//Under pressure from activists, Oakland’s leaders will consider further defunding police

Under pressure from activists, Oakland’s leaders will consider further defunding police

a man in glasses looking at the camera: Councilmember at large Rebecca Kaplan on Tuesday, Feb. 6, 2018 in Oakland, CA.

Faced with protests that spilled from the streets into social media, the Oakland City Council decided Tuesday to consider even deeper cuts in July to the city’s Police Department, following approval of a budget that defunded police by $14 million.

The decision came a week after the Council passed the budget that rejected a proposed $25 million cut to the police. On Tuesday, council members voted unanimously to amend that budget on July 21.

Scores of public commenters called into the meeting, many demanding that council members substantially strip police funding or abolish the department altogether. Some threatened to vote out the four council members who are up for reelection in November. Five commenters “bombed” the meeting, which was conducted over Zoom, by unleashing racist and homophobic hate speech before city staff cut them off.

Supporters of police reform are pressing Oakland to slash its police budget in half, a reduction of some $150 million. Several council members said they support this more ambitious benchmark, even after rejecting the $25 million cut proposed by Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas.

Although no one on the Council has proposed specific budget revisions, Council President Rebecca Kaplan said further law enforcement cuts will definitely be on the table. For example, she proposed shifting special events permits away from the police, an idea that will be up for discussion at the July 21 meeting.

“I will list specific programs and items, so the council can make an informed decision,” she told The Chronicle in a text message Tuesday.

At the same meeting, the council voted to ban police chokeholds and carotid restraints, controversial techniques barred in many cities after the death of George Floyd. Council members also directed the city administrator to conduct an exhaustive review of 911 calls to determine which ones could be shifted to mental health workers or other civilian responders. And the council approved a $147,500 settlement with Najari Smith, the cyclist who was arrested for “biking while black” and playing music in 2018.

The movement to dismantle and re-imagine traditional policing is shaking cities throughout the nation, but it’s particularly salient in Oakland, where well-mobilized activists are clashing with a historically troubled Police Department and a mayor who promised to boost the force to 800 officers.

Mayor Libby Schaaf acknowledged in a recent interview that she’ll likely fall short of that goal — city data showed that as of June Oakland had 741 sworn officers, with 51 vacant positions that some council members want to freeze permanently.

Four council members who represent the flatlands of East and West Oakland ironed out the budget days before last week’s vote, and defended it Tuesday. The budget slashed $14.6 million from the Police Department, in part by delaying a police academy and shifting jobs to other agencies. Many commenters said the cut didn’t go far enough and that the council members — who called themselves “the Equity Caucus” — had rammed their budget through at the last minute.

Councilman Loren Taylor, an Equity Caucus member whose district spreads through East Oakland, acknowledged their frustrations.

“I recognize that members of the Council (and) members of the public expressed concerns about the way the process worked,” Taylor said. He stood by the budget anyway.

Kaplan was the swing vote to approve the budget, yet she co-sponsored the scheduling item to amend the budget in July. She’s up for re-election in November, against a challenger endorsed by Schaaf.

Even as she expressed sympathy for the activists, Kaplan urged them to train their ire toward the Alameda County Board of Supervisors. In May, the board added $318 million to the sheriff’s budget, to increase staff in Santa Rita Jail..

Rachel Swan is a San Francisco Chronicle staff writer. Email: rswan@sfchronicle.com Twitter: @rachelswan