

San Francisco Chronicle logo San Francisco Chronicle 6/25/2020 By Rachel Swan

In a tense 5-1 vote, the Oakland City Council passed a budget Tuesday that included more than $14 million in cuts to its police force — a sign that City Hall is heeding, but not completely bending to calls from activists. .

The vote angered Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas, who had proposed defunding the police by at least $25 million amid a national reckoning on racism, police brutality and discussions on how local jurisdictions invest in their communities of color.

Several Oakland council members expressed interest in eventually chopping the police budget by half, which would be a reduction of $150 million. They decided to form a task force to study the idea.

Bas, the lone dissenting vote, criticized the cuts made on Twitter, hinting that her colleagues who approved the budget might face challenges this November.

“This budget is a slap in the face to thousands of Oaklanders who called on Council to #DefundOPD + #InvestInCommunity #BlackNewDeal — with only a $2.5M OPD reduction,” she wrote. “I do not support this. I voted NO. Proud 2 stand on right side of history. Elections matter.”

Councilmembers Loren Taylor, Lynette Gibson McElhaney, Larry Reid and Noel Gallo, who represent flatland neighborhoods of East and West Oakland, ironed out the plan, which saved $2.5 million by delaying a police academy.

“As a Black woman, I have lived in police terror and do not have the luxury to talk about it academically,” McElhaney said in a statement after the meeting. “The call to defund and reimagine policing is right, but we also owe it to the community to really get it done right this time before we see another black man murdered on video or another black child killed in our streets due to community violence.”

McElhaney’s son, Victor, was killed last year in a shooting in Southern California. A suspected gang member has been charged with his murder.

The city administration also shaved about $12 million from the police budget by shifting some positions, such as crossing guards, into other departments, and freezing vacant jobs for sworn officers. Finance Director Adam Benson estimated that the new budget sliced $14.6 million total from the Oakland Police Department.

Calling their group the “Oakland Equity Caucus,” the four council members boosted Mayor Libby Schaaf’s budget with federal stimulus funding, increasing money for small businesses, municipal broadband, efforts to fight home displacement, healthy food for Oakland’s rising population of low-income and unemployed residents, and a lifeline for artists.

They also earmarked $200,000 for the Oakland Police Commission, which investigates complaints of officer misconduct, and delegated $2.35 million to a program that would divert some 911 emergencies to mental health professionals instead of police. And they set aside $11.2 million for city services — mostly in the flatlands — so unionized workers could avoid layoffs and furloughs.

The Equity Caucus released its plan on Monday, and several colleagues complained they had not been given the agenda packet long enough to study and consider the proposal. At the meeting, the Equity Caucus incorporated amendments from Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan — the other “yes” vote — after she proposed limiting circumstances in which police can work overtime.

Council members Dan Kalb and Sheng Thao abstained from the vote, saying they did not have enough time to read the materials.

Taylor, whose East Oakland district includes the city’s highest concentration of Black residents, touted the budget as a means to “directly address” and remedy deeply entrenched disparities.

Although many elements of the Equity Caucus’ plan had wide support, Tuesday’s seven-hour council meeting got testy, with arguments over the pace at which the plan was being passed and whether cuts to the police budget were substantial enough for a city with a long history of police violence and scandals.

For the past several weeks, Oakland, like many other cities throughout the U.S., has been jolted by protests over the Minneapolis police killing of George Floyd, a Black man who died after an officer knelt on his neck for more than eight minutes. The officer was fired and charged with second-degree murder.

The debate over police funding in Oakland continued after Tuesday’s meeting, as the conversation spilled over to Twitter. Constituents chastised the council for approving a plan that few people had read, as well as the council members who sat out the vote altogether.

Kalb applauded some of the investments made in the Equity Caucus budget, but agreed with Bas that the Council rushed its vote and that more money should have been shifted from the police.

“There was no reason to push it through right away,” he told The Chronicle. “It precluded an opportunity to make it even better.”

Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: rswan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @RachelSwan

AdChoices
AdChoices

More from San Francisco Chronicle

San Francisco Chronicle
San Francisco Chronicle
image beaconimage beaconimage beacon