What Do The Mayoral Candidates Say About Police Layoffs?

Make Oakland Better Now!’s Mayoral Candidate Questionnaire was answered by 8 of the ten candidates.  All of the completed questionnaires are available for viewing at our web site, here. Since some Oaklanders may want to compare candidate responses to each of the questions, we will be publishing the responses sorted by question here at Oaktalk over the coming days.  You’ll find these posts for the first four questions directly below this one. Today, we post the answers to our fifth question, this one dealing with the police layoffs.

Question No. 5:         Under recent adjustments to the 2010-11 budget, 120 police officers are scheduled to be laid off in January 2011  (in addition to the 80 laid off in July 2010) if Measure V, W, X and Y do not pass.  If you are elected in November and these measures are not enacted, will these layoffs take place?  If not, what specific budgetary steps will you take to prevent them?


The safety of Oakland cannot sustain firing another 120 cops. Period.

I will find 80 jobs in city administration less important than 80 police officers. If we cannot cover the need with existing means, then this would be the time to seek voter approval for a tax increase and only then; when the mayor can make a credible case to homeowners. The City Council has not been able to make a credible case.

Worse, they have discredited themselves. You will never see Don Perata interfering with a police action during a riot, as was cited recently in an investigation into the Mehserle civil unrest. It is precisely that kind of conduct by council members Quan and Kaplan that lessened the effectiveness and accountability of the OPD.  If you owned Foot Locker (seen being looted on national television), why would you invest in a city whose council leaders show no respect for the law?

Neither Council Member Quan nor Kaplan has led from the front and by example – from parking, to pensions, to public safety. Imagine the consequences to any citizen in Sobrante Park or Montclair Park physically blocking police in the conduct of their duty – especially in a life-threatening situation.


First of all, it is unlikely that V will fail there will be some new revenues. I am still hopeful that BB can pass which would reduce the need for layoffs significantly without raising taxes. I do not believe X has a chance and we will immediately begin negotiations with the OPOA for pension contributions; if we can achieve a fair settlement the city will review both its budget and ballot options based on midterm revenue projections.


If you’re asking this as a factual question (which is the way this question is worded), it is my impression that these cuts will absolutely take place given the statements and lack of budgeting alternatives by the Oakland City Council. That will happen before I am mayor. If instead, you mean this as a normative question (would I allow this to happen? Should I allow this to happen?), my answer is different. I can’t prevent something from happening until I’m sworn in, and I can only own the part of this that I can control after I am mayor. Chief Batts already warned the city council earlier this week about the dire reduction in minimal protection and public safety that will follow. I will amplify his comments. Oakland’s rate of violent crime is already amongst the worst in the state and the nation. With a greatly reduced police force, that reality will only worsen. Once I am mayor, I will immediately seek interim funding by applying to the Department of Justice specifically for grants that may be available to hire officers related to gang prevention and drug enforcement. I will additionally seek to extend only on this interim basis to use redevelopment money to hire a limited number of officers. This interim period will last while I am negotiating closure of the deficit and restructure of our finances. Let me be clear: public safety is the preeminent responsibility and function of government. If we can’t keep our citizenry safe, then what are we left to? I will not allow the size of our department to continue to contract. This will not happen on my watch. Looking at the long-term picture, once interim financing is secure, I will address the challenge of actually hiring more officers by use of an innovative policy that blends early retirement and a second-tier for new recruits. This will be described in more detail below.


Most of us have experienced layoffs, either being laid-off or laying-off. I’ve experienced both. Neither is a particularly joyful experience. I cannot, yet, save the 80, but will with the passing of our campaign’s initiatives, which we have prepared for the ballot and the steps I have outlined in Question #7. I can prevent the laying-off of the 120, because we will be generating revenue.


No I will not lease any officers. I will eliminate jobs from the top, which there are way too many of those people upstairs that will have to go so that we can take care of priorities in Oakland, public safety. Safety is always first.


These layoffs have already been voted on by the city council and will take place if the above measures fail. There are no steps by the new mayor to prevent them. I will however immediately begin the process of rebalancing the budget and rebuilding the force with the ultimate goal being 1050 officers.


I oppose the police layoffs, I voted against them this past Spring, and I continue to believe that the right answer is to negotiate a solution which involves police pension contributions and averting layoffs. My plan, when elected Mayor, is NOT to engage in police layoffs, but rather, to avert the layoffs through a combination of pension reform and the use of retirement incentives as the backup plan if force reduction is necessary. Layoffs are an inefficient way to reduce costs because the lowest-paid officers, whose training has been a significant investment by the City, are the first to be let go. Therefore retirement incentives allow us to keep more cost-effective officers on the payroll. There is also significant room for negotiation with the Police Officers’ Association on the pension issue – as I have publicly stated, it was a huge mistake for the City negotiating team to premise  pension payments on the passage of a tax – especially one that is polling so poorly. In numerous cities, including San Francisco and San Jose, the  police force pays a significant percentage of their pensions and this can  reasonably be accomplished in Oakland. In addition Oakland is currently  seeking additional Federal assistance for policing and I will support  those efforts, including working to include public safety as a component to other funds. I will be able to negotiate from a position of strength with an unbiased perspective, and so I see many other options than layoffs next year if the revenue measures on the November ballot fail to pass.


If I am elected and the budget items did not pass, I will have to declare a budget emergency.

That may end up being a good thing if the process leads to a real budget reform.

There are many things we can do; to be specific does not make sense because the real budget outcome will be the result of a series of government and union negotiations and a complicated political process with our city council, our county and our state.

EVEN IF THEY DO PASS WE HAVE A HORRIBLE PROBLEM and the next mayor should treat our public safety budget as an emergency on day one. It has been an emergency for a long time.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

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