An Oakland, California, police chief spoke out on Monday against city leaders after they voted to divert nearly $20 million from law enforcement amid an alarming spike in crime.
Last Thursday, council members voted 6-2 to remove $18.5 million from a proposed increase to the Oakland Police Department’s budget. The law enforcement body will have $674 million to spend, compared to $665 million the previous year, though the increase is markedly less than the proposed $27 million spearheaded by Mayor Libby Schaaf, a Democrat. Last year’s police funding accounted for 20% of the city’s budget, while this year’s makes up 18%.
“I’m challenged by the decisions that were made on Thursday around the budget for the city of Oakland, particularly for the Oakland Police Department,” Chief LeRonne Armstrong said in a news conference.
“We see clearly that crime is out of control in the city of Oakland, and our response was for less police resources … when City Council members — the majority of them have voted to defund this Police Department. That additional $17 million will have an impact,” he added.
Oakland has seen 65 reported homicides so far in 2021, equating to a 90% increase when compared to numbers from 2020, Armstrong said. Shootings have risen 70%, carjackings are up 88%, and the city has been hit with 1,300 robberies so far in 2021, equating to an 11% increase.
The law enforcement boss said the cuts will slow crime response times, restrict him from hiring violence prevention officers, and reduce the number of policemen in the department. He insisted the force will be bringing on 60 officers over the next few months, though he will be losing 65 due to attrition. The changes may result in “mandatory overtime.”
“The impact will be immediate with slower response times for emergency calls for service,” the chief said.
“We already have a tough time responding to the high number of calls that we get. This will make it tougher, having less officers in the field, particularly for marginalized communities,” he added.