A imposing building wrapped in silver and blue metal paneling with a large emblem of a police badge above the door and the words "Oakland Police" on the badge.
The Oakland Police Department Administrative Building in Downtown Oakland. Credit: Pete Rosos

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf posted her two-year budget proposal for the city online today. It includes $3.85 billion in spending through departments like police, fire, and transportation, plus $284 million in capital projects like buildings, roads, sewers, and other infrastructure.

Schaaf was over a week late delivering her plan, which was supposed to be ready on May 1, according to the city’s fiscal policies. She told councilmembers via email on April 30 that she was going to miss the deadline because “circumstances dictate—as they frequently have during this unprecedented year—that we need a little more time.”

Some councilmembers are upset about the delay, saying it gives them and the public less time to digest the proposal, which is incredibly complex. “This release comes one week after the May 1 legal deadline for the Mayor to publish her proposed budget,” Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas wrote in a press release sent out today.

The first City Council meeting about the proposed budget is Monday, May 10. Through the rest of the month most of the councilmembers have planned town halls to talk about the budget with their constituents.

While the City Council has final say about what the next two-year budget will include, Schaaf’s proposal serves as the starting point from which they’ll make amendments. On Monday, the council endorsed 12 recommendations from the city’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, mapping out a scenario in which millions could be diverted away from the police department to other programs intended to strengthen the community and fund violence prevention efforts.

During a year in which there has been intense debate about policing and public safety, with some calling for spending cuts to OPD, the road to passing a final budget plan by June 30 is bound to be rocky. Schaaf has tended to support the police, while some of the councilmembers want the city to pursue policies that reduce the role police play in ensuring public safety. The budget is primarily where this conflict around policing will play out.

We took a look at Schaaf’s proposal and summarized parts of it related to police spending. We’ll update this post and do more reporting on the budget once the council meetings get underway. But we urge you to dig into the documents yourself, too.

A new way of presenting the budget

In past years, the mayor’s budgets were posted on the city’s website as a giant PDF file that was hundreds of pages long. This is the first year the mayor’s budget is posted as an “accessible online platform.” In this format, you can click through to see big-picture data, like how much revenue the city expects to collect, how much total spending there will be, and how much each different city department will get.

The Capital Improvement Program budget is still presented as a PDF, however. More about this part of the budget below.

No big changes to police spending

The City Council passed a resolution last summer in the wake of the George Floyd protests stating their intent to reduce spending from the general fund on police by 50%, or approximately $150 million. 

Schaaf’s plan increases police spending from $316 million this year to $341 million in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2022, or a rise of about 8%. Police spending would grow another 3% to a total of $351 million in 2021-2023.

As a share of the city’s general funds, police would be 41% next year, and 45% the year after, more or less the same share as over the past decade.

Police would also receive millions from the Capital Improvement Program budget. Schaaf is proposing to spend $655,500 to harden the Eastmont Station with bullet-proof glass and metal roll-down doors. OPD’s headquarters would get $9 million for a new roof, air conditioning, emergency generators, and other upgrades. And there’s also a proposal to spend $7.5 million through the police department to expand “violence prevention” offices into the Wiley Manuel Courthouse building behind the police headquarters on Washington Street. It’s unclear if this new office space would actually be for OPD staff, or if it’s for the city’s new Department of Violence Prevention. We asked and will update this post when we know more.

A half million dollars from the CIP budget would also pay for a study to determine locations where a new OPD headquarters could be built. What’s not funded in the budget is a new police headquarters, which is estimated to cost $473 million.

Police spending would rise to 45.2% of the city’s general purpose fund expenditures by 2022-23. Credit: City of Oakland

Budgeting more for police overtime

Schaaf’s budget significantly increases the allocation for police overtime. Her administration and the city auditor have argued that Oakland has traditionally under-budgeted for overtime with unrealistic numbers that the police routinely exceed. Most years, the city ends up collecting more revenue than it expected and has been able to fill any deficits caused by OPD’s overspending on overtime. But last year, police overtime was the main cause of the city’s financial shortfall.

The budget for 2019-21 set aside about $32 million for police overtime. Schaaf wants $61 million.

Not everyone agrees that OPD overtime has been underfunded in the past. Critics say there’s a lack of transparency around how and when OPD decides to use overtime, and that some officers are making unusually large salaries based on extra hours. They want the use of overtime significantly reduced.

“Libby Schaaf’s proposed budget seeks to institutionalize Oakland police overspending,” Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project and the Executive Director of the Justice Teams Network, said in a press statement issued after Schaaf’s budget was posted today.

Shifting a few functions out of OPD, beefing up investigations

Schaaf’s plan calls for shifting some traffic enforcement out of OPD and having the Department of Transportation do this work instead. Special event permitting would also be taken away from OPD and put under the authority of the Economic and Workforce Development Department.

The Reimagining Public Safety Task Force called for doing away with OPD’s internal affairs unit and shifting all investigations of police misconduct to the Community Police Review Agency, a civilian team under the Police Commission’s guidance. Schaaf’s budget “begins the analysis” of how this could be accomplished, but doesn’t fund the actual transfer.

OPD’s teams that investigate homicides, shootings, robberies, special victims, and missing person’s cases would be significantly grown under Schaaf’s budget proposal. She wants to add two sergeants and 14 officers to OPD’s homicide unit; one sergeant and nine officers to felony assault investigations; and one sergeant and eight officers to the team that investigates robberies, among other changes. “Black residents and other residents of color are disproportionately impacted by violent and serious crimes, especially unsolved crime,” the proposal states as the reason for these increases.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.