Oakland council prioritizes 12 ways to ‘reimagine’ public safety

OAKLAND — The Oakland City Council threw its support Monday night behind a list of recommendations to divert dollars and responsibilities away from the police department and into other services and departments.

The council unanimously voted for a resolution from District 3 Councilmember and Public Safety Committee Chair Carroll Fife to prioritize some of the 48 recommendations submitted by the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, a group of 17 people tasked last summer with figuring out how to cut the police department’s budget in half over the next two years.

With amendments from other councilmembers, the council ultimately decided to prioritize 12 of the task force’s recommendations, which over the course of several months grew beyond ways to defund the police department and into ideas to invest in non-police responses and services to increase safety.

“The crime we see reported on the news is generally the outcome of decade after decade of resource-lack due to an unsustainable investment of taxpayer dollars into punitive policing,” Fife said in a statement issued after Monday’s vote. “Today we listened to the community and voted to change course.”

Included in the priorities approved by the council Monday is a “long-term” investment in the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO) program, under which the fire department would handle mental health crises and other non-crime calls by sending out paramedics and counselors. The city already is preparing to launch a year-long pilot for that, but the recommendation is to scale up the pilot program over the next three years at an estimated cost of $25 million.

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Another is to create a crisis hotline separate from the 911 system for those who do not want to contact law enforcement in an emergency.

Other priorities approved by the council include increasing funding for gender-based violence services by nearly $5 million and to hire community outreach and violence prevention workers.

Another recommendation the council supports is moving most traffic enforcement from the police department to Oakland’s Department of Transportation, although a change in state law is required to do some of that overhaul.

The council also threw its support behind an idea that has been proposed by the Oakland Police Commission to end the police department’s use of militarized equipment.

Another recommendation supported by the council that has been discussed by the police commission is to put investigations of complaints about police misconduct or excessive use of force solely into the hands of the Community Police Review Agency, instead of having a concurrent investigation by the police department’s internal affairs division.

The other priorities include boosting funding for restorative justice for young people, investing in the Oakland Youth Commission and creating a a Department of Children, Youth, and Families.

The resolution calls for prioritizing affodable housing and homeless programs by purchasing motels or hotels for housing, providing rental assistance, and expanding supportive services.

Fife pointed out during the meeting that rather than an attempt to abolish police, the investments in areas like housing and violence prevention are aimed …read more

Source:: The Mercury News – Entertainment


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