Front and center in the defund the police movement, Oakland, CA serves as a prime example of how knee-jerk reactions, no matter how noble the intentions, can go horribly awry. Crime is on the rise in the city – but the police budget isn’t. Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong bemoaned cuts to police funding during a press conference, Tuesday, June 29. Mere minutes later – as if to illustrate his point – a TV news crew was held up at gunpoint while interviewing the chief of the Department of Violence Prevention, the organization to receive most of that budget cut money.
But beyond the irony of the situation, the resolution illustrates a different point entirely than the one Chief Armstrong made: The best way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun – and it doesn’t always have to be the police.
The Disparaging Numbers
The city of Oakland is home to about 420,000 people spread out over 78 square miles. The police department employs 709 officers – one for every 592 residents – and fielded 1,508 calls in the 24 hours prior to this writing. According to the official data from 2017 – the most recent year made public by the city – the average response time for “priority 1” calls was seven minutes and 47 seconds. Priority 1, of course, means those situations in which lives are on the line. The numbers for “priority 2” calls, which include things like in process misdemeanors, are much worse – averaging over an hour – but lives aren’t usually lost in these situations.
None of this is to suggest that the police do or don’t do their best – simply to paint an accurate picture of what to expect, should one fall victim to crime in Oakland. And just how likely is that? According to Neighborhood Scout, anyone in the city has a one in 15 chance of falling victim to property crime and a one in 77 chance of facing violent crime.
The Battle of the Budget
In 2020, the city cut $14.3 million from the police budget – and crime has risen considerably since then. The murder rate alone is 90% higher than it was this time last year. During his press conference, Armstrong explained that shootings are up more than 70% and that carjackings are up almost 88%.
The chief warns that the $18 million budget cut just announced will only make it worse – and that “the impact will be immediate.”
While Anderson denounced the cut and said it would slow response times and decrease the number of new recruits, City Council President Nikki Fortunato-Bas had a correction for the chief. “The action that we took on the budget was reducing a proposed increase by the Mayor from $27 million more, to just $9 million more,” Fortunato-Bas said. Also, rather than cutting two academy classes, as Anderson claimed, the council didn’t add funding for additional academies. Furthermore, Councilmember Noel Gallo – usually an outspoken advocate for the police – explained that he helped get funding to fully staff the police department years ago, but they never used it. Rather than hire enough new officers to fill the department, those already employed were worked overtime.
Not long after Anderson spoke, a Bay Area news crew attempted to interview California Department of Violence Prevention Chief Guillermo Cespedes on the steps of Oakland City Hall to get his take on the chief’s message. In an effort to find alternatives to policing, the city diverted much of that $18 million Anderson pines for to the Department of Violence Prevention. And in an ironic twist, that interview was interrupted – in the middle of the afternoon on the steps to City Hall – by two armed robbers who tried to steal the crew’s camera.
Not the proudest moment for the Department of Violence Prevention or the defund the police movement in general.
Good Guys With Guns
How did the situation play out? The armed robbery was thwarted without anyone getting hurt – but if you imagine the police arrived and saved the day, you would be wrong. A brief scuffle broke out, but the private security guard, who had been contracted by the news agency, pulled a gun and the would-be robbers ran away, sans stolen goods. It is often said amongst those who believe in the Second Amendment right to keep and bear arms that the only way to stop a bad guy with a gun is a good guy with a gun. Sometimes that’s the police; sometimes it isn’t.
California is home to some of the most restrictive gun laws in the nation – and, evidently, the most anti-gun citizens, as well. According to a poll by the Public Policy Institute of California, 63% of respondents said laws covering the sale of guns should be stricter, while only 16% said “less strict” and 19% went with “stay the same.”
Does the robbery highlight Chief Anderson’s point? Perhaps. But it also illustrates two others:
- When the intended victims of violent crimes are armed, the police might not always be necessary.
- While the average Golden State resident who can’t afford private security is denied the right to adequate self-defense, the elite are not.
Think those priority 1 response times don’t sound too bad? How long does it take for an ambush predator to commit a violent crime? There’s another saying common amongst gun rights activists: When seconds count, the police are minutes away. No matter how hard they try or how much they may want to save everyone, officers simply can’t be everywhere at once – and as law enforcement budgets shrink, this issue will only get worse.
Read more from James Fite.