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Oakland’s city budget has passed, and it’s a win for investments in alternatives to policing. Federal stimulus packages opened up the budget and gave Oakland the chance to reprioritize public safety investments. Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Councilmember Carroll Fife made sure Oakland seized the opportunity. Under their leadership, Oakland has approved the largest investment in alternatives to policing in generations. Bike East Bay’s work with the task force to help reimagine traffic enforcement also moves forward—a huge win.

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The Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO), Oakland’s new mental health crisis response team and the Department of Violence Prevention both get needed investments in this budget. While police funding has also increased, funding alternatives like MACRO and the Department of Violence Prevention is crucial in order to scale back policing and start getting at the root cause of violence.

Traffic enforcement responsibilities are also changing in Oakland. First, Oakland Police Department’s (OPD) traffic patrols will remain at 50% and given that only 1 in 5 of their traffic stops are for dangerous driving behaviors on Oakland’s high injury network, that’s a good thing. Second, enforcement of illegally parked/abandoned vehicles moves into OakDOT, which was part of the recommendation we worked on with the Reimagining Public Safety Task Force. Third, a companion task force recommendation to create a Community Ambassador/Park Ambassador program is approved, which will allow for more neighborhood events to take place at lower costs without police presence. Fourth, a thorough audit will be conducted of OPD, as Berkeley recently completed of their police department, with one goal to evaluate how civilian traffic officers in OakDOT could manage speeding and other minor moving violations, and bring an end to pretextual traffic stops in Oakland.

Going forward there is much more work to do. Our next step is to work with the Anti Police-Terror Project and other task force members to build a broad coalition of support for a new state bill in 2022 to allow civilian traffic enforcement. In the near term, we will push OakDOT to get started on their Safe Oakland Streets initiative, a coordinated effort between OakDOT and the traffic division of OPD. This will entail a lot of work, but will better ensure that OakDOT stays laser focused on neighborhood traffic safety.

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