Oakland’s Police Officers Association criticized efforts by city council members to gut the police budget, saying the ongoing efforts to defund the department are affecting already low morale on the force.
The association said fed-up officers were quitting the force for law enforcement jobs elsewhere, sending the department into a staffing crisis that will imperil the city’s public safety system amid a historic surge in violent crime.
In a sternly worded statement to media on May 17, the union representing rank-and-file Oakland officers said the department was facing a staffing crisis that would leave calls for service unanswered.
“Oakland’s shrinking police department is struggling to respond to the escalating bloodshed on our streets,” said Oakland Police Officers' Association President Barry Donelan in the statement. “Oakland’s City Council ignores the violence and considers further defunding of the police. The impacts of their ‘defund the police’ strategy are plain to see in the carnage and danger our residents are subjected to daily.”
The POA said “Oakland’s homicide rate has more than doubled year over year. On average during 2021, Oakland suffers a homicide every three days.”
“To make matters worse, last Thursday the Police Chief advised Oakland’s Police Commission that 10 Oakland Police Officers left the department in the previous three weeks,” according to the POA statement. “The total number of officers left is 706, the lowest number in six years, while violent crime is at the highest level in a decade.”
At least 54 people have been killed in Oakland due to violence so far in 2021, double the number of homicides at the same time in 2020. Violent crimes, such as shootings and armed carjackings, have surged in 2021. At least two people were killed early Tuesday morning when a gunman opened fire on a packed party bus in East Oakland.
Police also encountered several sideshows all weekend long that included hundreds of cars. Police sent out a special sideshow enforcement detail specifically assigned to respond to out-of-control gatherings that are violent, rowdy, and unruly.
“Starting on Saturday night, the Oakland Police Department saw close to 200 vehicles traveling in and out of Oakland and nearby cities for six hours,” according to police. “The groups were attempting to take over key intersections in Oakland to engage in illegal sideshow activity. Oakland Police Officers dedicated to sideshow enforcement were able to monitor the illegal activity on the ground and in the air, with the department’s helicopter (ARGUS). Officers successfully deterred and disrupted this illegal activity and towed one vehicle.”
The disruptive sideshows continued for a second night when an even larger crowd gathered in East Oakland.
“On Sunday night, officers worked sideshow enforcement for nearly eight hours,” the department stated. “OPD received reports of illegal sideshow activity taking place in the area of 98th and Edes Avenues. Officers in ARGUS flew over the scene and spotted approximately 300 people watching 100 vehicles take part in the illegal activity. Officers on the ground responded to the area and were able to disrupt the activity by arresting eight people, towing 22 vehicles, one ATV, and writing 14 citations.”
Police said once they spot a vehicle participating in a sideshow, officers can follow up later to impound the car should they track it down.
“I appreciate our City Councilmembers for supporting and restoring funds for a dedicated sideshow detail,” said Oakland Police Chief LeRonne L. Armstrong. “Without these additional resources, our city would’ve experienced significantly more destructive sideshow activity. These sideshow events are known to take over intersections and neighborhoods causing significant safety concerns in our community.”