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Another US mayor presses to undo police defunding

The mayor of Oakland, California is seeking to reverse a multi-million dollar budget cut planned for local police, instead calling to hire more officers and boost funding amid a surge in violent crime and homicides in the area.

Mayor Libby Schaaf said her office would press the Oakland City Council to undo the upcoming $18 million budget cut, which was approved by local lawmakers in June and is set to take effect next year. She vowed to continue efforts at “violence prevention” outside the realm of law enforcement, but nonetheless stressed the need to expand the police force.

“While we are not backing down whatsoever on our historic investments in prevention, as well as a non-police response option…, we must address police staffing shortages, and that is what we will do,” Schaaf said on Monday.

There is nothing progressive about unbridled gun violence. This is what Oaklanders want, a comprehensive and effective approach to safety, and that includes adequate police staffing.

Today I announced our plan to restore police staffing by keeping the promise to voters who passed Measure Z + cancelling some of the police cuts scheduled for July 1. Increased police response will not reduce our historic investments in violence prevention + MACRO.

— Libby Schaaf (@LibbySchaaf) November 29, 2021

The announcement followed a series of shootings last weekend that left three people dead, including a 1-year-old boy struck by a stray bullet as he slept in a car seat, as well as a retired police officer killed while working a security detail for a local news crew, according to the Associated Press. Those brought the number of homicides investigated by the Oakland PD to 127 so far this year.

The mayor also noted that a measure passed by voters in 2014 requires the city’s police department to have at least 678 officers on staff, and that the PD had fallen just one officer short of that threshold, adding that it would boost its recruitment outreach to meet the quota. 

READ MORE: Black Lives Matter-backing mayor of Washington, DC now wants to FUND the police, citing spike in murders

The decision to defund the Oakland Police Department mirrored similar moves in a number of cities following the death of George Floyd at the hands of officers in Minnesota last year, which sparked months of protests nationwide and calls to slash police budgets across the country. 

However, some cities that saw cuts, including New York, Los Angeles, Portland and Washington, DC, have begun to revive law enforcement budgets, or at least flirt with the idea. In July, DC’s Mayor Muriel Bowser pressed for an additional $11 million to hire and train more officers after city lawmakers voted to slash the police budget, while Portland more recently passed a measure to restore $5.2 million to the local PD following similar cuts last year.

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