Police budget jeopardizes West Oakland Youth Center

from our coalition allies, Critical Resistance- Oakland:

In the news…
In Friday’s headlines, Oakland residents witnessed one more time how the City of Oakland’s twisted priorities could put its youth in jeopardy.  News broke that the West Oakland Youth Center—a project five years in the making and developed by youth and grassroots organizers—may not open due to lack of funding to operate the center and staff its programs.  The Mayor’s budget proposal assumes that Oakland cannot absorb these operating costs, amounting to roughly $340,000, while the city has had no problem throwing good money after bad in support of policing consultants and policies that continue to fail Oakland.  According to Councilperson Desley Brooks, “We’re talking about $340,000 for both programs combined out of a $1 billion budget. You can’t tell me that we can’t find $340,000 for our kids.”

Even as investments in policing continue to increase (totaling more than half of general fund expenditures), Oakland can’t seem to find less than one third of one percent of its budget to invest in safe spaces and quality programming for its youth.  According the KPIX news reporting on the issue, the Mayor’s budget “sacrifices costs for both youth programs [slated for the West Oakland Youth Center] in favor of putting more cops on the streets.”  These trade-offs should not surprise us.

In January, for instance, no belt tightening or shortfalls were predicted when the City Council agreed to extend Strategic Policy Partnership’s contract with the OPD to the tune of $250,000.  The City pursued the contract despite overwhelming opposition to the inclusion of William Bratton in the contract and insufficient support to suggest that any additional consultants to the OPD were even necessary, especially given the fact that Oakland is already paying the Frazier Group and independent monitors to stem the devastating harm that OPD cops continue to do to Oakland communities (Frazier was also just named OPD compliance director with a salary of $270,000).

To add insult to injury, after repeated assurances that Bratton would only play a minor role in the consultancy and minimal public presence, the Council and OPD have begun to refer to the contract as “The Bratton Contract,” and “the Bratton Group” indicating their complete lack of commitment to their word or respect for their own constituents.

So where do we go from here?
Policing fails Oakland.  Oakland continues to pay the social and economic costs of the legacy of the Riders, and feel the antagonism generated between community members and cops through policing projects such as gang injunctions, sweeps, raids, and stop and search. The impacts of investing in quick fix policing approaches rather than in the kinds of programs and services that have been proven to stabilize communities in the long term, such as community centers, illustrates a stubborn, blind dedication to misguided solutions.

Councilperson Libby Schaaf, for instance, continues to cling desperately to outmoded, police-heavy approaches despite clear, consistent messages from a wide range of Oakland residents about what they want instead.  In an email blast to her district residents on May 31, Schaaf herself reminds Oakland that when it comes to policing in our city “there are a plethora of dusty plans sitting on shelves” but then goes on to implore us to “stick to the plan”.

Although it’s been said over and over, it obviously bears repeating—Oakland cannot police its way out of poverty. No revolving cast of police chiefs, or board rooms full of consultants, or shelves full of policing plans will prevent policing from failing Oakland.  It’s high time that Oakland invests in its future by investing in its youth, its families, and its neighborhoods rather than continuing to invest in policies and practices that destabilize and separate our city.  As West Oakland Councilperson Lynette McElhaney stated, “Make no mistake about it we are going to spend money on these kids. We will either spend it in a proactive way, through youth centers and positive programming, or we will spend the money on arresting them, incarcerating them, putting them in juvenile hall or God forbid to treat them in emergency rooms because they’ve fallen victim to violence.”

Building community…from the ground up
Yet while the City makes desperate moves that destabilize and separate our city, every day we see the hard and true work of community members using all the resources they have available to build a better, healthier city.  The West Oakland Youth Center is not yet a dream deferred, it is a possibility.  All of us continue to build.  We’re coming off the heels of an amazing Malcolm X Jazz Festival, in its 13th year of bringing thousands of Oakland residents together in celebration, art, politics and education.  Next weekend, on June 8, the Stop the Injunctions Coalition will be having a Saturday workday in the thriving Community Garden at 28th and Foothill.  We look forward to planting possibilities together in what seems like an impossible time, continuing to grow into our vision of what Oakland can be.

City cuts social services and community jobs, while policing funds remained untouched and police actions unaccountable

How are recent Oakland financial news and city spending trade-offs connected to policing and injunctions?  When the City talks about solutions, it repeatedly puts the money behind policing, gang injunctions and other ineffective policies, while only paying lip service to real social spending and community-based services.

This month our City is making some major financial decisions that hard-hit Oakland residents, employees and communities.  Last week the mayor’s office announced that anywhere from 160 to 400 workers would be laid-off January 31st and that more than 2,500 have received pink slips. The extraordinary financial burden that OPD demands from the city, however, remained untouched: the City is still funding gang injunctions in North and East Oakland and is launching the 100-block public safety plan, ostensibly designed to target areas in the city with the highest rates of violent crime.

According to Police Chief Howard Jordan, the 100-block plan does not rely soley on increased patrols or added officers, but also shifts some of the burden to other city agencies.   The City says it also prioritizes the blocks for street repair projects, nuisance abatements and social programs. However, the city hasn’t named what those social programs are or how they are being received by the communities living in the 100-block area.  It appears that the City is only willing to put money behind policing when it talks about “solutions.”

Oaklandofficials have said that the 100-block plan, which was introduced on October 15, combines police suppression and increased collaboration with other law enforcement agencies such as the Alameda County Sheriff’s office.  STIC is deeply troubled by this: suppression tactics, which include gang injunctions and curfews, are part of a long history of racialized and violent policing that have claimed the lives of poor people and people of color living inOakland.  Further, suppression policing tactics have proved incredibly expensive for the city financially; Oakland has spent well over one million dollars (as of last October) litigating the temporary North Oakland and Fruitvale gang injunctions and, over the last ten years, has paid out more than $57 million dollars for claims, settlements and lawsuits related to Oakland Police Department actions and abuse.  Most recently in October 2011, Oakland made a $1.7million settlement payment to the family of Jerry Amaro after he was fatally beaten by the OPD.

Stop the Injunctions Coalition continues to voice loud and clear that the City must prioritize resources for things that actually bring safety to our communities, like jobs and community services, not policing.

These cuts are another example of politicians saying that the City will address public safety with a more diversified approach than policing, yet cutting funding to the diverse structure that it takes to create a healthy city. Parks and Recreation and Public Works amongst other Community and Economic Development departments will be the most heavily effected by the loss of Redevelopment money.  The Mayor and the City Council are ignoring the obvious connections between increased social services, including better access to job training and employment for those who are on probation and parole, and public safety.  Everytime there’s another shooting, members of the Council invariably bring up more parole beats, injunctions and curfews when its clear that this is notOaklandresidents want nor what will help stem the violence in our communities.

The Council and the Mayor have been repeatedly called upon by the Stop the Injunctions Coalition and other community-based organizations to take a pro-active step to a healthier city budget by de-funding gang injunctions inOaklandand to shift those resources instead to both social services and violence prevention programs. Despite the lack of political will to push injunctions forward on the part of the City Council, the City Attorney’s Office continues to use city money in the ongoing litigation of the Fruitvale injunction, which could stretch on for months.  The movement continues to build however, as we talk with each other about what real solutions look like, enact them everyday and become more connected to continue the struggle.

Visit us at the North Oakland Phat Beets market on Saturdays to talk about building the movement, connecting with ally organizations and neighbors who want to push the City to end the ineffective and costly injunctions once and for all.

STIC at Phat Beets

Sat Jan 28 11am-2pm

Sat Feb 11 12pm-2pm

Sat Feb 25 10-2pm.

 

New Year Brings More OPD Controversy, Costs: We Urge City Abandon Failed Policy

In the first weeks of the New Year, Oaklanders have been met with a flurry of news reports highlighting the costs and consequences of Oakland Police Department conduct and policy in the past year.  With two temporary injunctions in North Oakland and Fruitvale neighborhoods limping forward and still racking up costs, Stop the Injunctions Coalition is continuing its call for the City to abandon the controversial and failed policy.

 
Two weeks ago OPD officer John Hargraves was suspended for one month for purposefully obscuring his badge during an Occupy Oakland protest, and his commanding officer Lt. Clifford Wong was demoted for participating in Hargraves’ violation.  The incident was caught on video and joined dozens of other videos depicting police violence in Oakland, especially around the internationally notorious OPD raid of the Occupy Oakland encampment on October 25th.  Police actions that day alone have cost an estimated $3million and have been the subject of at least 200 citizen complaints.
 
The policing of Occupy Oakland has rightfully received international attention and condemnation, but if we want to fully understand how the OPD has comported itself in our city in the past year, we have to look at the Occupy scandals next to:
 
Indeed, until Occupy Oakland took center stage regarding police scandal, gang injunctions were a heated and controversial issues for most of 2011.  Legal costs of the injunctions have ticked over one million dollars in payment through the Oakland City Attorney’s office and to outside private counsel Meyers Nave.  While the OPD has not made public how many paid hours have been spent gathering initial data for the injunctions, testifying in court or meeting with attorneys to give statements, in November they reported that $133,089 have been spent to enforce the injunction and surveil those enjoined in North Oakland.  The November 8 report also reveals that there has been a 43% increase in Part One crimes in North Oakland with the injunction in place, contradicting the same reports claims that the injunction “improve[s] public safety, thereby providing a safer environment for residents.”
 
One thing is certain: Oakland can take a basic step forward regarding policing.  The City has the opportunity to reprioritize how it thinks about public safety, to address budget shortfall, and to curb destructive police policy.  We can begin by deauthorizing Gang Injunctions as a failed, costly, and divisive policy.