Oakland City Council to revisit budget in light of public demands to defund police

OAKLAND, CA - JUNE 1: Protesters run away as police shoot tear gas and flash grenades to disperse the crowd on Broadway near the Oakland Police Department during the fourth day of protests over George Floyd's death by the Minneapolis police in Oaklan

Demands by residents to defund the police were heard Tuesday by Oakland City Council members who will now revisit the budget they approved last week. 

Council President Rebecca Kaplan said at Tuesday's council meeting that members would reconsider the budget July 21. 

Numerous people spoke during the public comment period chastising council members for their failure to further reduce the Police Department budget, which is under scrutiny here and worldwide following the police killing of George Floyd in Minnesota. 

"Today, I'm reminded of the power of the people," Cat Brooks of 
the Anti Police-Terror Project said during the comment period, because apparently the public backlash forced the council to reconsider the budget. 

"I'm honored and proud to be an Oakland community member," she said later by phone. 

Brooks said the Police Department gets the largest chunk of the 
city's $684.5 million general fund. Many people commenting Tuesday demanded that the Police Department's current share of that be reduced by 50 percent or $150 million. 

Brooks recognized Kaplan for listening to the community. Others 
recognized member Nikki Fortunato Bas for hearing residents' demands. 

Kaplan said last week that $20 million in cuts were made to the 
Police Department budget.

Councilmember Lynette Gibson McElhaney said last week that she and a caucus made up of Vice Mayor Larry Reid and council members Noel Gallo and Loren Taylor, have made clear their commitment to reduce the Police Department's use of the general fund by 50 percent as other public safety measures are implemented in place of policing. 

One of those measures that has been funded is a group called 
Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland or MACRO for short. MACRO is an alternative to a police response for mental health challenges. 

"A badge and a gun is not the appropriate response," Brooks said 
about calls for mental health needs. 

But Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers' 
Association, wondered whether alternatives to a police response to mental health needs might be paid for in a way that does not take from the Police Department budget. 

He also questioned whether a response to homelessness can be paid for without reducing the police budget. 

In his opinion, seen through his 20 years of experience, "OPD has been defunded," he said. 

The need for public safety is high, according to Donelan. Demand 
totally outstrips police resources now, he said. 

According to the latest city budget, police receive and process 
nearly 700,000 calls for service each year or about 2,000 per day. You're looking at staggering numbers, Donelan said.