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Mayor Schaaf releases budget after week delay with no cut to policing despite City Council resolution

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Built in the Bay
Built in the Bay
 2021-05-10

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(Justin Sullivan / Getty Images)

By Ian Firstenberg

(OAKLAND, Calif.) Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released her two year budget proposal Friday afternoon after a week long delay. The proposal allots $3.85 billion for departmental spending, like police, fire and transportation and $284 million in capital projects like buildings and other infrastructure.

Schaaf was expected to release the proposal May 1 but notified city council April 30, via email, that her office would not meet that deadline. According to a report in the The Oaklandside, she missed the deadline because, "circumstances dictate—as they frequently have during this unprecedented year—that we need a little more time.”

In that report, Darwin Bondgraham gives an overview of some of the differences from previous budget prosals generally and takes a look at the police spending proposed by Schaaf's office in a year rought with protest over policing.

This comes after the city council passed a resolution last summer that stated its intention to decrease spending from the general fund on police by 50% which would amount to a reduction in the police budget of $150 million.

Schaaf's proposal would increase police spending over the next two years from $316 million this year to $341 million the following fiscal year.

In contrast to other years in which the proposal has been a PDF posted to the city's website, Schaaf released the proposal in a interactive platform that allows citizens to click through each section or deparment.

As Bondgraham notes in his report, Schaaf's increased police budget proposal hinges mostly on increased overtime budgeting and bolstering investigations while moving traffic enforcement and event permitting away from OPD's purview.

Notably, police overtime has historically been a swollen portion of the city's general fund police spending, with it being a source of last year's budget shortfall for Oakland. The overtime budget for fiscal period 2019-2021 was roughly $32 million. Schaaf's proposal sets aside $61 million. Over the past five years, the department has averaged $30 million in overtime while the city council has usually approved only half of that.

A deeper look at what that overtime would be reveals a fundamental misunderstanding about the role police fill in Oakland.

According to the report, "Adds augmented overtime for Police Officer escort of the additional encampment cleanup crew in OPW to ensure worker safety. This investment fulfills a request by City worker labor representatives."

It's unclear exactly why police overtime would be needed for encampment clean up unless the encampments would be dealt with judicially or criminally.

Her proposal does eliminate the "Supplemental Walking Officer Overtime" which was in place prior to the pandemic. The proposal does not allocate any money from the department's overtime budget for "emergency responses to crowd management requests." It proposes freezing officers with the Surge 911 Response (TAC) Unit but notes it intends to reinstate those officers after July 2022 "contingent upon sufficient Sworn staffing increased from the budgeted Police Academies."

It proposes restoring eight Community Resource Officers (CRO) who would be paid "using supplemental overtime."

Overall, Schaaf's proposal does little to challenge the status quo in Oakland in terms of policing and in many respects, has the potential to enflame already high tensions between the public and the department. Beyond that, the increased overtime budget appears to be a tacit admission that despite the department's previous issues with budgeting and overtime accountability, the city has no intention of reigning them in.

On the contrary, Schaaf's new proposal would allow the department more breathing room to exceed their overtime quota. It doesn't come as a surprise however, that Schaaf offered no meaningful change to the department's budget after comments she made in the wake of police violence protests last summer.

It's clear now that Schaaf views the issues with policing in Oakland as a budgetary blemish rather than a departmental standard which bodes poorly for the future relationship between the Town's officers and its citizens.

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