Fife for what’s right: Oakland City Council votes unanimously to fund community alternatives to policing

Councilmember Carroll Fife has big plans for Oakland. The causes she is most passionate about define the actions she will take: economic justice, a Black New Deal, public safety, housing as a human right, and climate and environmental justice for all. Fife is a founding member of Moms 4 Housing, a group of families advocating for housing rights in Oakland and the Bay Area. In November 2019, two working and homeless mothers of Moms 4 Housing took over a vacant home on the 2900 block of Magnolia Street, remaining despite an eviction notice from Oakland’s sheriff. – Photo: Carroll Fife Campaign

by Tonya Love, chief of staff for Oakland District 3 Councilmember Carroll Fife

Oakland, Calif. – During a May 3 special meeting of the Oakland City Council, elected officials voted unanimously in favor of the District 3 Councilmember and Public Safety Committee Chair Carroll Fife’s resolution to prioritize key recommendations toward shifting responsibilities away from the Oakland Police Department (OPD). These proactive crime reduction measures will free up OPD so that officers can focus on addressing violent incidents in the city.

This is the first piece of legislation authored by Fife’s office since her inauguration in January 2021 and was co-sponsored by Council President and Task Force Chair Nikki Fortunato Bas, who spent countless hours working with community volunteers to create the task force recommendations. This is an important roadmap that will help transform public safety by shifting resources from enforcement and punishment to non-law enforcement responses and will inform the FY 2021-2023 budget.

Councilmember Nikki Fortunato Bas backed Fife’s resolution. Bas and Fife share a key priority, which is to ensure that everyone has shelter because housing is a human right. Bas was elected in November 2018 to serve Oakland’s District 2. Here, Bas speaks at a rally on Jan. 31, 2019, at Oakland City Hall demanding fair wages and better staffing practices at city agencies. – Photo: Yalonda M. James, SF Chronicle

“The crime we see reported on the news is generally the outcome of decade after decade of resource-lack due to an unsustainable investment of taxpayer dollars into punitive policing. Today we listened to the community and voted to change course,” said Fife. “As the Public Safety Committee chair, I am committed to expanding the definition of ‘safety’ and will follow through on the Task Force recommendations during my tenure on the council. I am thankful to my colleagues for their work to pass this resolution.”

Public safety is much more than policing. We must do more to ensure healthy communities and that means investing on the front end to minimize the need for police on the back end.

Prioritized recommendations include long-term investment in the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO) program, which is an alternative to 911; increasing gender-based violence services; moving most traffic enforcement from OPD to Oakland’s Department of Transportation; making efforts to end OPD’s use of militarized equipment; increasing support for restorative justice and violence prevention efforts; investing in the Oakland Youth Commission; prioritizing affordable housing and homeless programs; and supporting a Phase II process for the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force.

In addition, Oakland councilmembers added amendments to research transferring the Internal Affairs Department out of OPD into the city’s Community Police Review Agency (CPRA) and creating a Department of Children, Youth and Families (DCYF).

The message from the council is clear: Public safety is much more than policing. We must do more to ensure healthy communities and that means investing on the front end to minimize the need for police on the back end.

UPDATE: While this resolution is a momentous first step, it is only the beginning. The budget process started with the hearing on the mayor’s budget on Monday, May 10. Actions around the proposed budget will be critical to funding and implementing these recommendations.

Reach Oakland’s District 3 Chief of Staff Tonya Love via email at tlove@oaklandca.gov.