Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong on Monday delivered an impassioned rebuke of the city council's recent decision to further defund law enforcement in the city, arguing fewer officers on the streets will only result in more crime and more lives lost.
The council voted last week to redirect $18 million from the police budget to community violence prevention programs, despite repeated pleas from Armstrong and even from the city's liberal mayor, Libby Schaff (D), the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The council's decision comes even as a wave of violence continues to rock Oakland, highlighted by another four homicides in just the last few days.
“On July 1, is the city going to be safer than it is today?” Armstrong questioned during a news conference, pointing out that violent crime is on the rise across the board.
“We find ourselves in a crisis,” he said. “We find ourselves reeling from a weekend of violence where we have seen four homicides over a three-day period … Our shootings are up over 70% compared to last year. Our robberies are up 11% this year. There's been 1,300 robberies in this city already this year.”
“Our carjackings are up nearly 88%. So, we see clearly that crime is out of control in the city of Oakland and our response was for less police resources,” he continued, explaining that the forthcoming budget cuts will have an immediate negative effect.
“We already have a tough time responding to the high number of calls that we get. This will make it tougher,” he argued, adding later, “Our department is not growing, it is shrinking.”
Later during the news conference, Armstrong eloquently put into perspective the effects that a decreased police presence has had and will have on the city.
He noted that during the budget meetings, one council member acknowledged that as the city adapted to the new way of policing, it may encounter some “speed bumps” or challenges along the way.
“For me, those ‘speed bumps' are 65 so far this year,” Armstong said, referring to the dozens of lives lost to homicide. “These crimes are not ‘speed bumps,' they're people.”
The police chief recalled arriving at the scene of a recent shooting in the city in which a man's life was taken. While there, he said, a woman confronted him, charging him to “do something about it.”
Armstrong paused to gather his emotions before acknowledging, “Without the resources, it makes it challenging to make Oakland safe.”
Incredibly, not long after the chief aired his grievances, reports surfaced alleging that armed robbers had held up a news crew attempting to interview the city's chief of violence prevention.
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