Oakland, CA – Multiple members of the Oakland police reform task force are apparently trying to put the brakes on plans to defund the city’s police force, drawing ire from the rest of the group.
Five members of the 17-member Oakland Reimagining Public Safety Task Force said that lowering the number of law enforcement officers before other public safety alternatives have been established and enacted places the community at risk, especially amid the city’s booming crime rate, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
Homicides in Oakland so far this year are the highest they’ve been since 2012.
The task force has established a draft list of recommendations with regards to the Oakland Police Department (OPD), to include eliminating the Internal Affairs Division, implementing a hiring freeze, and pulling police from domestic violence calls to send in clinicians instead, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
The group also wants to put the 911 dispatch under the purview of the city administrator or the Oakland Fire Department, and is pushing to make the Department of Transportation responsible for traffic enforcement instead of OPD.
Task force members Carol Wyatt, Antoine Towers, Ginale Harris, Keisha Henderson, and John Jones voiced their opposition in a letter during the task force’s scheduled meeting on Wednesday night, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
“The five of us gathered because we were frustrated that…at a time when the violence, and specifically the homicide in East Oakland was increasing, there appeared to be an unwillingness to have a conversation about it,” Jones told the paper.
“Black lives are being lost (and) harmed at an alarming rate in our city,” their letter read. “Even more lives will be lost if police are removed without an alternative response being put in place that is guaranteed to work as good as or better than the current system.”
The nature of the task force has been described as tense, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Its meetings are often chaotic, despite the paid facilitators’ efforts to keep things productive, the paper noted.
The task force members were supposed to present their police reform recommendations to the Oakland City Council this month, but that deadline has already been extended out to April.
“People aren’t fighting for equity, they’re fighting for ‘defund the police,’” Harris said during the meeting on Wednesday. “Well, let’s fight for the equity piece, first.”
The five task force members who drafted the letter also set forth six new proposed “guiding principles” for the group, to include a cost analysis and conducting a detailed evaluation of any proposal to replace law enforcement with an alternate entity or program, the San Francisco Chronicle reported.
They further recommend that if any alternatives to traditional policing are expected to save money, those funds should be reapplied to some other area of public safety before ever considering funneling them into another service.
The City of Oakland established the task force with the intent of finding ways to slash the OPD’s General Purpose Fund budget allocation by a staggering 50 percent, according to a city press release.
“The launch of this Task Force is the achievement of thousands of Oaklanders whose passion and participation in recent City meetings and in our communities over many years called us to take action for racial justice and true community safety,” task force co-chair Nikki Fortunato Bas, a city councilmember, said at the time.
“Together we will make sure that all Oaklanders are safer in their homes, neighborhoods, and throughout the city, right-sizing our response to public safety service calls by using police officers when and where needed, and deploying alternate solutions where they can offer more effective, efficient, and community-centered response,” added co-chair Loren Taylor, who is also a city councilmember.
“This will establish a model for the rest of the country to follow that is bold and transformative while also thoughtful and well-informed to ensure long-term success and improved outcomes,” Taylor declared.
It is unclear what potential solutions – if any – the chaotic meetings have produced since the group first met in September.