Defunding APD Threatens Public Safety

Dear Mayor Ashcraft, Vice Mayor Knox-White and Council Members:
I have resided in Alameda since 1980, with my wife who was born and raised here since the 1950s. I am concerned community member who cannot and will not support any cuts to our fine police department’s budget. Cuts that would result in a loss of officers or reduction of key police services to handle mounting traffic violations, burglaries, thefts, batteries, hate crimes, robberies and even murders that endanger our residents. The defund bandwagon ignores that prioritizing and maintaining community safety is job one, whether for fire protection, medical services response needs or police to handle crime and other threats.

It may well be said that freeing police officers from dealing with homeless, mental health or animal-rescue issues is a diffusion or waste of their time and our resources. Police ought to be relieved of such ancillary duties that others can handle as well or better.

But anyone can look at APD’s Police Blotter to see just how rare those types of diversions of police are for these supposed officer relief alternative services.

The record of police activity for 7/7 --which does not include the key function of traffic safety for stop sign runners, speeders, pedestrian protection etc.-- shows the following: burglary, battery, auto theft, fraud, 3 shoplifts, missing person, hate incident, senior citizen abuse, deceased, a drunk in public sidewalk fall, vehicle vandalism, and violation of a court order.

Between July 6 and 12, APD logged 72 incidents as those, as well as a murder, vehicle recovery, check fraud, auto theft and more. Of those 72, only four, roughly 5.5 percent had to do those considered a danger to self or others. These may or may not have been better handled by non-police responders.
Simply put, this glossy, pie-in-the-sky notion that gutting the police department with a proposed 44 percent cut to funding, is a sham and a chimera as the facts indisputably show.

A handful of officers really overstepped their bounds and violated individual rights and the public trust by intimidating and unlawfully detaining Mali Watkins without probable cause for his act of dancing in the street. Watkins, and anyone else who is profiled or abused by police, deserves due process and just recompense.

The community and city leadership must decry and condemn such officer misconduct and the offending officers should fully be held to account.

But the exception is not the rule, and sacrificing community safety through defunding is not the answer
Alameda’s relatively high safety level and renown for being a town where folks can raise their kids in a well-protected environment, distinguish us from many other Bay Area cities where police do not even respond to many nonviolent crimes, brushing off victims or callers with “You can file a police report online.”

We are fortunate to have a police department, even though currently understaffed and underfunded, that is professional, highly protective of and responsive to this community’s needs and concerns. The City Council — every member to a T — needs to stand first and foremost for public safety, starting with no reduction in the number of officers on duty 24/7 or any cuts to their ability to keep us reasonably well protected and to handle matters efficiently, effectively and lawfully.

Defunding or ‘reimagining’ our police by eviscerating them is not a remedy. It is an erosive time bomb which scofflaws and criminals can only hope for.

— Lawrence D. Freeman