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Oakland Police Department's Unbudgeted Overtime Accounts For Most Of City's Deficit

By Flickr user Thomas Hawk / used under CC / resized and cropped

The City of Oakland is facing a huge budget deficit and a new report shows that a large part of that is caused by police overspending.

Like many cities across the country, Oakland is grappling with major financial shortfalls as a result of the pandemic. Many businesses have closed, tourists aren’t staying at hotels, and residents aren’t patronizing local shops — all of which means less money generated for the city.

A new report from the city’s Finance Committee shows that Oakland’s deficit is going to double this year, and the biggest portion of the city’s deficit comes from the police department. This year so far, Oakland Police has overspent on its budget by over $30 million, and the main culprit has been the costs of unbudgeted overtime.

The police department says that they’re both understaffed and overworked, and this year had to respond to unique circumstances like protests and providing security for the election.

But a city auditor’s report shows that Oakland Police has been overspending on its budget for years. One reason for that is that the overtime budget doesn’t account for wage increases. Basically, as salaries rose, so did the rate of overtime pay, but the budget stayed the same.

In order to address the deficit, the city is now considering cuts to social services, a freeze on wage increases, and even wage reductions.

Carla Esteves is a 2020-2021 Audio Academy Fellow with KALW. Her reporting interests include environmental justice, housing insecurity, climate change, business and economy.