Lauren Moye, FISM News
Another pioneer city that had championed the Black Lives Matter movement reversed course on their mission to defund the police on Tuesday.
The City Council of Oakland, California voted to approve two additional police academies and to unfreeze department positions so that sixty additional officers can be hired. The decision was made after six councilmembers voted yes to Mayor Libby Shaaf’s proposal. One member voted against the proposal while an additional councilman abstained from voting.
After the vote, Shaaf stated that citizens “spoke up for a comprehensive approach to public safety — one that includes prevention, intervention, and addressing crime’s root causes, as well as an adequately staffed police department.”
Oakland has recently experienced a surge in violent crime with 129 homicides this year. This is up from 109 from the previous year and 78 homicides in 2019. Recently, Oakland gained negative national attention for two separate violent incidences after a toddler was shot while napping in a car and a retired officer was killed while on-duty as a security guard.
The California town isn’t the first to reverse course on police funding, nor is it the first to have noticed an uptick in violence after defunding their police department. Mayor Ted Wheeler asked in early November for fresh funding for the police of Portland, Oregon after the city saw record levels of homicides. Previously, Portland had been a poster child for defund the police initiatives.
Minneapolis also experienced a crime surge and record homicides after they reduced their police budget by $8 million in response to defund the police movements. In late October, Congresswoman Ilhan Omar (D-Minn.) blamed the Minneapolis police for having “chosen to not fulfill their oath of office and provide the public safety they owe to the citizens,” as the cause of the elevated crime within the city rather than the fact that the unit was underfunded and understaffed.
The public criticism of police from the Black Lives Matter movement and other organizations like it, combined with the guilt placed on officers’ shoulders when crime waves go unchecked, has exacerbated low morale within police departments. Low morale has long been known to be a major contributor to staffing shortages.
Oakland Police Association President Barry Donelan described the situation within the department as dire as officers were “leaving in droves.” He also encouraged the council members to show gratitude to the officers that they have.
Cat Brooks, a co-founder of Oakland’s Anti Police-Terror Project, described the decision as “terrifying” to ABC News. Brooks said, “If we allow [the movement] to be demolished here, we are giving fuel for faux progressives and right-wing folks to destroy the movement across the country.”
Oakland’s city council is also reportedly considering a hiring incentive bonus to attract experienced officers.