Today’s post is by Catherine B., a lifelong Oaklander, a second year political science student at Wellesley College and MOBN!’s summer intern.
On June 18th, the Oakland City Council held a special meeting on their Proposed Amended Midcycle Policy Budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013. The main topic of discussion centered on Oakland’s police force, revealing noteworthy details with regard to future police academies as well as the number of officers currently employed. The councilmembers’ discussion brings attention to the ever present and prominent MOBN! focus on public safety. As mentioned by Councilmember Jane Brunner, the Police Department is undoubtedly understaffed, with 646 officers, a number that continues to decline.
As Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan quipped early on, Oakland performed its own experiment by laying off 80 officers in July 2010. In doing so, crime increased, demonstrating the importance of a strong and correctly sized police department.
To address the understaffed department, a new police academy is scheduled to take place in August. The City Administrator’s budget adjustment proposal includes a second police academy, beginning in January. Because of the candidate procurement process, academy cycle and a shortage of field training officers, OPD can currently only hold two academies per year. Moreover, because both the SFPD and Sheriff’s department are hiring, there is some question whether OPD will be able to fill its academies. In Monday’s meeting, several Oakland residents’ Open Forum speeches began the discussion on the city’s police force, after which councilmembers’ input brought about a heavy focus on pure numbers. In asking Police Chief Howard Jordan various questions on police academies, Councilmember Brunner reviewed such calculations. As Chief Jordan reported, an academy begins with a class of 55 and, with attrition and other factors, typically produces 30 officers. Due to attrition, the OPD is losing roughly 4 to 5 officers every month. In addition, not all incoming cadets successfully complete academy training. For these reasons, each police academy (at which two are currently planned) theoretically results in a net of 16 officers.
In citing a 30% increase in city-wide crime, Brunner, like Councilmember Patricia Kernighan, advocated for a third police academy. Kernighan and Brunner similarly expressed concern over the possibility of stagnation. As Kernighan pointed out, utilizing two police academies a year does not allow Oakland to catch up and expand its steadily declining police force. Brunner, likewise, supported the addition of more police officers, stating Oakland needs an academy before July to truly get ahead.
Kernighan presented what she deemed one scary thought: in December 2012, Oakland will have a police department of 612 officers. Brunner followed up with another, even scarier thought: 90 officers, out of the 612, are currently on leave.
Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente continued the discussion with a focus on the number of officers actually on Oakland streets, regardless of the number of officers on the force. According to Chief Jordan, 260 officers currently work the streets, whereas Oakland needs 320-330 officers to fully run such operations.
In this City Council meeting, alarming statistics were certainly brought to light. Upon further research, we can see that the declining OPD force has been a continuing trend for many years, even before the 80-officer layoff in 2010 (which, according to the NY Times 7.15.10, resulted in a total of 696 officers). In December 2008, Oakland had about 837 officers (SF Gate 6.5.12). Furthermore, since 2000, OPD’s sworn officer count has fallen 9% (SF Gate 5.25.12). As Chronicle Columnist Chip Johnson points out here, crime has become something Oaklanders find commonplace. And for now, getting officers back on deck seems to be the first step in many toward this greater public safety. MOBN! is pleased to hear the City Council discuss not whether we should have more police academies, but instead how many we should have.
The Oakland City Council is scheduled to take final action on the proposed mid-cycle budget adjustments, including those impacting policing, on Thursday, June 28 at 6:00 p.m.