Public support not enough to get Oakland City Council to cut more from police budget

Oakland City Hall (Courtesy of Wikimedia Commons)

Oakland city councilmembers failed late Tuesday night to take millions of dollars in funding away from the city’s Police Department even though it appears many residents were demanding it.

Councilmembers were evenly split on a proposal by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Sheng Thao to take $2.75 million in funding from the department. Mayor Libby Schaaf broke the tie by voting “no.”

Schaaf said the council has cut $14.3 million from the police budget this year and moved money to Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland, also known as MACRO. Members of MACRO, instead of police, will respond to mental health emergencies.

“And you have committed to do so much more,” Schaaf said, likely referring to a plan discussed Tuesday night to set up a task force to reimagine policing in Oakland.

A similar budget proposal by City Council President Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas, which many residents spoke in support of during the public comment period, also failed.

Schaaf called the proposal by Kaplan and Bas, which would have cut the police budget by about $11 million on top of the $14.3 million, “dangerous and irresponsible” and an “act of political theater.”

But a survey by the Anti Police-Terror Project and the #DefundthePolice Coalition found widespread support for the proposal by Kaplan and Bas and for allocating that money to housing and mental health services.

The survey involved 1,726 participants from all Oakland residential districts, leaders from the two groups said.

Schaaf said she wants a new public safety system in place before changing the current one.

Like the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, Schaaf believes the Police Department is understaffed and she called the 911 response in the city “sub-standard.”

The mayor, City Administrator Ed Reiskin and Councilmember Loren Taylor each suggested in some form that the proposal by Kaplan and Bas did not identify money that could be freed up from the police budget and spent on other things. Certainly not on the order of $11 million, Reiskin said.

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