"Right now, we're calling on the community, our allies, supporters, anyone that wants to stand for black students and black sanctuary to call on the school board members to eliminate school police," said Jasmine Williams, development and communications manager for the Black Organizing Project (BOP). On Friday, BOP, along with the Anti Police-Terror Project and other coalition members, caravanned to several schools to rally around the issue.
Unlike other districts in the Bay Area, Oakland public schools have their own internal force which employs 10 officers, including its police chief, Jeff Godown. He also oversees about 50 school security guards and he estimates these personnel and their benefits cost the district close to $3.5 million.
In the past, Godown has argued his officers are needed, citing the large number of calls — 1,000 per semester — his department receives for help. However, this week Godown said he understands why some people don't want a police department, and he is willing to work with the superintendent on a new safety plan.
"I wanted the schools to be safe," Godown said. "And if we can make them safe with a hybrid between security officers and restorative justice experts and climate and culture ambassadors or some kind of hybrid ... I'm not against that."
Even if it means putting himself out of a job.
"I've been in this business for 40 years," Godown said. "And if that ends up being the outcome, that ends up being the outcome."
Godown, who has overseen social and emotional learning training for his officers, has long made the case that his officers know the students and are better at handling calls than the city's police force would be.
"Not every case of this school is something that restorative justice or social emotional learning will handle," he cautioned. "There are instances, unfortunately, where crimes occur where uniformed officers with guns and handcuffs have to go on campus and handle that problem over and above the active shooters that have occurred in this country."
BOP's Williams said police in schools don't make campuses safer and that the lack of investment in schools has contributed to students' behavior issues that surface while in class.
"So by taking away everything that students need to feel safe to even flourish — like after-school programs, nurses, therapists — and then kind of throwing up your hands when you see behavioral issues is kind of contradictory, doesn't make any logical sense," Williams said.