How Expensive Police Fees Stop Oakland Community Events


Kaplan says police fees nearly forced the city to shut down a voting site at the Oakland Coliseum in the November 2020 election. “It happened minutes after it didn’t happen because the police department Oakland was trying to shake them up for tens of thousands of dollars under the theory that this was a special event, “she said, adding that the OPD cut costs after a few” top people level have intervened.

For years, civil rights activists, artists and event promoters have accused the Oakland Police Department of deploying its special events policy in a racist manner, increasing the costs of events with performers and audiences. black. In 2017, a East Bay Express The report described a model of OPDs using security fees to effectively shut down rap gigs. “The OPD knows that they infringe the right of these artists to perform,” said San Francisco lawyer John Hamasaki at the time.

Kaplan says this pattern persists and organizers have complained that the OPD is abusing the system. “There have been complaints that it has been used disproportionately against events in the black community,” she said. “And I think there’s a lot of history that backs up that claim. … The system is inherently a setup for failure.

Funds allocated to the arts go to the police

While Oakland budgets money every fiscal year to support the arts, most of its festival and fair funds end up going to the police department instead of artists or cultural organizations, according to data from the city.

A breakdown of the Oakland Festivals and Fairs Fund, which the Department of Economic Development and Workforce provided to KQED, reveals that 84% of the fund was used to cover OPD fees during the 2017 fiscal year. This figure was 76.1% for 2018 fiscal year and 72.5% for 2019 fiscal year.

Meanwhile, at the last Cultural Affairs Committee meeting in July, organizers of the 11 festivals supported by the fund described working with tight budgets that in some cases prevented them from paying artists. “We can’t fund a payment for them because we have so many other costs,” Shifra de Benedictis-Kessner, organizer of the 40th Street Block Party in Temescal, told the meeting. She added that over the past four years, $ 2,000 of her event budget of $ 5,000 has gone to the costs of the OPD and the fire department. “It limits our ability to have a diversity of programs and to really support our artists in the city of Oakland.”

Oakland’s hotel tax typically subsidizes some of the city’s festivals and fairs. But that fund was used to cover other budget deficits during the pandemic, which is why organizers of First Fridays and other events are now tasked with paying Oakland Police out of pocket. But even if that fund was filled with money, critics say the money should go to artists rather than the police.

“It’s a problem because it’s not the intended use of the fund,” Kaplan explains. “We need to support our cultural institutions and our artists and these communities that have been incredibly hard hit and struggling.”

Event-goers gather in Oakland Liberation Park, part of the city’s Black Cultural Zone, for Outdoor Play Day + The Town Experience Community Photo Shoot in February 2021. Charlese Banks , founder of The Town Experience, says events like these are vital to the Oakland community and the tourism industry. (Courtesy of The Town Experience)

Additionally, Oakland tourism industry executives fear that it will be more difficult to replenish Oakland’s hotel tax fund without the attractions that draw people to the city in the first place. “The idea is that people fly to Oakland, stay in Oakland. But what experiences do you give them once they’re here? “Asks Charlese Banks of The Town Experience, a marketing company that promotes Oakland as a” vibrant travel destination. “

“These are very important to their stay as a whole,” she says. “It’s not just about putting your head in the beds.”

New policy could help future festivals and parties

In 2020, Oakland City Council unanimously approved Kaplan’s plan to put the city government in charge of permits instead of the OPD. As stated in the resolution, deploying city employees and hiring security guards for event tasks would cost significantly less than putting the police overtime.

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