I wasn’t feeling so hot last night, so I skipped the Art Murmur and instead spent the evening curled up in bed with a big mug of hot tea catching up on all the TV I just couldn’t find time to watch last week. First, last Monday’s Gossip Girl (which was totally awesome, as usual), then Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting (which was almost as awesome).
And just like at every other Public Safety Committee meeting in the history of the world, you had the Police Department there, whining about how they can’t do this or they can’t do that because they don’t have enough money. It’s one of those things that you’re sympathetic to at first, but after a while really starts getting tiresome. It’s like a clearly exasperated Jane Brunner said at a recent Council meeting during yet another session of OPD crying poor. “You already have all the money in the City!”
It’s true! The percentage of our budget we spend on the Police Department is incredible, and even more incredible is our refusal to force them to stay within their allocations. Everyone wants to blame the economy for Oakland’s budget deficit, and while that is in large part the case, it’s also true that the amount of money by which OPD exceeded their overtime budget last year ($11 million) is the same as the shortfall in our expected real estate transfer tax. OPD is considered untouchable because public safety is a primary concern to most of our residents. Yeah, I get it. But the City’s funds are not unlimited, and we have other needs too. Giving the Police Department a blank check hasn’t resulted in reduced crime so far, I can’t imagine why anyone would think that the strategy is just going to all of a sudden start working.
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums seemed to agree with this – at least back in October, when the budget crisis was on everybody’s mind. Then, a few weeks ago, he abruptly changed his tune, and agreed to lift the overtime restrictions on the department for the holiday season. Okay. Fine. I want people to feel safe doing their holiday shopping or whatever. I don’t want to see a year-end crime spike either.
But you know what makes it really hard to feel like extra overtime is necessary? When you’re out on the town on a weekday evening and you watch three policemen just standing at a highly trafficked downtown corner passing out jaywalking tickets. Yeah.