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Facing Cutbacks, Oakland Police Chief Says Officers Will Prioritize Violent Crime

OAKLAND (KPIX) -- On Thursday, Oakland's interim police chief warned of tough choices ahead for her department due to looming budget cuts. The department could see cuts of about $15 million due to a city budget deficit. The chief said the department already made a $7 million cut last year.

"Not one of these cuts is our choice," said interim chief Susan Manheimer. "They would not be our choice because we recognize every cut (hurts) policing because we are so thinly staffed,"

Chief Manheimer said officers will always prioritize shootings and other violent incidents. Depending on how busy they are, calls for burglaries and other non-life-threatening incidents may receive a less-rapid police response. Manheimer said the cuts will affect residents from the Oakland Hills down to the bay.

"I think what we're doing is going back to basics a little bit ... collapsing some of our specialty units, recognizing and hoping this is temporary," Manheimer said. She said the traffic enforcement unit has already been removed.

The chief said that, after a violent 2020 in which the city recorded 102 murders -- the highest since 2012, her goal this year is to bring violent crime and homicides down.

"Most of this obviously is based on gun crime. Our gun crime -- our shootings including our homicides -- were up this past year and only really during the shelter-in-place COVID period," Manheimer said.

Chief Manheimer blamed the pandemic for the spike in violence, including the killing of seven minors. No minors were killed in 2019. KPIX has learned the names of six of them: 16-year-old Aaron Pryor, a star football player at Skyline High School, 15-year-old Ivan Sanchez, 16-year-old Nandi Perry, 17-year-old Hasan Humphries, 17-year-old Jaleel Harris and 17-year-old Noel Dominguez.

The chief said the cancellation of after-school programs and online learning mean no structure, mentors or guidance for the kids.

"It's only really in the last month or two, that we've been able to fully recharge our partnership with our community, our faith leaders and get back out there and provide those intervention strategies," Manheimer said.

The city re-started the Ceasefire program in late October. That program identifies high-risk individuals like gang members and offers them jobs and services. The chief said those who continue to cause problems will now face charges and jail time. Last summer, the county jail released many people charged with gun crimes because of COVID concerns.

"We have also shifted resources back to patrol, to ensure that we have a higher level of presence" in areas where there are more Shot-Spotter activations, according to chief Manheimer.

They are also working with the new violence prevention department to stop retaliatory shootings between gangs.

The chief said those strategies led to some promising signs last month. There were 2 murders in December compared to 100 murders January through November. Manheimer admitted having to do more with less will mean tough challenges ahead.

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