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Mayor Schaaf Pushes To Hire More Police In Response To Oakland Violence

OAKLAND (CBS SF/AP) — Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced Monday she's working to reverse plans to divert funding from the police department to social services and hire more officers to stem this year's spike in deadly street violence.

The mayor's announcement came after a weekend in which three people died, including a retired police officer acting as a security guard for a television news crew, bringing the number of homicides to 127 so far this year.

To address the violence, Schaaf said she'll ask the city council to reverse $18 million in funding being diverted to other programs scheduled to take effect next year, though she still supports diversion efforts.

"When those messages and services are not effective … the consequences must be swift and certain. There is nothing progressive about unbridled gun violence," Schaaf told reporters Monday on a Zoom call.

The mayor said she will present city council with a new assessment of the city's safety needs.

"That analysis will make a case that additional police staffing is needed in the week of this violence spree," explained Schaaf.

Mayor Schaaf decried the ongoing violence, calling for changes on multiple fronts. Bail was another issue she brought up.

"I do want to call into attention the change in bail policies, said Schaaf. And we believe that that change is not giving sufficient weight in it's consideration to gun related crimes."

On that point, she was joined by two city council members who agreed that criminals are not being held accountable.

"When we talk about repeat offenses, these are things that we have to really make sense of in a way that helps to provide the carrot and the stick, if you will, that compels us to move toward a safer community," said District 6 Councilmember Loren Taylor.

"When those who are committing crime realize there is no accountability -- on the street or in the court system -- we are seeing that dangerous rise of distraction before our eyes," said District 7 Councilmember Treva Reid.

Amid a nationwide movement to shift funding away from police budgets after the killing of George Floyd, the progressive Oakland City Council voted in June to take $18 million from the police department and shift the money to programs aimed at preventing street crime and addressing homelessness.

Oakland is among a number of liberal cities having to change course amid a spike in crime.

In June 2020, the Portland City Council and the mayor cut millions from the police budget. Earlier this month, the council unanimously passed a fall budget bump that included increasing the current $230 million police budget by an additional $5.2 million.

From New York City to Los Angeles — in cities that had some of the largest Black Lives Matter protests, and some with an extensive history of police brutality — police departments are seeing their finances partially restored in response to rising homicides, an officer exodus and political pressures.

Schaaf said efforts to shift lower-level policing to other departments and efforts aimed at diverting those convicted to other services have not been enough. One problem she faces is that increasing funding for additional police academies will not provide a short-term solution as far as the number of officers available to police city streets.

"It's a long, drawn-out process," said James Dudley, a criminology professor at San Francisco State University, who is also a former police officer. "From recruitment, training, to getting them into the Academy. Field training, to acting independently as officers. Probably 18 months or more."

Police staffing has also fallen one officer below a 2014 voter-approved measure that requires the police department to have at least 678 sworn officers on staff. Schaaf said the department will boost its recruiting efforts.

That measure requires the city to have at least 678 officers to access funding from a parcel tax.

The union that represents Oakland police called the dwindling number of officers "yet another broken promise to Oakland residents by the "defund-the-police" majority on city council."

Dudley said reversing the losses at the department will take time, and that's just on the personnel front. "To go back and resurrect those programs, you have to convince the community," Dudley said. "You have to convince the city council. There are funding issues."

Among the other high-profile deaths was the death of a 1-year-old boy who was hit and killed by a stray bullet on an Oakland freeway while he slept in his car seat as his mother drove on a Saturday afternoon. Officials say the vehicle likely got caught in the crossfire of two vehicles exchanging gunfire.

Wilson Walker contributed to this story.

© Copyright 2021 The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.

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