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Oakland Community Organizer Offers Perspective On Reimagining Public Safety In Hawaiʻi


The fatal police shootings of Lindani Myeni and Iremamber Sykap are prompting community conversations around reimagining public safety in Hawaiʻi.

What do we really want our police officers to be doing? And does that make our communities safer?

One community organizer involved in police reform efforts in Oakland recently offered some perspective on those questions to an audience in Hawaiʻi.

Community safety and police reform consultant Liam Chinn helped spearhead major changes to policing in Oakland as a member of the city’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force.

"Our central mandate was to figure out, really, what do we want police to be doing?" Chinn said. "What functions do we believe require a gun and a badge? Does it require a gun and a badge to issue someone a speeding ticket? Does it require a gun and badge to give someone a parking ticket? So let’s start looking at what do we really need not just policing but in particular armed policing?"

The task force learned that community members did want police to deal with violent crimes, which have spiked nationwide under the pandemic. But Chinn said violent crimes were rare.

"Four percent of 911 calls relate to violent crime," Chinn said. "So let me just say it another way – 96% of calls typically don’t involve violent crimes. There’s an amazing study done by some folks at a group called AH Datalytics that looked at how police spent their time across different cities and found out just the same."

Over the course of nine months, the Oakland task force came up with 88 recommendations – all of which the City Council adopted, much to Chinn’s surprise.

"It's a blueprint for the rest of the United States," Chinn said. "What does it look like if you were to cut the police budget by 50 percent and to redirect that money into alternatives to policing and investments in root causes – job placement, stable housing, programs for youth, things that we know data proves actually reduced crime and violence."

Chinn said the city prioritized 12 of the task force’s recommendations for implementation this year, but a budget shortfall could complicate those goals.

Kuʻuwehi Hiraishi is a general assignment reporter at Hawaiʻi Public Radio. Her commitment to her Native Hawaiian community and her fluency in ʻōlelo Hawaiʻi has led her to build a de facto ʻōiwi beat at the news station. Send your story ideas to her at khiraishi@hawaiipublicradio.org.
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