Oakland school board wants to eliminate campus police

One might think the Oakland Unified School District police chief would be critical of a plan to disband his police department. But quite the opposite.

The decision is not yet final, but after Wednesday night's school board meeting, all indications are the school district will eliminate its 10-officer police department at the end of the year.

"I was supportive of it. Maybe it is time for something else," says district police chief Jeff Godown.

Godown said the idea has been under discussion for the past two years. 

"Maybe it is time for a change. Maybe taking the funds for restorative justice, behavioral health, counselors and other components might make a difference," he said.

The majority of the school board indicated support for schools Superintendent Kyla Johnson Trammell's proposal to redirect the more than $2.5 million in police funds to student services.

The school district said it will create a new safety plan over the next six months, one that would likely include civilian safety resource specialists. But Oakland police would be responsible for more serious calls. Godown said the district averages two or three per school day, out of the approximately 2,000 calls in a year.

"If the funding is reallocated to keep a good climate and culture in the schools, I think they will be successful. OPD will respond to the high priority calls. That won't be an issue," said Godown.

But Oakland City Councilman Noel Gallo, a former school board member, said Oakland police are already short-staffed by 60-70 officers.

"We don't have the manpower today to take care of the needs in the City of Oakland. If you look at the 911 calls from last night we couldn't even attend to those," said Gallo.

Oakland police said in a statement, "If the police are called we will provide service as we provide to our community."

Godown does credit the school district police with understanding the campuses and getting to know students.

"We did a lot of community relations. We were experts at going out to the schools. We had a lot of good contacts at the students and staff," he said.

The school board is expected to vote on the proposal on June 24th.
The new safety plan would take effect on January 1.