By Keith Burbank, Bay City News
Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong met virtually with U.S. President Joseph Biden for an announcement Wednesday about federal funding for violence reduction and violence intervention in the U.S.
The announcement comes as rising violence has plagued many U.S. cities during the pandemic, including Oakland and a tendency for violence to rise in the summer.
According to Biden’s office, homicides in large cities were up 30% year-over-year last year, and up 24% in the first three months of this year, compared with the same period a year ago.
Oakland has experienced 61 homicides this year alone, up about 90% compared to last year.
“I think it’s (the funding) a tremendous opportunity for the city of Oakland not only to increase its efforts to address gun violence in the city but also an effort to potentially increase police staffing as well as additional efforts for our violence intervention efforts,” Armstrong said to reporters after his meeting with the president.
“We feel like we are well-positioned as a department and as a city to compete for this funding,” Armstrong said.
He did not say how much money the department would seek.
Armstrong said the city’s Ceasefire strategy “covers all the aspects of the announcement today.”
Oakland’s Ceasefire strategy has been successful in the past at reducing gun violence in Oakland.
The strategy includes focused enforcement efforts, violence intervention, street outreach and using resources to address the re-entry of offenders into the community.
“We have a goal of reducing recidivism,” Armstrong said.
Biden on Wednesday addressed calls for defunding police departments, reportedly saying it’s not the time.
When asked about concerns residents might have about more police funding, Armstrong said, “Well, I think the message from the president is clear. I don’t think it’s time with the increase in violence that we’re seeing, even here in the city of Oakland.”
Sixty-one homicides this year “says we have a significant challenge in front of us,” Armstrong said. “It’s not the time to have less resources.”
Armstrong said he appreciates Biden “authorizing funding that will potentially increase resources because there is a great need.”
The demands for defunding police, Armstrong said, are centered around reform.
“I think people want to see better policing,” he said. “I think we’ve already begun to practice what I feel like is better and more constitutional policing in the city of Oakland.”
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