By Defund Police Coalition – Press statement
(Oakland, CA)—As a result of extensive organizing by the Defund Police Coalition (Defund OPD), an Anti Police-Terror Project [APTP] led coalition, Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force last night finalized a proposal of bold, smart and transformative recommendations that will completely reimagine public safety in Oakland. These final recommendations will be submitted to City Council on April 1st. With these recommendations the people of Oakland are leading the way for the nation to reimagine public safety and divert bloated police department budgets to community services that actually keep us safe. This is the second significant victory just this week for the people of Oakland in the yearslong campaign to defund Oakland police. On Tuesday the City Council voted to create a new police free mental health program in Oakland (called MACRO). This is on the heels of APTPs successful launch of MH1st, Oakland’s only non 9-1-1 mental health response hotline. The Defund OPD Coalition now demands that the city create a scaffolded plan to realize it’s commitment to the people of Oakland of defunding the Oakland Police Department by fifty percent and reinvesting those funds in our communities.
The Task Force was created in direct response to significant local demand to redirect monies from the Oakland Police Department to programs, support services and resources that take a holistic view of public safety and focus on addressing the root causes of so-called “crime” rather than relying on militarized policing and a violent, cyclical carceral state. It is clear to all Oaklanders, from the flats to the hills, that the safest communities do not have the most cops, they have the most resources.
“The creation of the Task Force, with the stated goal of defunding OPD by fifty percent and reinvesting in our communities, was a response to the overwhelming public demand to reimagine public safety. Thanks to APTP and Defund Oakland Police coalition’s organizing, the Task Force advisory boards have proposed a set of bold, smart, transformative recommendations that will completely reimagine public safety in Oakland. At a time when bodies are falling across Oakland due to intercommunal violence it is clearer than ever that the policing status quo does not keep us safe. It is time to reimagine public safety—it’s a matter of life and death. We will now hold the city council accountable to its promise and demand that the city create a plan to quickly realize it’s commitment to the people of Oakland of defunding the Oakland Police Department by fifty percent and reinvesting those funds in our community.” said Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project.
Five years ago the Anti Police-Terror Project launched the Defund OPD Campaign. The campaign has now evolved to a coalition of 13 BIPOC-led grassroots organizations* with decades-long roots in Oakland and tens of thousands of active members in the flatlands amongst them. Last month the Coalition published an in depth report responding to the original 147 recommendations produced by the Task Force. Today is a pivotal success by the coalition to reimagine public safety through radical investment in our communities.
“The demands of Oaklanders are clear. The only way forward is to divest from our bloated police budget to proven drivers of public safety such as schools, mental health, jobs, transformative justice, and violence prevention. We must end the state violence against Black and Brown people in Oakland. It is time to reallocate police resources to critical and effective community programs. That is why the Oakland Rising collaborative organizations are in full support of the recommendations highlighted by APTP and the Defund OPD Coalition and demand that the City Council commit to these recommendations and present the people of Oakland with a scaffolded plan to defund OPD by fifty percent.” said liz suk, Executive Director of Oakland Rising.
The 17 person Task Force engaged in an arduous process that involved hundreds of Advisory Board members dedicating countless hours to researching and reviewing recommendations that would achieve the Task Force’s goal of reimagining public safety and defunding the Oakland Police Department by fifty percent. These volunteers gave an incredible offering and the Task Force’s final vote last night is the closure of a pivotal chapter in realizing the city’s commitment to defund the Oakland Police Department and refunding our communities.
“Today is a significant victory for the people of Oakland. For over five years, APTP’s Defund Oakland Police coalition has led the call to Defund OPD and invest in the resources that actually address and prevent violence. We issued a demand to the city that OPD’s budget be cut by 50% and have strongly endorsed specific Task Force recommendations that remain true to the city’s commitment to relocate these savings into community programs and police alternatives. The people of Oakland do not want reforms that will require further resources for policing. They want the City to make good on their promise by accepting key recommendations and presenting the public with a plan to cut down OPD’s budget by fifty percent and reinvest in our communities.” James Burch policy director for APTP and The Justice Teams Network. James is a member of the Task Force.
Of the 35 priority recommendations made by APTP and the defund coalition, 33 went through.
The Task Force made over 30 recommendations that will reimagine public safety. Each of these recommendations moves beyond typical calls for police ‘reform’ that would maintain the status quo and instead reimagine an Oakland where investments are made into the services that actually secure public safety. Here are some of highlights:
- Fund/create community hotlines and transfer 911 call center out of OPD (#58),
- This is the recommendation to support Mental Health First, the program created by APTP to provide non-police emergency services to folks experiencing a mental health crisis.
- Immediately make long-term investment in MACRO (#57)
- Renegotiate OPOA MOU in 2021 instead of 2024 (#44).
- Repealing laws that criminalizing homeslsessness & poverty (#64)
- Cap OPD overtime (#89)
- Invest in gender-based violence prevention (#72, #73, #74 & #149)
- Establish public works street team/custodial stewards (#95) such as the the Chinatown community ambassador model
- Invest in community workers and violence interrupters (#144)
In spite of the city’s commitment to reducing the police budget by fifty percent, Mayor Libby Shaaf has thus far refused to support the Task Force’s recommendations. Refusing to embrace these recommendations is a commitment to a system that perpetuates violence against Black and Brown Oaklanders and is a totally inefficient use of city resources.
“While it may not be obvious to the Mayor, the people of Oakland are clear: we do not need more cops on the street. We need the city to slash the OPD budget and refund housing, mental health services, healthcare, union jobs, and education so we can all thrive. That is why I fully support the recommendations put forward by APTP and the Defund Police Coalition report. The City should trust the experts from our communities on how to reimagine public safety and reinvest in services that actually keep us safe,” said George Galvis, executive director of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice.
The Task Force recommendations will be submitted to City Council on April 1. We strongly encourage all Oaklanders to contact their elected representative to say they want the City Council to accept the recommendations from the Task Force and put forth a proposal to defund the Oakland Police Department and reinvest in our communities.
For well over a decade, Oakland has been America’s vanguard for criminal “justice” reform and as we go, so does the nation. We receive weekly calls and emails from organizers in cities across the country for consultation and guidance. We must extract every possible win for the people in this moment; defund police, invest in community, build alternative models, love our people and free ourselves to dream of a world where we end the insane practice of trying to create peace with more violence.
* The Defund Oakland Police Coalition is a coalition of 13 BIPOC-led grassroots organizations with decades-long roots in Oakland and tens of thousands of active members amongst them. It consists of the following groups: Anti Police-Terror Project, Arab Resource and Organizing Center, Asian Pacific Environmental Network, Bay Rising, Black Organizing Project, Causa Justa-Just Cause, Community Ready Corps, Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice, Critical Resistance, East Bay Alliance for A Sustainable Economy, Ella Baker Center, Oakland Rising, and the Urban Peace Movement.