Adding Police Officers Takes Center Stage at 6.18 City Council Meeting

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.

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.

This Post Has 20 Comments

  1. The state of affairs in Oakland is deplorable. Smart people are leaving town despondent and disillusioned. Thugs and predators are taking over in many areas of the town heretofore relatively safe and tranquil. The police department’s astonishingly manpower shortage is a manifestation of the biggest problem Oakland faces which is a complete lack of competent, level headed leadership. Simply put Oakland elects abject fools to positions of authority and the results are downright terrifying. There is no reason whatsoever that this city should be confronted by these sorry numbers. A prudent, responsible, realistic administration would never, ever mismanage the affairs of the town to the degree to which a police force would be so decimated and relegated to the position of impotence in the face of the slaughter and mayhem that is so commonplace hereabouts. I have absolutely no doubt that his sorry assemblage of fools will ever figure out how to run Oakland properly. Jean Quan is disingenuous to be charitable and deluded and incoherent to be more to the point. She is incapable of resurrecting our police department and absent a mature, competent, wise and experienced person in the mayor’s office the hopelessly convoluted and schizoid public policy debate will continue with nothing resolved. The current circumstance is inexcusable, entirely avoidable and patently absurd. There are consequences in life and one of them is an abiding state of chaos and quasi anarchy when civil society abdicates its responsibilities and countenances fools, charlatans and ideologues such as those who are running Oakland into the ground. Absent wholesale changes at Oakland City Hall the town is doomed. Anyone who has an abiding belief and confidence in Jean Quan is a deluded, immature, naive fool.

    1. Janet Peterson

      Yes. I agree with you. This is a tragic state of affairs. The question is: how do we get qualified people in the city council and the mayor’s office? The electorate is putting these people in office who have no clue about running this city except into the ground.
      I just read today that Jean Quan is attending a conference in Brazil. I guess she’s there on taxpayer’s dollars. I wonder how that is helping to solve Oakland’s problems. I for one don’t like paying for her international trips. What a joke. I am sad that the impeach Jean Quan movement fizzled.

  2. don williams

    Why not have the fire dept go on some of the police calls. If there are suspicious characters milling about an area they will go away if the firefighters show up..The firefighters can learn how to take burglary reports and show up at burglary alarms..why have 150 firefighters on duty at every hour of every day just standing by waiting for a fire while OAKLAND CITIZENS are threatened by criminals..Oakland has a few fires but, not many but, Oakland has a lot of crime. I do feel it is a crime if a wife is being beaten up by her husband ,or anyone else , while a fully manned firehouse, just down the block, is busy watching TV or, having dinner and cant be called…..

  3. Mark B.

    Please beware of Brunner, she, along with Nadel and Quan, voted to cut OPD.
    How could you even cut the police force for a very violent city? You do not ever gamble with public safety. Ever.

    Brunner is singing a different tune today but I will not vote for her for the City Attorney position because true leaders do not conduct experiments that puts people’s lives at risk.

    Please make those who voted against OPD pay for their mistakes by denying them another term.

  4. David Stein

    One of the facts that I haven’t seen in this discussion is the cost of academies. It is very expensive to run a new recruit through an academy. By laying off officers and now needing to run academies to recruit and train new officers we are spending money that could have kept officers on the street in the first place.

  5. Tom Love

    For the voters the bottom line has been about MONEY for police. We, the voters, voted the money for more POLICE. For the politicians it has been about taking any money available, even police money, to be able to have a bit of every pet project and program. For the politicians, it seems to me to be, we the citizens must accept some level, maybe this level, of crime as a given. The city government is huge, the salaries are huge, the pensions are huge. Just maybe, we need bankruptcy so we can start anew. The politicians have spent us to the point where we can no longer function. We are top heavy in expenses and we can no longer afford the necessities. All government seems like a cancer always seeking more and more nutrients, our money, from the host, us. Is more police a priority in every district represented by each council member? If not, why not? Where have all the downtown retail stores gone in the last 42 years that I have lived here? Where have all the shoppers in downtown Oakland gone? Is personal safety a factor?

  6. Helen Danhakl

    How many positions currently occupied by cops could be done by civilians, i.e.investigation, interviews, non technical evidence collection, record keeping etc.? These people need not go through academies & could be trained/put to work immediately, freeing up professional cops for the streets.

  7. jonathanbreault

    A comment from another reader poses the possibility of Oakland entering into a bankruptcy as an option whereas I believe that a bankruptcy filing by Oakland is an inevitability. Fact is Oakland IS BANKRUPT. The politicians are “too clever by half” with their propensity for clueless shuffling of funds from one pot to another in their vain, desperate and futile effort to keep the town afloat. The outstanding debt and promise to future beneficiaries has already rendered Oakland effectively bankrupt. I would venture to guess with a great deal of confidence that nobody on the City Council or the Mayor has even the most rudimentary comprehension of finance, economics or big business. If I am wrong on this very confident assertion then those folks who are indeed competent ought to be condemned for gross ineptitude and profligacy with our money. Oakland doesn’t invest; it squanders, appeases and panders. Problem is the the common denominator in all of this is political and not economic and not business like. The town is run like a fiefdom with truly ignorant, unqualified and dangerously oblivious fools haphazardly and chaotically flushing taxpayer funds down the proverbial toilet.

  8. don williams

    I agree with jonathanbreault ..completely…..

  9. jonah

    You said it Jonathan.

  10. Len Raphael

    Without our council members and mayor coming up with a sustainable long term fiscal plan that looks at least ten years out, adding academies is a waste of money with us laying the young cops off two or three years after they’re trained and hired.

    This is a city whose city council believes the city’s financial situation is so dire (their word) that last Tuesday they voted to borrow $200 Million in 14 year bonds to pay the pensions of only 1,100 cops and firefighters most of whom retired years ago, That despite collecting close to a billion dollars in extra property taxes since early 80’s dedicated to that pension fund. The pension fund will then invest that money in the stock market over a 15 month period and we’ll have to cross our legs and eyes that the fund earns more than the 4.65% plus fees that Wall Street will charge us.

    By Mayor Quan’s own Budget Facts, we’re looking at over 2 Billlion in unfunded obligations not counting the old police/fire pension and not counting CALPERS. For comparison, our annual general fund is only 400Mill/year.

    Factor in the long term certainty that state and Federal monies will drop for the foreseeable future as their retirement/medicare etc. costs hit and yes we truly face a “dire” fiscal situation that probably will continue for many years.

    Whether you think we should be spending more on restorative justice or on increasing the number of cops on the streets, there is no way we’ll be able to do either without major permanent concessions from all existing city employees, especially police and fire, and non profits.

    Len Raphael, Temescal

  11. Mike Merriman

    I really appreciate this website and share many of the concerns.
    How do we put pressure on the city to increase OPD back to 800+?
    More folks at their meetings? Organize a march? We need to become their headache that won’t go away….

  12. jonah

    Merriman–look up Oakland Total Recall. Pressure on the city to hire many more cops has failed. Speaking at Council meetings has failed. There have been anti-violence marches and there will be more but official Oakland is unimpressed. The headache that won’t go away is the Council and the Mayor. Total Recall will get rid of the headache.

    1. Jonathan C. Breault

      I really don’t know how the electorate in Oakland can be any more stupid. Measure Y has been law for years and years and every single one of the homeowners now being asked to spend $ thousands on Security Cameras has been paying through the nose on their property tax bill for this assessment which was to GUARANTEE 802 police officers. We have less than 585 at last count. What is wrong with these foolish, ridiculous Oakland residents? Libby Schaff has a lot of nerve just walking into a room with her constituents. She and the rest of the cabal of frauds, liars, prevaricators, incompetents have destroyed Oakland. This town is done. All because of lunatics like Quan and the deplorable half-wits on the Oakland City Council who have squandered OUR MONEY for decades on nonsense. Very well connected non profits, unions, quasi retarded, completely unregulated and unsupervised social programs have bankrupt the town. The place is so pathetic it is almost impossible to find a place at which to begin to unravel the mess created by decades of abject stupidity and ineptitude and overt misrepresentations to the public about OUR MONEY. This camera fiasco is a byproduct of a civil society that has been dismantled by Progressive fools bent on social reorganization in the absurd, vain and easily discredited belief that politicians can organize social engineering to reflect their point of view. Stupidity compounded by arrogance enabled by narcissism and inveterate Liberalism devoid of logic or common sense. These hill dwellers in Oakland described in this article ought to sue Oakland for gross neglect and malfeasance.

  13. don williams

    I have noticed that what is called” Brownouts” by the fire dept has started this month..This is where several Fire houses are closed for a few days and these “Brownouts” are moved around to several parts of the City..Why would anybody start this program right now when FIRE SEASON is just getting started ????Up to July all the fire houses were fully manned every day but, in July the” Brownouts” start….I could see having Brownouts in Winter when fires are rare but, why now when most of the fires happen???I also noted that up to now the firefighters worked every third day . Now they get an extra day off .. Every other month they get 1 day off .Why start this now at the height of fire season ????????

  14. Jonathan C. Breault

    On July 13, 2012 Oakland’s homicide tally stood at 63. Oakland has a population of 410,000. On July 13 the Wall Street Journal had a very long, well researched article about the epidemic of homicide in Chicago, the third largest city in the United States. They have had 295 homicides and Chicago has a population of 2,700,000. The article made the telling comparison between New York City and Chicago and New York’s relatively tame homicide rate relative to Chicago. New York has had 197 homicides so far and has a population of 8,500,000.

    If Oakland had Chicago’s homicide rate we would have 44 homicides so far this year. We have had 63.

    If Oakland had New York City’s homicide rate we would have 10 homicides so far this year. We have had 63.

    If Chicago had Oakland’s homicide rate they would have 415 homicides so far this year. They have had 295.

    If Chicago had New York’s homicide rate they would have 62 homicides so far this year. They have had 295.

    If New York had Oakland’s homicide rate they would have 1306 homicides so far this year. They have had 197.

    If New York had Chicago’s homicide rate they would have 928 homicides so far this year. They have had 197

    The statistical probability of a homicide occurring in Oakland is 663% higher than it is in New York City.

    The statistical probability of a homicide occurring in Oakland is 141% higher than it is in Chicago.

    Chicago has such an epidemic of homicide that the Wall Street Journal dedicated an entire page to the issue.

    Anyone who understands statistics or probabilities will understand that Oakland is hopelessly out-of-control and to my mind is devoid of even marginally competent leadership. The platitudes and sophistry presented to us by the politicians is evidence of appalling ineptitude and wholesale confusion. These foolish people are an insult to our intelligence.

  15. don williams

    There may be some rare instance where a policeman can stop a murder from taking place . Maybe if a cop happens to be right there watching the would be murder and, shoots him first before he can murder anyone. This almost never happens. More cops will not stop murders .It may help to have more cops to investigate the murder and increase the chances of a conviction but, stopping murders will not happen with more cops…..

  16. JMG

    I think that it’s pretty clear that when you enforce the law, the law carries weight. When you do not enforce the law and fail to catch or prosecute criminals, criminals notice the lack of consequences. Crime becomes a lifestyle. If you take somebody off the street after they commit a crime, you may not have prevented that crime, but you did prevent every other crime they would have subsequently committed.

    When some people see that crime does pay and is a low-risk venture, they hop on the bandwagon. When you show them that it doesn’t pay, I suspect they will hop back off. Let’s show them that crime doesn’t pay.

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