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Indybay Feature
Tue May 16 2017
Call Goes Out to Defund OPD, Invest in Community
As Oakland Holds Public Budget Forums Throughout May, Pressure Grows to Cut Police Funding
Defund OPD writes: The process of allocating Oakland’s 2.6 billion dollar budget for 2017-2019 has begun. We believe that the scandal-ridden and dysfunctional Oakland Police Department consumes far too many of our city's resources. It’s time to audit police spending and performance, and redirect wasted funds to community-building, constructive strategies for making Oakland a safer and better place to live.

Based upon the public records requests we filed, Defund OPD learned that Officers are dispatched thousands of times to situations in which they are completely unnecessary and fundamentally unqualified to handle. For example, thousands of calls concerned parking violations, such as a car blocking someone’s driveway. Oakland police officers are the city’s highest paid employees, and we are wasting tons of taxpayer money sending them to wait for tow trucks!

Even more alarmingly, we learned that thousands of dispatch calls are for mental health incidents. The handful of officers that do have Crisis Intervention Training spend a meager 5 hours in a workshop. Contrast this to a licensed social worker, who has approximately 6800 hours of relevant training or mental health professionals who have developed real expertise over years of training, and have de-escalation skills that save lives. Given the increased potential for fatalities (e.g. the killing of Kayla Moore by Berkeley Police during a mental health call), as well as the high liability the City incurs due to a tendency toward rapid escalation to violence when officers interact with people in crisis ($1.03 Million in misconduct settlements in 2015 alone), we cannot afford to keep sending unqualified police officers to these medical emergencies. For the cost of one officer, Oakland could hire 2-3 skilled professionals with the skill set to manage mental health crises with the care and expertise such situations require.

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