Critics upset over Oakland mayor's budget proposal to increase police funding

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- California may be flush with money, but at least one East Bay city is struggling to make ends meet. Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf presented her proposed budget to the city council this afternoon, and it's Schaaf plan to increase police spending that has some critics fuming.

With violent crime in her city surging, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has proposed a budget that increases police spending, rather than defunding by as much as 50% as some activists have demanded.

"This has been a gut-wrenching year for gun violence," said Schaaf. "When we surveyed Oaklanders, 78% said they want at least current levels if not more, police response, 911 response, officers patrolling their neighborhoods."

Schaaf's budget commits $700 million, 18% of its $3.85 billion total, to policing. The share is down from previous budgets, but the dollar amount for OPD, to cover overtime costs, is greater.

Critics say Schaaf's budget is tone deaf, even when one considers Oakland and most major cities are seeing huge increases in crime.

"I have vacillated from outrage to disbelief," said Cat Brooks with the Anti-Police Terror Project. "The police have the budget now. They have the staffing now. So nobody has taken anything from law enforcement, so if law enforcement is the answer to public safety, then how come law enforcement hasn't been able to deal with the spike in crime."

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Even the modest increases in the mayor's budget, staffing levels here at the Oakland Police Department will remain well below that of comparable cities across the country.

Right now, Oakland is about 90 officers short of its staffing goals.

"When you have a skeleton crew of 709 officers who have 2000 calls for service a day, and doubling violent crime rates, every single officer will make a difference," said Barry Donelan, President of the Oakland Police Officers Association.

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Schaaf's budget also includes $41 million to address homelessness and additional funds for programs that shift some police duties to civilian mental health or social services personnel.

"I think it's a good start and I'm delighted to see that there is support for many of the re-imaging proposals like MACRO," said Regina Jackson, Chair of the Oakland Police Commission. "At the end of the day, this isn't the budget that's going to get passed."

The city council will hold a series of public meetings before a final budget is approved by June 30.

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