After several years of reduced violent crime in Oakland, 2020 has seen as noticeable increase.  From our recent review of first eight month of weekly crime data reports published by the Oakland Police Department (OPD) murder (“187(a) PC) is up 29% from last year, and 31% over the average of the preceding three years, and assault with a firearm is up 42% from last year and 51% over the three preceding years. Obviously, we have major public safety problems requiring major city activity. Other crime rates are up too, but it is the increase in violent crimes that caught our attention.  The full data is available here.    

Oakland’s City Council, as reported in the recently started Oaklandside, unanimously established a “Reimagining Public Safety Task Force,” whose first stated goal is to “transform public safety by reducing the Oakland Police Department General Purpose Fund (GPF) by 50%.”

The second stated goal is to “significantly increase the proportion of the total GPF budget for departments providing community programs and services to address the root causes of violence and  crime, including: Housing & Community Development; Parks, Recreation and Youth Development; Human Services; Economic & Workforce development; Race &  Equity; Violence Prevention; Workplace & Employment Standards; Library; and Fire.”

The Task Force, co-chaired by councilmembers Bas and Taylor, will comprise seventeen members, with one nominee from each councilmember and the Mayor, one each from the Community Policing Advisory Board, Public Safety Services Oversight Commission, Police Commission and Budget Advisory Commission, two nominees from the Oakland Youth Advisory Commission and two nominees from the City Council designated co-chairs (so council members Bas and Taylor will apparently appoint both as council members and as co-chairs).

The Council’s resolution further provides as follows:

  • That the Task Force’s goal is for Oakland to “rapidly imagine and reconstruct the public safety system in Oakland by developing a recommendation for Council consideration to increase community safety through alternative responses to calls for assistance, and investments in programs that address the root causes of violence and crime (such as health services, housing, jobs, etc.) with a goal of a 50% reduction in the OPD . . . GFP [sic] budget allocation.” (There is no provision concerning the proposed percentage reduction in crime).
  • That it shall be the duty and function of the Task Force to engage in thorough analysis and extensive community and stakeholder engagement, and then recommend to Council policy changes that reduce the OPD budget, reduce race and equity disparities, include alternative health and safety responses, and includes “more efficient community centered public safety responses.”
  • The following backgrounds for persons appointed to the Task Force:
    • Representation from “Impacted Communities,” defined as including formerly incarcerated individuals, victims of violent crime and their family members, immigrant community, community members impacted by police violence and “historically underrepresented populations.”
    • Health/Public Health expertise.
    • City of Oakland labor / union representations.
    • Law Enforcement Operation / Budget Knowledge.

The resolution authorizes the City Administrator, after consultation with the co-Chairs, to enter into a contract with a “community engagement consultant/facilitator” for up to $100,000 without the usual advertising, competitive request for proposal / qualifications or Council approval.   Presently, Council Members Bas and Taylor have proposed as co-facilitators these individuals:  former Alameda County Chief Probation Officer  and current CEO of the National Institute for Criminal Justice Reform (and a leading expert on Operation Ceasefire) David Muhammad;  Anand Subramanian, Managing Director of Policy Link , former practicing law firm litigation attorney and former director of San Francisco’s Blue Ribbon Panel on Transparency, Accountability, and Fairness in Law Enforcement; or Policy Link President and CEO Michael McAfee, an army veteran and doctor of Education with a pre-Policy Link experience as senior community planning and development representative in the Chicago Regional Office of the U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development.

The plan is also to do the following:

  • Have the City Administrator identify staff to “aggregate and conduct analysis related to 911 calls and assignments; police overtime; resources and staffing levels of the Police Commission, CPRA and OPD sworn and non-sworn); the budget as it relates to OPD and non-law enforcement approaches to public safety; and potential organizational changes;
  • Have the City Administrator also identify staff to provide and make available information and data including the analysis and key documentation around the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, Measure Z, Equity indicators, budget and staffing information; and
  • Have multiple opportunities for public engagement “through various channels” reaching “impacted and underrepresented communities,” valuing and lifting up the lived experience of the community.

All of the Task Force Members have now been reported, and the Task Force’s “kickoff meeting” was scheduled for last night.  In the next twenty-four hours or less, we will be reporting on the Members, and on the kickoff meeting. Like other Oaklanders, we want to do all we can to ensure that this approach is as successful as possible in enhancing public safety in Oakland.  We’ll be watching this closely and reporting as events occur.  And we will be doing far more reporting on our views concerning changes that should be made, changes that should not be made, and the reasons for our views on both.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

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