A Rational de-construction of Oakland Police Department’s Budget

Written June 29 2020
In preparation for the Oakland City Council meeting June 30 2020
Re-published 13 August for use “Reimagining Public Safety”

Proposals to de-fund OPD have typically claimed that some of OPD’s activities are ones it should no longer perform, and then point at some arbitrary fraction of OPD’s current budget as their target. The goal is to direct these funds towards other, more appropriate social services who could do these jobs more effectively. Opponents worry that removal of these funds will jeopardize functions that OPD needs to maintain.

The following analysis is provided to allow a fine-grained characterization of OPD’s budget in terms of specific crime incidents to which they respond, and specific components of OPD’s budget that could be targeted for reduced funding. In brief, this analysis suggests that if a large bulk of incidents associated with minor crimes were removed from OPD’s workload, $81 million could be transferred to other agencies.

The data for this analysis comes from two resources provided by OpenOakland.org (the local brigade of Code for America), OpenBudgetOakland.org and OakCrime.org. These facilities have been designed to allow citizen access to Oakland budgeting and OPD policing, resp. The attached sheet “OPD-budget-18-19-2-salary” (spreadsheet, PDF) focuses on only that portion of OPD’s $265M budget involving salaries, retirement and benefit charges, for both sworn officers and civilians across all of OPD’s departments. The number of sworn officers increased during 2019, from approximately 720 to 770. If an average of 750 is used, an average sworn officer received an average salary of $109,541 in 209, with average retirement & benefits totaling $86,395, and $14,906 in overtime. Below we make the very conservative assumptions that the efforts of only sworn officers and only those assigned directly to patrol in Districts 1-5 are considered, with funding for all civilians, other expenses and other OPD departments left intact. This component of the OPD budget, highlighted in blue, amounts to $102.5 million; using the average sworn salary above, district patrolling involve 509 of the 750 officers.

The attached sheet “CCat-CCdistrict”  (spreadsheet, PDF) summarizes crime data from 60363 incidents occurring during 2019. Note first that, considering only the $102.5M district patrol budget identified above, this means that on average each incident represents a cost of $1700. OakCrime.org categorizes these incidents into the classes shown in the “CrimeCategory” column; further details on OakCrime’s classification process are available. The address of the crime incidents has been used to separate them across columns for each Oakland City Council District, showing the number of incidents of that crime class in that district.

An admittedly arbitrary choice has then been made, dividing the crime categories into those it seems likely we still need OPD to perform, and those that agencies other than OPD could provide. Violent crimes including robberies are left to OPD. Court orders, domestic violence, (non-child) sex crimes, burglaries, auto theft, quality-of- life, non-DUI traffic, and vandalism incidents are imagined better handled by others. Using this separation, 79% of incidents could be handled by non-OPD personnel, which when applied to the $102.5M patrol budget gives the $81M figure mentioned above.

This analysis is quick and it is dirty. It is dirty because identification of those services OPD can best provide must be very carefully made, because these are gross averages, and because many features of OPD’s budget and crime reporting remain opaque. And it is quick because Oakland City Council will reconsider OPD’s budget at its meeting tomorrow, 30 June. It is offered now in this very preliminary form as a factual foundation for the serious and often emotional conversations Oakland’s citizens and its police force must have.

Update: 13 August 2020


  • Oakland’s “Re-imagining Public Safety” initiative has mentioned the brave goal of reducing OPD’s budget by half.  Does this analysis, identifying a reduction of approximately one third, mean that 50% would be too deep?
    • NO!  The very conservative focus above was on just the $102M associated with sworn officers assigned to beats.  Deep reductions in OPD’s adminstrative, civilian, etc. budgets are also possible.
  • What information could OPD provide that would make this analysis “cleaner/less dirty”?
    • More specifics about both their budgeting categories, and in their descriptions of criminal activity.  For example, providing the specific Califorinia penal codes and FBI Uniform Crime Reporting code for each incident would help to better identify those crimes requiring OPD vs. alternative social services.

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