Oakland pledged to cut its police budget in half. Then homicides surged - San Francisco Chronicle

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The priest knew this scene very well: the corpse on the asphalt. Yellow tape line. The children pointed at the police machete, low overhead. Jose Rojas sighed wearily. He said: "I pray for this city every day."

It was the afternoon of October 14th, and the pastor admitted that the victim was 19-year-old Jorge Martinez, who was a student at the school on the previous Sunday. The teenager and some other young people started fighting on 84th Street near Birch Street in East Oakland. The children rode their bicycles and the neighbors leaned against the fence. One man pulled out his gun and started shooting.

Now, Rojas is standing under the crisscross branches of camphor, praying with Martinez's mother and father. The coroner's truck rumbled in.

After the shooting on 84th Street in Oakland last month, loved ones were in grief, resulting in two deaths and one injured.

A few hours later, about 150 people gathered on Zoom for an urgent theme meeting: rethinking public safety in Auckland. But as time passed, there were very few reports of the triple attack that claimed the lives of the two earlier in the day.

Instead, people suddenly appeared on the screen to share some bold and sometimes controversial ideas, such as keeping the police away from homeless camps, away from sexual assault cases, prohibiting the police from responding to mental health crises, and sending police officers Separate from the 911 dispatch center.

Ginale Harris, a member of the Oakland Reimagining Public Safety Working Group, is confused. The night before, someone fired 60 rounds outside her house, only a few blocks from the 84th shooting. Harris and her 12-year-old son went into hiding when they heard the bullet hit the car and house.

She said, "You have 100 people here, and no one says nothing about it." She cried.

Taking into account the urgency of the Black Living Issues Movement, Oakland leaders pledged throughout the summer to eventually cut the police department’s budget in half, to about $150 million. The City Council established a 17-member "Reimagining Public Safety Task Force" to figure out how to achieve this lofty goal, which is to "refund the police." They will prepare a draft proposal by December and submit it to the council in March.

Oakland police investigated the fatal shooting on 84th Street in October.

Then a wave of guns swallowed up

The location of the poorest community in the city. Homicide plus standard. Policymakers, even the most devout reformers, must face a paradox: Negro and Latino neighborhoods most threatened by police violence also demand better and more consistent law enforcement.

The task force members agreed that police brutality against blacks and browns is too common, gun violence must be stopped, and the city needs more services to address the root causes of crime. But when advocates want rapid, dramatic changes, others feel contradictory. In neighborhoods with high crime rates and slow police response times, black residents cringe at being sometimes preached by outsiders.

A poll released by the Chamber of Commerce last week showed that in the city, 58% of residents hope to maintain or increase the size of the police force. In District 7 of East Auckland, this figure climbed to 75%. This summer, there was a shooting there.

It’s worth noting that opinion polls show

The proportion of police officers among black voters is higher, at 38%, compared with 27% for white voters.

Brian Meador said he was 16 when the police caught him on the ground on his way home from the football practice range. When the officers realized they had chosen the wrong person, they let him go-his nose was broken. Meador, 29, said he was humiliated.

Even so, he was surprised when he heard about the efforts to cut the budget of the Oakland police. On the day of the three consecutive shots, he went home from get off work and found his house was blocked by warning tape. Meador said this is normal for his penalty zone. The previous week, a police officer was chasing someone in his backyard.

He said: "So you cut the police budget in half." "So what?"

Auckland Mayor Libby Schaaf (left) and Sun Guangshi waved to 82nd and Bancroft Streets on the ceasefire night walking trail last month.

This spring, a series of police killings of black people forced the people to become suspicious. Oakland saw an opportunity to prove itself. But the city is an unlikely leader in police reform. Its police department spent nearly two decades under federal supervision, which was due to the 2003 civil rights settlement of four West Oakland officials accused of kidnapping, beating and implanting drugs on residents.

This city spent

As part of the settlement agreement, advisory services were provided to court supervisors and consultants, which stipulated dozens of tasks to be completed by the police to improve the way they train, track and discipline police officers. So far, the department is working hard to comply with seven tasks, including formulating a fair disciplinary policy.

The department was deeply frightened during the last economic recession, and it took a long time to recover, and it continued to cycle through the crisis and the police chief. In 2013, when the number of troops was reduced to the minimum size of 613, the residents of the mountain were so frustrated with the burglary that they hired private armed guards to patrol nearby.

When Libby Schaaf ran for mayor for the first time in 2014, she raised law and order as a priority and promised to improve

In the same election, an overwhelming majority of voters passed Measure Z, a parcel tax used to fund public safety and violent intervention programs. It requires Auckland to retain at least 678 sworn-in law enforcement officers and prohibits the city from dismissing police unless the number of troops exceeds 800, a number that has not been seen in Auckland in ten years.

For a while, the police in the city seemed to be improving. The department equipped personnel with body cameras and launched a plan to recruit students from Oakland Public Schools. Then, in 2016, several police officers were involved in a scandal in which a teenager was sexually exploited. The public's perception of the department has fallen again.

Cat Brooks, co-founder of the anti-police terror program, in front of the Breonna Taylor mural.

Two years later, activist Cat Brooks-a coalition aimed at stopping police brutality-co-founder of the anti-police terror project-competed with Schaaf on a platform that mainly tried to cut police budgets mayor. Brooks failed, but she said her idea resonated with many Aucklanders.

"It makes sense," Brooks said. "It's not about'we will wake up tomorrow and there won't be any police.' About...'Let us not respond, let us prevent.'"

Two more years later, the police killed George Floyd and made her message mainstream. In June, the Oakland City Council passed a budget that cut $14.3 million from the police department, partly because some services (such as crossing guards) were transferred to other departments. New York City also budgeted $1.85 million to test a plan that would send clinicians instead of officials to respond to mental health calls.

Then in July, the committee approved the "Reimagining Public Safety Working Group," which is responsible for formulating recommendations to drastically cut police funding. From former city auditors to activists who actively question whether the police can ensure the safety of the people, their appointed members live in all seven districts and all corners of the city’s cultural diaspora.

"Auckland is very unique-we made a promise, and then we created a process," said Nikki Fortunato Bas, co-chair of the working group, a congresswoman who supports efforts to pay for the police.

Bath said that when cities across the country form similar groups, the Auckland task force will be more rigorous and thoughtful. She is confident that the city can achieve its goals.

It only needs to devise a plan to get there.

Brandii Hudson of East Oakland embraces 10-year-old niece Zaylynn Hunter (right) and 9-year-old daughter Nyla Hudson.

Brandii Hudson saw from her porch that the birthday party on Scoville Street was out of control.

It was a hot July afternoon. A church and a corner shop stopped on a two-street road in central East Auckland. The party splashed on the sidewalk, and more and more guests got in the car and stopped twice on the street.

As the day passed, Hudson and her neighbors became more and more nervous. The stranger stopped in the driveway and refused to leave. A party guest sneaked to the side of a nearby house and urinated on the fence. Residents began to call police non-emergency numbers. Falling down at dusk, no one showed up.

Then, shortly after 10pm, Hudson was sitting among the toasted marshmallows in her backyard when he heard the shout: "Put down the gun!" An officer confronted a man on the sidewalk outside Hudson's house. A police helicopter hovered overhead and shone into her yard.

Hudson said no one was shot that night. But she couldn't get rid of the feeling that the situation might get worse, or resolved it earlier, because there was only one patrol car instead of the five that eventually appeared. Hudson and many of her neighbors said they were reluctant to call the police for a refund because it was a positive moment and did not explain their reality in East Oakland.

Hudson said: "According to them, our response time is already very slow, "We just have no one to answer the call that is being answered." "If the budget is cut in half, it means we are already vacant. Staff, I just think this is a disaster. "

At 3:21 am on October 18, a snapshot of the city's 911 call records showed a clear gap and huge volume from one side of the city.

At that time, there were 246 calls in Auckland waiting for the police to respond. The vast majority (198) are located east of Fruit Valley Avenue, and 5 in this area are designated as "Priority 1", which means that a serious crime has just occurred. The police have stopped reporting so that they can sort them faster.

By Saturday, the number of homicides had jumped to 84, and most of the damage was concentrated in working-class flatland communities below Interstate 580. So far this year, the police have recovered 1,041 guns, a 40% increase over 2019.

Keisha Henderson, 28, and her 5-year-old twin sisters Bethany (left) and Brittany Hicks enjoyed the scenery from their home in East Auckland.

Although East Oakland is at the center of the city’s homicide crisis, it is also a patchwork community of close connections that people pay attention to. Many residents are first-time homebuyers with children and basic jobs. Hudson is an emergency room nurse and her husband works at BART. Her neighbor Keisha Henderson (Keisha Henderson) is a social worker.

Residents’ complaints about the quality of life are similar to those of businessmen in the mountains or urban areas. They are tired of seeing garbage on the ground. When needles and other drug paraphernalia pile up behind parks or community centers, they sit back. Some people don't want to put railings on the windows: Henderson, a member of the task force, likes to stare at the hills with dense canopies and clouds.

However, many residents also have reasons to distrust law enforcement agencies.

He said that when John Jones III was 12 years old, a group of military officers confronted his friends while they were playing baseball, slammed Jones against the wall and murmured racism.

As a father and activist near the city of fruits, Jones also has memories of East Oakland. In the 1980s and 1990s, cocaine epidemics, poverty, unfair housing policies, and high murder rates put it into trouble. He said that today reminds us of that era when COVID-19 widened the racial gap and caused even greater suffering on the flat ground.​​​

However, another member of the task force, Jones, remained vigilant when raising funds. He said he thought the police budget was too high. But he said that when "100 new whites" lined up at the recent parliamentary budget hearings, he was afraid and believed that the police were "harmful to blacks and browns."

Tristen Nava, an 8-year-old boxing student, takes a class in the Lightning Boxing Club in Auckland to tie his shoes. Loren Taylor is one of the areas hit hardest by violence in the city council.

The October 14 meeting of the working group was the third meeting. A three-gun shooting on the same night killed a teenager.

The introduction and demonstration lasted more than an hour. Then, these 17 members were asked a two-sided question: What activities or functions should the police reduce or not do at all, and where is the best time for the police to spend?

The idea surfaced: rescue the police from traffic enforcement and vandalism cases. Set off firecrackers to the fire department. A couple disagreed whether the police should respond to noise complaints.

Antoine Towers, representing West Oakland, is getting more and more impatient. He said: "Many of us have children, and we are sacrificing everything in order to continue." "When we were supposed to be involved in many things, there seemed to be many introductions."

Obviously, every member of the task force has its own agenda, and with so many competing voices, it is sometimes difficult to see how they will achieve their common goals. And they encountered obstacles.


Those who pay for police, firefighters, and violence prevention programs set parameters for police personnel. If Oakland tries to fire any of its 737 officials and commanders, it may lose money.

Auckland City Councillor Loren Taylor visited Auckland residents including Eden Silva Jequinto (left) and Sizwe Andrews-Abakah (right) at the Akoma Outdoor Market in October.

Another co-chair Loren Taylor (Loren Taylor) said that the working group has not yet discussed these obstacles. His area includes parts of East Auckland most affected by the violence.

Taylor said he and Bass have asked the task force to imagine future police work that is not subject to tax measures or collective bargaining. Taylor said they will deal with these restrictions in the future.

Politics also proved to be complicated. When Taylor sent the task force to the Auckland Chamber of Commerce, he encountered much-needed security issues regarding car break-ins and burglaries.

Nonetheless, when the task force began to work, a small victory was achieved. Participants broadly supported the police to stay away from homeless camps to complain, and dispatch counselors or social workers to respond to mental health emergencies. According to a survey by the Chamber of Commerce, more than four-fifths of Auckland residents agree with this concept.

Interim Police Chief Susan Manheimer (Susan Manheimer) was allowed to participate in meetings with her commander after many debates, and she seemed to accept these ideas.

The temporary person in charge said: "We hope to see more trauma-oriented, appropriate services to respond to such calls."

Left: An Oakland police helicopter observes the fatal shooting on 84th Street in October. Right: The memorial near the 5800 block of Elizabeth Street pays tribute to 16-year-old Aaron Pryor in September.

People began to merge around this view. Then homicides surged.

Throughout the city, people hang Mylar balloons on telephone poles, and line the sidewalks with consecrated candles and temporary temples for the victims. In mid-October, hundreds of mourners attended

A 16-year-old young man escaped from Skyline High School and was shot and killed 100 yards from his apartment.

Barry Donelan, head of the Sergeant Oakland Police Association, worried that the situation would deteriorate. He agreed with the members of the task force that poverty and despair were fueling crime. He said, but Oakland must reduce the number of murders, and supporters who pay for the police should have "skin in the game."

For him, this means launching a "pilot program" for refunds, which is a bit tortuous. Officials will retreat from the bustling hills and bustling commercial corridors, an area represented by members of the progressive parliament, and they are pressing for more aggressive police budget cuts.

The union chairman said: "All police resources in these neighborhoods are in the east, and they are eager to fight crime."

Interim chief Manheimer rejected Donelan's comments.

She said: "The position of the department is,'We are here. Our mission is to fight crime. We will do this every day until someone tells us there are other options to do it."

Richard Breaux participated in the community cleanup activities at 62nd Avenue and Hayes Street last month. Breaux and his wife Zenobia are also members of the "Reimagining Public Safety Working Group."

Auckland now has five months to come up with a plan that will succeed where many other cities are struggling.

After Floyd was killed in Minneapolis, the leaders there first pledged to overhaul a city’s police station. This promise was spread at the end of the summer without a clear realization the road.

In Atlanta, police killed a black man in June during a DUI parking where Wendy drove past. Next month, the city council nearly rejected a proposal to increase the police budget.

New York and Austin had little success. The former cut $1 billion from the police budget. Austin has set an overall goal similar to Oakland. This is where Bath and Taylor have always insisted that things will be different: the city has a road map. The task force looked at some numbers.

Some residents became restless and were waiting for the plan. In late August, the Anti-Police Terrorism Project launched its own crisis hotline to replace 911, with volunteers working overnight with doctors, physical therapists and social workers.

As December approached, the working group announced that it would postpone the deadline for draft recommendations to January and submit them to the board of directors in April. Some members stated that they do not need to replace law enforcement in a comprehensive way, but need to carry out more basic reforms. Henderson is one of several members of the East Oakland area, and she said she hopes to see more black women in the police force. She would like to see police officers park their patrol cars and walk around, and participate in sidewalk cleaning and toy driving.

During a walk on a ceasefire night in October, an Oakland police car was driving along Bancroft Street.

Such community policing requires departmental commitment, but also numbers, sergeant. Dolan said. Oakland In early March, there were some military officers' walking beats in eastern Oakland, but once people retire or travel to other cities, the department will close the department once the labor force shrinks.

The number of homicides continues to rise. On a recent Friday night, religious leaders from Ceasefire, a project aimed at stopping gun violence, gathered at the intersection of 82nd and Bancroft Avenue. They waved to the passing cars. Mayor Schaff stood among them, holding a cardboard sign: "Respect, Humanity, Love".

There was an encouraging development that day. The police announced several arrests of homicide suspects, including the killing on 84th Street, four blocks from the cordon.

Standing on a small concrete island on a crosswalk, Schaaf reiterated her support for the task force while also making her doubt the budget cuts that the budget was trying to achieve.

She said: "Because there has been a lot of publicity around this 50% figure, I think it is not a bad plan to propose budget cuts to this group." "Then ask the group to say whether they think these effects are acceptable. ."

Outside the block, about a dozen people gathered under the tree canopy on 84th Street. Martinez and another young man died a week ago. Flowers were scattered on the sidewalk, and someone sprayed "RIP" on a nearby tree.

There are no simple answers in this city. Just hope and pain, and meetings.

The vigil continued.

7-year-old Trayvon Hall (left) comforted his 4-year-old cousin Kai Pryor while peering through the window during the funeral of his brother Aaron Pryor when his 16-year-old star athlete was shot to death near him. Go home in September.

Rachel Swan (Rachel Swan) is a writer for the San Francisco Chronicle. e-mail:


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