Berkeley City Council defunds Berkeley police by $9M

City Council Meeting
Gisselle Reyes/File

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The Berkeley Police Department’s fiscal year 2021 budget was cut by $9.045 million at a Berkeley City Council meeting Tuesday.

Mayor Jesse Arreguín called the proposed budget for the fiscal year 2021 the “most extensive and transparent budget process” he had experienced in more than a decade. He said this budget would be the beginning of supporting “important, priority communities” through reallocations.

This passed budget includes an allocation of funds toward fire prevention, police call and response data analysis, undocumented basic needs, housing retention, COVID-19 homelessness solutions and African American Holistic Resource Center planning and design. There is $200,000 set for “public safety reimagining,” which will be discussed at the July 14 City Council meeting.

“The city is facing unprecedented challenges,” said Councilmember Lori Droste during the meeting. “I was really pleased that we were able to unanimously pass the mayor’s proposal.”

Of the 2021 budget, $1 million has also been allocated to the ongoing response to COVID-19.

While this budget did pass, many public commenters advocated for Councilmember Cheryl Davila’s budget proposal, which would have defunded BPD by 50% and potentially postponed a final vote on the budget to the July 14 meeting.

“This is not just about defunding the police, but about how we govern,” said UC Berkeley rising senior Laurel Halvorson during the meeting.

Public commenters called the 12% cut “wildly insufficient,” and several called for the removal of BPD Chief Andrew Greenwood.

“Twelve percent is a laughable reduction,” said public commenter Will Skinner. “We are asking for core cuts to the police … not temporary deferrals.”

Public commenter Matthew Lewis said he thinks it would be a disservice if the city “failed to cut police in a meaningful way,” further supporting Davila’s proposed 50% BPD defunding.

Councilmember Sophie Hahn said she will support further action in the 2022 budget, stating that this year’s BPD defunding was “not enough.”

In the final comments, Councilmember Ben Bartlett also proposed a 25% cut in BPD’s 2021 budget, but Arreguín denied the amendment, claiming that cutting filled positions is not something the city is interested in at this time.

“This is not the final budget,” said Councilmember Kate Harrison during the meeting. “By the next time we look at the budget AA01 in November, we will have examined this data (about) what the police are doing with their time. We can make a down payment on this tonight.”

In addition to budget proposals, council members expressed support for ACA 5, which would repeal Proposition 209 in California and reinstate affirmative action. An action item was proposed by Councilmember Rigel Robinson and sponsored by Arreguín, Davila and Bartlett.

City Manager Dee Williams-Ridley also said an outreach team was able to move 18 unhoused Berkeley residents into temporary housing as of Friday. The team provided health screenings to the individuals as well as hot meals, masks and sanitizer to unhoused community members.

She added that the city of Berkeley does not intend on reopening soon.

“We are being very cautious in reopening,” Williams-Ridley said. “We are not moving forward with any additional reopening phases.”

The next regular City Council meeting will be held virtually July 14 with a special meeting scheduled for July 7.

Contact Skylar De Paul at [email protected] and follow her on Twitter at @skylardepaul.