Contact: Cat Brooks (510) 506-2341, [email protected]
(Oakland, CA)—Wednesday, February 24–Today the Defund Oakland Police Coalition released a comprehensive report in response to the draft recommendations issued by Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force (RPSTF). At a press event today experts involved with the recommendation process spoke to the specific recommendations from each Advisory Board.
“The Defund Oakland Police Coalition is excited about the many recommendations presented that offer a real opportunity to shift, reimagine and evolve the way Oakland thinks about and implements public safety. After five years, the voices of Oaklanders are finally being heard.” said Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and the Executive Director of the Justice Teams Network, “This matters not just for Oakland, but for the country. For well over a decade, Oakland has been America’s vanguard for criminal justice reform and as we go, so does the nation. APTP and the Defund Coalition receive weekly calls and emails from organizers in cities across the country for consultation and guidance. Lives saved in Oakland means lives saved across the nation.
The Defund OPD campaign was launched by the Anti Police-Terror Project five years ago. It has since evolved into a coalition of 13 BIPOC-led grassroots organizations* with decades-long roots in Oakland and tens of thousands of active members amongst them.
Hundreds of Task Force Advisory Board members dedicated thousands of collective hours to develop these recommendations. These volunteers offered their time, energy, passion, innovation, care and commitment to push Oakland into the 21st Century when it comes to public safety and how Oaklanders are seen and treated by the entity whose motto it is to protect and serve as we work to dismantle and replace that institution.
“As history and recent events continue to make painfully clear, a “culture shift” is not what is required,” said Saabir Lockett, Director of Faith Alliance for a Moral Economy at the East Bay Alliance for a Sustainable Economy (EBASE). “The only rational way forward is to actively divest from policing and invest in the programs and services that are proven to support communities and increase safety. We urge City Council to place less emphasis on changing the culture of OPD, and more time finding ways to reallocate funding from the police department and invest the resources in community programs and services that support Oakland’s youth and working families.”
“Upwards of 50% of all people killed by law enforcement are in the middle of a mental health crisis. This includes a disproportionate number of Black and Brown victims. We need experts to approach mental health crises with care and compassion, not a badge and a gun” said James Burch, policy director at the Anti Police-Terror Project and Justice Teams Network, and member of the task force, “MH First is Oakland’s first and only model for non-police response to mental health crises, substance abuse, and interpersonal violence. We support the recommendation that calls on the city to support MH First and other non police alternatives that keep people safe.”
“The primary job of the Task Force is to make recommendations to reallocate the City of Oakland’s budget. The City Administrator and the Mayor consistently keep allowing the Oakland Police Department to spend way too much from our General Fund on overtime.” said liz suk, Interim Executive Director, Oakland Rising, and member of the task force. “As the City Administration closed out the 2020 budget with a $62 million dollar shortfall, $35 million of that overspending came from OPD, with $19 million of that in unauthorized overtime. This simply cannot continue and we appreciate the task force efforts to make the necessary changes Oakland needs.”
“Oaklanders have made a demand. The City must listen. OPD’s budget must be cut by 50% with those dollars redirected to neighborhoods, communities, programs and practices that are real roads to community safety.” said Maureen Benson, Chair of the OPD Budget/Staffing Workgroup & former community appointed Police Commissioner. She continued: “The Task Force must remain true to the mission and mandate of this body. The polls, surveys, community meetings and town halls make it clear that Oaklanders do not want reforms that require further resources for policing; including recommendations for reforms that would inadvertently require an increase in police funding. The Task Force must prioritize recommendations that resource our community, not law enforcement.”
We invite members of the community to join the next community listening session on March 9th at 6pm to share feedback on the recommendations before they are sent to the City Council for implementation.
* The Defund Oakland Police Coalition consists of the following groups: Anti Police-Terror Project, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Bay Rising, Black Organizing Project, Causa Justa-Just Cause, Community Ready Corps, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, Critical Resistance, East Bay Alliance for A Sustainable Economy, Ella Baker Center, Oakland Rising, and the Urban Peace Movement