For weeks, demonstrators have been calling on cities to defund their police departments and it appears one East Bay mayor is ready to do just that.
Berkeley’s Mayor wants to slash more than 10% of the police department’s budget and pour that money into communities of color.
“This is in response to the thousands of people in Berkeley and throughout the country that have been demanding for a change in our approach to public safety,” said Berkeley Mayor Jesse Arreguin.
If approved, the Berkeley Police Department will lose more than $9 million, roughly 12% of the department’s annual budget. The mayor says officers will not be fired but vacant positions will not be filled.
“We are anticipating retirements as well as potential vacancies,” said Arreguin “We’re not filling those positions, those salary savings will be used to re-invest.”
The mayor says it’s time to reign in police overtime. He wants to whittle down overtime spending from $2.3 million down to $600,000. Some of the money saved would be spent on the city’s plans to create an African American Holistic Resource Center.
Arreguin also wants unarmed civilians – not cops -- to be handing out parking tickets and making traffic stops.
“Reinvest money from police department budgets into mental health, social services and housing,” said Arreguin.
Not everyone was 100% on board with the plans to chop away at police overtime. Councilmember Cheryl Davila who represents south Berkeley said this when the proposal came up for a vote.
“I guess so but I really think the overtime should be increased,” said Davila.
So far, the police department has not issued a formal comment.
On Tuesday, the city council will vote on the mayor’s budget proposal. Next month, the mayor says he hopes to launch a citywide conversation about public safety, and how best to divert money and responsibilities from police to social service agencies.