Oakland Community Group Demands City Defund Police, Send Money to Community Groups

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An Oakland community group is re-emphasizing its demand that the city cut the police department budget and instead send the money to community groups.

Supporters say people are calling on police to fix problems they shouldn't handle, and that has led to unnecessary, and sometimes deadly confrontations. 

“We urge the city council to place less emphasis on changing the culture of OPD and more time finding ways to reallocate the budget from the police and invest in the savings in community programs that save our communities and our lives,” said Saabir Lockett, director of Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy at the East Bay Alliance for Sustainable Economy. 

The Defund the Police coalition held a virtual press conference Wednesday to outline its recommendations to improve public safety in Oakland and at the heart of the matter was the Oakland Police Department’s budget.

The group argues the department gets too much money and that much of that funding should be redirected to community programs who they say would be more effective in dealing with some of the city's biggest issues.

They also say pulling police from responding to traffic violations and non-violent mental health calls would free up more officers to deal with violent crimes and it would cut down on what they call "unnecessary confrontations and escalations." 

James Burch, policy director at the Anti Police-Terror Project and Justice Teams Network said “writing a speeding ticket does not require a badge and a gun.” 

Oakland City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas explains that the council voted unanimously to create a new taskforce last July in response to calls for more police accountability.

“We have to figure out, how do we better respond to mental health crises, how do we respond to domestic violence, to homelessness, to noise complaints,” said Fortunado Bas.

She says police resources should focus on violent crimes and says they are waiting on the re-imagining public safety taskforce recommendations coming in April to decide what to do next.

“This is really about acknowledging that our public safety system, as it stands, is not working equitably and effectively for each of our neighborhoods,” said Fortunato Bas. 

The police officer's union has strongly opposed the cuts, but did not return NBC Bay Area’s calls for comment.

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