BAKERSFIELD, Calif. (KGET) — Following a raucous meeting Wednesday evening, the Bakersfield City Council approved a $683.2 million budget for the upcoming fiscal year.
Of the $683.2 million, $133.4 Million is allocated for the Bakersfield Police Department, funding 28 new sworn officers and 17 department civilian employees.
At the council meeting, more than two dozen people voiced opposition.
“If police were the solution to crime and to public safety, there wouldn’t be crime anymore,” said Temi Akanbi, an organizer with People’s Budget Bako. “Police have been around for a long time,” Akanbi continued.
Fellow People’s Budget Bako organizer Faheemah Salahud-Din-Floyd shared a similar sentiment.
“When we ask you to redirect funding, when we ask you to defund the police, what we’re really saying is dare to see a world where Black and Brown people are treated fairly and equitably. That is it,” Salahud-Din-Floyd said.
Roughly one hour into the meeting, some in attendance who were not at the podium spoke out, calling on councilmembers to defund the police. Bakersfield City Attorney Virginia “Ginny” Gennaro, citing, in part, the Ralph M. Brown Act, called on the council to end the remainder of the public speaking time for the item if more people spoke out of turn.
Shortly after, as one of the attendees spoke back to the city attorney Gennaro said “it’s over. No more public speaking.”
The decision caused anger among many activists in the chambers. As passions ran high, the entire chamber was cleared after about 15 minutes, with Mayor Karen Goh calling for a temporary recess. Rules were then put in place to allow one person to enter a time to speak before the council.
“You’ve had your warnings. For those who do not clear the chambers, I will ask the police to escort you out,” Goh told some attendees.
Once things settled, speakers returned to the podium. Eight of the speakers at the meeting coming out in support of the budget.
“Defund the police? What a foolish thought,” said one attendee. “Here’s a suggestion. Back the blue,” she continued.
“Keeping everyone safe is a matter of public safety,” stated Nick Hill, president of the Kern County Black Chamber of Commerce. “We don’t support defunding the police.”
The future of the historic Southern Pacific Train Depot in Old Town Kern was also discussed at the meeting. The council voted 6-0, with Ken Weir absent, for the city to lease the depot property for the next year to make improvements.
While the lease will cost the city $127,000, councilmembers including 2nd Ward Councilman Andrae Gonzales said they hope the investment will ultimately save the historic site, preventing it from a future demolition.