Fact Checking The Mayoral Candidates’ Positions, Part Three: How Many Police Officers?

By Jennifer Inez Ward, Contributing Editor, Oakland Local

Editor’s note: Oakland Local and Make Oakland Better Now! – MOBN! – have teamed up to take a close look at the accuracy of candidates’ response to an online questionnaire from MOBN!. We want to know if candidates are being truthful and accurate in their responses, or are they veering from facts and offering opinion without any solutions?

Each day, Oakland Local and Oaktalk will run a fact checking story on seven important questions.)

Thursday’s Question: How many police officers will Oakland have in 4 years?

Joe Tuman

Tuman said he would like to have close to 900 officers (mid to high 800s) by the end of his first term. If elected to a second term, Tuman said he would like to see Oakland staff 1,100 to 1,200 police officers. “Short of this, I will try to add 20 to 30 officers a year, after replacing for attrition,” he said.

Tuman said that he believes Oakland needs at least three to four hundred more police officers in order to provide public safety for the city.

He also thinks the current city council is too rigid in its belief that it takes $180,000 to pay for officers. As mayor, Tuman seeks lower costs by encouraging voluntary early retirement for the officers (about 15 percent of the force) who are 2-3 years away from retiring; then hiring them back at less than half time (under 1000 hours/year).

“As independent contractors, the city would only pay slightly less than half their base salary, Tuman said.

“I would then take the savings from those retirements and hire more officers at the entry level AFTER reducing base pay for new hires from $85k (what we pay now) to a lesser amount,” Tuman said.

Tuman said he would not touch the existing compensation of current officers. “thus avoiding interest arbitration.”

What We Found: Given the tense relationship between the Oakland  Police Officer’s Union and city hall, it will be interesting to see what specific tools Tuman would bring to office to “encourage” so many police officers to voluntary retire and then be rehired at a lower salary.

But, Tuman’s plan is part of a growing trend of cities using the retire/rehire tool. In the last couple of years,  the  method has been gaining popularity among some California cities.

If Tuman doesn’t get the number of retirees he wants, he should probably avoid following after San Francisco’s fire/rehire program which was criticized in the past.

Terence Candell

Oakland need about 800 officers, “maybe less,” Candell said.

“There are at least 12 other ways to make our streets safe”, he said, providing an ambitious list that includes the city helping to provide a bowling alley, a roller skating rink, a theme park, and longer hours for recreation centers.

Candell also wants to see most of the Oakland police force made up of Oakland citizens.

“Any future officers hired must undergo the customer service training and live in Oakland, preferably in the flats,” he adds.

What We Found: Candell is sure to find a lot of support from many Oakland residents who want to see more youth activities put in place by the city. Also, having more police officers come from Oakland has been a rallying cry for years from grassroots organizations and local residents.

However, Candell’s plans to implement a commuter tax on people who work in Oakland and his idea to put in place a toll tax on roads, may meet stiff resistance. Candell has not offered details on the commuter tax plan, and Oakland cannot put a toll tax on its roads.

Arnie Fields

Fields puts his ideal number of police officers at 817. He said he will bring in “a slew of businesses, eliminating the corruption, eliminating a large portion of crime. Cutting 15-30% of homicides or more and that is a grantee.”

Fields said he will pay for additional officers by developing a new anti-littering program.

“If you could litter on the street you could steal a bike if you could steal a bike you could steal a car if you could steal the car you could break into someone’s house. That situation could become deadly.”

What We Found: The response seems to make light of the MOBN! question and came off as if he was joking. No specific details were provided for the anti-littering campaign.

Greg Harland

Harland’s goal is to have 800 police officers on the force by the end of his first term, saying that “it will take a major restructuring of compensation and benefits”, in order for that goal to be realized.

What We Found: Harland’s brief answer did not provide detailed follow up information about how he would go about restructuring benefits.

Rebecca Kaplan

Kaplan said she will first work to get the police force to 850 officers, a number successful in Long Beach. Working with the police chief, Kaplan said she would work with the Oakland police chief to expand the force to 950, part of which would be civilian workers.

“In other words, I envision during my four year term seeking to add more than 100 personnel, but some of these personnel will be civilians, which will free up existing officers for other work.”

Kaplan also wants to improve recruitment and academies, and continue to strengthen programs aimed at recruiting Oakland residents.

What We Found: Although ambitious, Kaplan’s plans didn’t include the cost for the expansion, nor a timeline bumping up the number of police officers. But, we think working with the police chief on a public safety plan is a good step for city hall, given how sour the police officer’s union is on the mayor’s office.

More than likely, any plans to improve recruitment and academies, along with helping local recruiting, will need some form of capital. Kaplan doesn’t say where that money will come from.

Don Macleay

“I have no idea and have no target number. I think dreaming one up is just posturing,” was Macleay’s response to the question.

Macleay said funding and possible civilian roles within the police department needed to be studied before drawing a conclusion.

Macleay said Oakland police currently pull too much overtime.

What We Found: Macleay did not provide any specific answers to this question.

Don Perata

“Oakland will have enough police officers to keep our city safe,” Perata wrote.

He then referenced his response to another MOBN! public safety question (number 6).

What We Found: Perata also didn’t have a specific answer to this question.

Jean Quan

Quan said her goal for police staffing will depend on how successful “our prevention and intervention programs are.”

Quan said she would like to bring in volunteers to help with youth. Quan calls her plan for recruiting 2000 volunteers to work with youth in need, “ambitious”.

Based on OPD Chief Anthony Batt’s reports, Quan said she would aim to have 950 officers.

Quan went on to say that “per officer costs” for police need to be brought under control and that the cadet pay rate should be lowered.

What We Found: Quan gave no details on her plans for 2000 volunteers, nor did she say how much a program like that would cost.

Quan didn’t specify how she would bring per officer costs under control. She also didn’t say how much she would like cadets to earn.

Note: This story is a collaboration between Make Oakland Better Now!, Oakland Local and Spot.us. Thanks to Jen Ward and Michelle Fitzhugh-Craig for their work.

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