Amid Surging Crime Rates And Murders, Oakland City Council Votes To Defund Police

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Despite recently receiving $190 million from the Biden Administration, the City Council of Oakland, California voted Thursday to defund their police department by almost $18 million. The city’s crime rates have skyrocketed, seeing a 90 percent increase in murders, 88 percent increase in carjackings, and 70 percent increase in shootings all in the last year. 

Sixty-five lives have been lost, and 1,300 robberies have been recorded, yet, the city redirected police funds toward the Department of Violence Prevention, “with the intention of improving public safety” via alternate means. 

On Monday, the Department of Violence Prevention’s chief was interrupted during an on-camera interview by an attempted armed robbery. The department’s chief was being interviewed on the steps of Oakland City Hall, when they were attacked. The suspects remain outstanding. 

Rather than help police officers confront Oakland’s growing crisis, the city plans to fund the employment of “violence interrupters” and “community ambassadors.” This redirection of funds will increase police vacancies, leading to slower emergency response times. 

The Anti Police-Terror Project applauded the city’s reallocation of funds, but Oakland Mayor Libby Shaaf pushed back.

“[The new budget],” she said, “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.” Shaaf added that the budget “will force [Oakland police] officers to work even more overtime shifts, which are expensive and unsafe for officers and residents alike.”

Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong strongly condemned the new budget. “Today we find ourselves in a crisis,” he said. “[C]rime is out of control in the city.” It doesn’t make sense to defund the police, he argued.

“[One of our city leaders] referred to [the crime surge] as a ‘bump in the road,’ a ‘speed bump’” Armstrong said. “[W]ell for me, those speed bumps are 65 lives so far this year, victims who have suffered at the hands of violence, whether it’s shootings, robberies, carjackings, [or] sexual assault. All of these crimes are not speed bumps. These are people.”

“Far too often in these meetings, we are talking about numbers, we are talking about money and cost,” Armstrong continued. “I don’t know what the cost of a life is, but I know not having resources makes our city less safe. It concerns me that we would ever consider that to be a bump in the road.”

Armstrong pleaded for City Council to take the suffering of Oakland’s residents seriously. “[T]hese are true people,” he reminded them. “These are people who lost their lives in this city. […] When I go to scenes and I meet with mothers and family members, they’re not talking about numbers, they’re talking about their children.”

Armstrong soon became so overtaken by grief that he fell into silence. Breathing heavily, he tried to prepare himself to continue. “Saturday night, I went out to a scene of a young man that lost his life. And a lady yelled out the window, ‘Do something about it!’” he recalled. Armstrong desperately wants to “do something” about his city’s crime surge, but he says that he and his colleagues aren’t being given the support they need. 

“Without the resources, it makes it challenging to make Oakland safe, and more families find themselves dealing with trauma,” Armstrong argued.

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