On December 15th the Oakland Police Department released a dangerous statement to create fear and vilify Oakland youth. Using dehumanizing language like “juveniles” and “underaged suspects,” Interim Police Chief Susan E. Manheimer stated that her purpose is to create “alarm” without addressing the causes or offering any solutions.
“We remember this language from the 90’s, it created the hysteria that allowed so many Black and Brown lives to be cut short by mass incarceration,” said George Galvis, Executive Director of Communities United for Restorative Youth Justice — CURYJ. “Police Chief Manheimer the Oakland Police Department are afraid right now. They are trying to create panic to protect their budgets during historic progress when communities are questioning inflated police budgets.”
The Oakland Police Department takes 44% of the city budget. This summer, thousands of Oakland community members put pressure on Oakland City Council and Mayor Libby Schaaf to deal with a bloated, underperforming Police Budget. City Council created the Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce to develop a path to defund the Oakland Police Department by 50% in 2021.
“The OPD is talking about kids as young as 11 years old. At a time like this, it is appalling that Oakland City Council is simultaneously trying to defund anti-violence programs and youth life coaching. We know that life coaching works,” says Michael Muscadine, a Life Coach and co-founder of CURYJ. “Across the country communities are moving toward investing in the things that we do know prevent crime: rehabilitation, mental health services, and community-based organizations.”
“It is my hope that everyone is alarmed by the fact that it appears these violent acts are being committed by middle-school-age youth, barely more than children,” says Interim Police Chief Manheimer. [emphasis added]
The statement fails to offer any context about what the community is going through. In April of this year alone, the Bay Area lost 58% of jobs created within the last decade. At a time when the largest amount of unemployment claims have been filed since the Great Depression, OPD needs to address the root cause of community pain — the lack of resources for basic necessities like food and shelter amongst a global pandemic and an economic crisis.
“I was charged as an adult and given a life sentence at age 16 so I know how dangerous this rhetoric is,” says J. Vasquez Participatory Defense and Policy Coordinator at CURYJ. “We want to tell OPD that we need solutions that work, not super predator propaganda against children.”
Please read the open letter we wrote to the Oakland City Council President Kaplan with our partners at Black Organizing Project , Communities United For Restorative Youth Justice , Oakland Kids First,Young Women’s Freedom Center, Urban Peace Movement, Critical Resistance, and the Anti-Police Terror Project.