When will our elected officials start making data driven decisions to address violence and increase public safety in our communities? Governor Newsom’s decision to send California Highway Patrol Officers to Oakland is not rooted in effective violence-prevention policies or data, but rather is a lazy attempt to suggest action while endangering the people of Oakland.
If elected officials looked at the data, they would know that former Mayor Libby Schaaf brought in the CHP no less than three times over the course of her two terms in office. On each occasion, the data proved that the presence of these officers did not result in a noticeable decrease in violent crime.
Oakland’s emergency was not created by the Defund movement, because on no occasion has the Oakland Police Department ever been defunded in a budget cycle. Rather, the agency’s budget continued to grow by millions, shrinking resources to the Department of Violence Prevention, housing initiatives and other violence-prevention mechanisms.
The crisis we face now is due to a lack of investment in the services and resources proven to keep our communities safe. The safest communities are the most resourced, not the most policed.
Right now, I am terrified for the people of Oakland. California Highway Patrol is an agency marred with countless instances of racial profiling, harassment, assault and murder against Black and Brown Californians. On no less than two occasions, CHP officers have punched Black women in the face and been complicit in the killings of individuals like Erik Salgado and Juan Diego Bernal Yuriar.
Additionally, traffic stops are the most common way Black and Brown folks get funneled into the criminal legal system at disproportionate rates. You don’t need a gun for a traffic stop, and you don’t need CHP to keep Oaklanders safe.
If we were serious about crime reduction we would first ask the question: Is OPD on an “unofficial” strike, and is that unofficial strike one of the primary factors leading to the current crisis? Current police response times are slow, as the department spends nearly 90 percent of its time responding to nonviolent calls. The claim that their delayed response to actual violent crime is a result of defunding does not hold up to the facts of the past decade of budget cycles in the City of Oakland.
The current crisis is the result of severe divestment in working-class Black and Brown communities. At the start of the pandemic, more than 50 Black leaders came together to demand investments in jobs, housing and basic social services in the form of A Black New Deal to combat the economic impacts of the COVID-19 pandemic. Our voices were ignored, and our communities have been left to deal with the strain of the current crisis without sufficient aid.
Instead of investing in proven solutions, our elected officials are choosing to once again depend on the futility of law enforcement, an entity focused on responding to crime, and not preventing it.
Cat Brooks is co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project, a Black-led, multi-racial, intergenerational coalition that seeks to build a replicable and sustainable model to eradicate police terror in communities of color We support families surviving police terror in their fight for justice, documenting police abuses and connecting impacted families and community members with resources, legal referrals, and opportunities for healing.