OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — In a late night vote Tuesday, the Oakland City Council were deadlocked on whether to slash millions from the police budget with Mayor Libby Schaaf casting the deciding vote, hours after vandals sent her a message loud and clear.
The City Council meeting began at 1:30 Tuesday afternoon and the vote was taken just before 11 p.m. Council members agreed police reform is a must, but there was major disagreement over slashing roughly $150 million from the police department’s budget.
The issue of police funding in Oakland has been growing increasingly contentious. In fact, there is heated disagreement over how much money the city council’s June 23 budget agreement actually cut from the Oakland Police Department.
Some will say that number is a bit more than $2 million while others argue the figure is $14 million. Amid that level of disagreement, two Oakland City Council members were pushing for a budget amendment that would bring more cuts.
“There will be a reduction in OPD spending by about $11.5 million,” said former mayoral candidate and co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project Cat Brooks, before Tuesday night’s vote. “It’s the most significant reduction in spending that we’ve ever seen in Oakland history.”
“We’re talking about taking dollars away from things police do not need to do,” Brooks said earlier. “Police do not bother to respond to mental health. They do not need to respond to traffic stops. They do not need to respond to interpersonal violence, they do not need to respond to issues of substance-abuse treatment.”
Tuesday’s vote was the latest push for defunding Oakland Police, but this time with a more concerted pushback.
“We had another murder again last night, three murders over the weekend making it four since just Friday,” said Oakland Police Officers Association President Barry Donelan. “A more than 20 percent increase in murders and shootings combined.”
“You know, adding resources to things like mental health and homelessness are all positive,” Donelan said. “But the idea of taking it from the police department that is already strapped, dealing with those issues in public safety as it is, just seems foolhardy.”
The police officers’ union has warned against additional cuts, as has the chief of police.
“We did furloughs, layoffs, and we still have not caught up,” said Chief Susan Manheimer. “We have over 60 openings.”
Also opposing this amendment was Mayor Schaaf. She warns that additional budget cuts now will mean service limitations for police. Schaaf said the council already redirected “an unprecedented $14.3 million from OPD.”
The amendment was being advanced by council members Rebecca Kaplan and Nikki Fortunato Bas, with the support of police reform advocates.
The Kaplan-Bas proposal, which would’ve cut police funding by 50 percent over the next 2 years, didn’t have enough votes. A substitute proposal deadlocked at 4-4. Mayor Schaaf broke the tie with a ‘no’ vote.