Amid a nationwide racial reckoning between police and communities of color, Oakland city councilmembers on Tuesday gave police officers a raise following what a councilmember called a “backroom deal” by the mayor.
All six councilmembers present at Tuesday’s special City Council meeting approved the raise while Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan and Councilmember Carroll Fife were excused.
The tentative agreement was struck less than two weeks ago in closed session between the city and the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, the police union.
It gives officers a 3 percent increase in 2024 and 2025. Officers were already expected to receive a 3.5 percent increase next year under an agreement that extended to June 30, 2024.
“This is a very important vote that we are making,” City Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas said.
“A very historic vote,” she said after a speech about the deal, racial reckoning and building trust with the community.
Bas said she wanted to consider the police contract alongside safety recommendations.
No other councilmember brought up the police pay raise before Bas spoke. She was second to last to speak before the vote.
Mayor Libby Schaaf is serving her last term. Her office did not respond to a request for a comment on the deal with police.
Budget out of balance
The council approved other agreements with city unionized workers, which will send the city over its approved budget. The council will be back in session next week to amend the budget, so it is balanced again.
Bas said changes to the police contract are what the city needs. At the same time, Oaklanders want the city to invest in other forms of violence prevention, she said.
Bas said some of her constituents want a greater police presence, while others do not have faith in police.
Bas serves District 2, which includes part of East Oakland, and among other locations, Chinatown.
“Time after time our government fails to invest in the community while overfunding the police. Now the administration has decided to open up OPD’s contract for no other reason than to funnel more funds to officers.”James Burch, Anti Police-Terror Project
She said the decisions the City Council must make are hard “because Oakland is so diverse.” Coming out opposed to the pay increase for police on Tuesday was the Anti Police-Terror Project, which has been demanding the city spend money to help residents with housing, jobs and other violence prevention measures.
Anti Police-Terror Project leaders argue that police do not keep Oaklanders safe. Rather, resources that help people heal and offer things such as shelter and work are what gets at the root causes of violence.
“Time after time our government fails to invest in the community while overfunding the police,” said James Burch, policy director of the Anti Police-Terror Project, in a statement. “Now the administration has decided to open up OPD’s contract for no other reason than to funnel more funds to officers.”
Bas felt the agreement with the police was rushed.
“This rushed backroom process I believe is going to harm us,” Bas said in her remarks to other councilmembers and anyone who was watching the meeting.
Barry Donelan, president of the police union, did not immediately respond to a request for comment.