BERKELEY (KPIX 5) — Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguín announced a budget proposal Monday that would take nearly $10 million dollars, or 12 percent, out of the Berkeley Police Department budget.
“The money coming out of our police department budget is not only helping to balance our general fund, which is seeing significant impacts due to COVID-19, but is going to towards transforming our approach to public safety, funding homeless services, funding social services,” Arreguín told KPIX 5.
Arreguín says the proposal would not involve layoffs but would leave vacant positions empty and would maintain the baseline of 166 sworn officers.
The proposal would also shift parking and traffic enforcement away from sworn officers, as well as handing some calls over to social workers.
“Most police officers, they signed up to be police officers, they didn’t sign up to be social workers or mental health outreach workers that increasingly a lot of time is being spent having to do that kind of intervention,” Arreguín said.
As it stands currently, 44 percent of Berkeley’s budget is spent on policing.
“I think that we still need some services, police services, but I think oftentimes, policemen are used when a social worker might be a better fit for the situation that’s going on,” said 40-year Berkeley resident Frieda Baker-Nash.
Arreguín says the police department and its officers will not be left out of the conversation. “We need to do this in a way that is inclusive with police department and the police association, we can’t be making unilateral decisions, especially things that affect their jobs.”