Dear Oakland,

As we continue to move through this unprecedented and emotionally raw experience in our country, we hope residents can join our virtual Town Hall Tonight at 6 p.m. on our social media channels Facebook , Twitter , Instagram , and YouTube (with closed captioning).

To dial in by phone: (669) 900-6833, 413825986#

This week, we’ll host an honest conversation about the structural racism that exists within our own City systems, our police department, and the real work Oakland is doing to eradicate it.

It is difficult work that is nowhere near done. This moment is ripe for a transformative leap toward justice if together we choose it.

The conversation will be facilitated by Darlene Flynn , City of Oakland Dir. Dept. of Race and Equity. Panelists will include:

  • Civil rights attorney John Burris, who has participated in the department’s reform effort under the negotiated settlement agreement
  • OPD Lt. Fred Shavies, facilitator for the department’s Equity Working Group.
  • Guillermo Cespedes, City of Oakland, Dir. Dept. of Violence Prevention.

We will discuss current events and the long-term efforts to reform OPD and increase Oakland’s non-law enforcement actions to build a safer, healthier, and more beloved city for all.
On Wednesday I announced with Chief Susan Manheimer a proposal to ban the use of chokeholds in Oakland. Chief Manheimer will present the Special Order to the Citizen Police Commission on Thursday night.

Oakland has committed to the 8 Can’t Wait use of force policy changes (OPD has completed six and is committed to finalizing the remaining two) and I also signed President Barack Obama’s Mayoral Pledge to actionable police reforms.

Additionally, our position on ‘defunding the police’ starts here: We want to move toward a society where police are not needed.

We want a society where everyone feels safe without state intervention or armed response.

We agree that investments in education, health, housing security and economic well-being are the most powerful ways to advance safety in Oakland.

We recognize a growing group of people — especially people of color — experience policing as violent, racist and oppressive, and not as protective or creating a sense of safety. 

We honor this reality, particularly in the wake of horrific killings of Black and Brown people by police across our nation. We will continue working to eradicate racism, violence and abuse in policing.

We will continue to invest in non-law enforcement responses to community safety needs.

In just the last few years Oakland has made those investments by creating strong departments of Race & Equity and Violence Prevention, as well as the most powerful and independent Citizen Police Commission in America. And we are in the process of adding a mobile crisis response, based on the Cahoots model in Oregon, because so many 911 calls really just need crisis intervention and care — not a badge and a gun. 

We also recognize that Oaklanders make more than 100,000 911 calls each year in their most traumatic moments of fear and crisis — relying on our police to respond to their safety needs. We know that Oakland Police prevent crime and suffering, save lives, and bring resolution and justice to those who’ve been harmed. To ensure our police are trained and held accountable to the safest, most unbiased, culturally competent and progressive practices requires investment — not divestment.

Comparatively, Oakland can ill afford to further defund its police department, as we already have the lowest officer-per-crime staffing levels of any police department in America. Oakland’s police department comprises 19-20% of the City’s budget – just below comparative cities’ average – and is roughly 1/5 th of Alameda County’s total budget for Public Health and Social Services. It’s critical to look beyond the City’s budget to fully capture all public spending investments in Oakland.

The Administration’s current proposed budget was forced to cut $122 million due to COVID-19 revenue losses. The Administration’s budget proposes the largest departmental cut directly at OPD, while managing to increase funding for homeless services, affordable housing, park maintenance and illegal dumping.

The City Council will be adopting the final budget within the next few weeks. If you want to find and contact your Councilmember to advocate for your priorities, please visit this site by clicking here
Homelessness is a manifestation of the structurally racist injustices we are talking about as a nation right now, and it unfairly impacts our Black residents.

To address it in our community, on Tuesday we opened a new shelter specifically for unhoused families in a unique collaboration with our neighbor city, Emeryville.

The re-purposed rec center will be home to 25 families at full capacity, and serve as a sanctuary while we help find them permanent housing.
Not one child or family should live in anything less than a safe and clean home where they can thrive.

I want to thank the tireless volunteers, social services and outreach workers, City of Emeryville and Oakland staffers, and all residents who are so committed to this work.

It gives all of us hope and energy to keep pushing, and to keep marching together toward a more beloved and just community. 

Be well,