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Community Asks Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce Members to Defund Police
by APTP
Tuesday Dec 22nd, 2020 11:46 AM
Community Asks Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce Members to Stand with City Residents and Defund Police
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Oakland, Calif., — The Defund Police Coalition — the group of community organizations[i] representing a wide network of Oakland-rooted activists and residents that lead the Anti Police-Terror Project’s #DefundOPD campaign — delivered a statement to the Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce Monday evening calling on the Taskforce to reground itself in principles that center those directly impacted by budget inequality and over-policing.

The Executive Committee of the Task Force agreed to organize a training on reimagining and racial equity at its next meeting on January 6th. Taskforce members also agreed to recommit to the stated purpose of the Taskforce, to “[invest] in programs that address the root causes of violence and crime (such as health services, housing, jobs, etc), with a goal of a 50% reduction in the OPD General Purpose Fund (GFP) budget allocation.”[ii]

The statement delivered Monday stressed that increased community violence is a direct result of underfunding social programs and, until those root causes are addressed, funding the police to respond to the aftermath of this inequality remains a band-aid approach that will not keep Oakland residents safe. Further, coalition members fear that if the Taskforce does not conduct a hard reset, Oakland residents may lose faith in the Taskforce and its capacity to accomplish its stated purpose.

The Coalition asked that Taskforce members be trained in the history of overfunding law enforcement and the lack of correlation between bloated police budgets and decreasing violence, and what a budget truly centering public health and safety could look like, especially during the pandemic.

“We have a safety and violence crisis in Oakland, especially among Black and Brown communities in the flatlands,” said Oakland City Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas. “We formed this Task Force last summer to reimagine public safety in Oakland, recognizing that the status quo is not keeping all of us safe. We must reallocate resources from the police budget towards mental health services, violence prevention in schools, homelessness, employment, affordable housing, and other programs that create safety, so that our city can focus policing resources on addressing violent crime. That is the mandate of the Task Force and that is what I am committed to doing with community.”

Earlier this year, the coalition surveyed thousands of Oaklanders and found that city residents feel police operations should be defunded in several areas, including mental health (90%), substance abuse (86%), protests and demonstrations (84%), traffic (76%), overtime (74%) and intimate partner violence (57%) and that these funds should be reinvested in housing (79%), mental health (73%), education (50%), restorative justice (46%), healthcare (46%), and youth programs (42%). A range of other programs, from food security to jobs to public transit enjoyed significant support as well.

In the Coalition’s statement, they warn of the danger of slipping back into a dialogue centering police reform, as this approach was openly rejected by the community earlier this year during hours of public comment at city council meetings due to how ineffective it has been in Oakland and throughout the Bay Area.

Anti Police-Terror Project and Defund Police Coalition cofounder Cat Brooks noted, “The Defund Police Coalition looks forward to another year of working together for a safer, healthier, more prosperous Oakland. We are confident this reset will help us all use our imaginations while reimagining what public safety looks like. Once we all recommit to the purpose of the Taskforce, we can focus on solutions that create true safety in our neighborhoods.”

The full text of the coalition’s statement is available at: https://www.antipoliceterrorproject.org/reimagining-task-force-statement-2020
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