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Oakland City Council Votes to Divert Funds From Police to Violence-Prevention Programs

Hundreds of people joined a virtual Oakland Council meeting on Thursday to sound off. Many supported giving less taxpayer dollars to police.

On Thursday evening, Oakland City Council voted a new budget which included cutting some funding for the Oakland Police Department.

The council voted six to two, approving Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas’ budget amendments, taking $17 million away from Oakland Police Department and to fund other programs including violence prevention.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released a statement following the budget vote.

“The budget passed today by the Oakland City Council makes bold investments to reimagine public safety through violence prevention and non-police strategies that I strongly support,” she said.

“Unfortunately, it 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. It will force our officers to work even more overtime shifts, which are expensive and unsafe for officers and residents alike,” Schaaf added.

For about four hours, more than a hundred speakers logged onto Thursday’s Oakland City Council special budget meeting. Some shared their fears about public safety.

“We’re afraid to go out in the day, a lot of us are,” said Bey, an East Oakland resident.

Others like Cathy Leonard didn’t mince words when it came to her thoughts about the Oakland Police Department.

“What the hell is going with that department and why are we giving them so much money? Stop the bleeding!” she said.

Back in May, Schaaf unveiled her two-year-budget, which called for two extra police academies.

Bas proposed her own changes to the budget including taking away those additional police academies, freezing several vacant police positions and the removal of a traffic squad.

Bas wanted to funnel those savings into multiple departments, including the Department of Violence Prevention and she wants to ramp up the MACRO program, which involves dispatching civilian unarmed crisis teams to mental health emergencies.

“Let’s hire Oaklanders. Let’s fund MACRO. Let’s stop throwing money at the Oakland Police Department when we don’t have any clear outcomes,” Leonard said.

The Oakland Police Commission said that OPD is currently staffed at 714 officers, with 78 vacant positions.

“We need to acknowledge that OPD is understaffed and therefore impacting its recruiting abilities only furthers our reliance on overtime. That’s dangerous and what it ultimately does is put our most vulnerable communities at risk,” said Bey.

Aniyah Story, student at Oakland High also spoke at the meeting.

“Today, I’m hearing to remind you the youth have been waiting for too long and we want reinvestments right now,” she said.

Source: NBC Bay Area

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