As we explained last month, all four City Council members elected in the most recent election have adopted the MOBN! position that rebuilding the City’s police department is the City’s highest priority. Last month, City Council Members Larry Reid and Libby Schaaf proposed three public safety measures, including one that Council confirm a police academy conditionally budgeted for June, 2013.
MOBN! supports all three measures, including the academy confirmation, the use of Alameda County Sherriff’s deputies and the hiring of civilian technicians. But even if these proposals are adopted, the City’s current course will not restore the department in the near future. Here’s why:
New officers cannot be hired until they have completed an academy and field officer training. Recruiting, academy and field training take about a year. Officers coming out of this training process have to replace officers who retire or transfer to other departments, and if the yield from the academies is greater than attrition, the department grows by the net difference.
Police Chief Jordan reports that the department’s attrition rate for sworn officers is five per month. He’s planning on two academies per year, and the projected yield of officers from each academy is forty. At this rate, even with the two academies per year, he projects that there will be 610 officers in June, 2014, sixteen fewer than there are presently. And if that pattern continues to hold, it will be ten more years – June, 2024 – before there are at least 800 officers.
MOBN!’s public safety plan – endorsed by incoming City Council Members McElhaney and Gallo and reelected City Council Member Kaplan – calls for 900 officers. At the rate of two academies per year and an attrition rate of 60 officers per year, that would be accomplished in 2029.
More recently, the administration’s Five Year Financial Plan offered a different and less pessimistic scenario. (The Five Year Financial Plan does not set City policy or a City budget, but projects revenue and expenses based on a variety of assumptions). Based on the monthly officer attrition rates of 4.75 in 2011 and 4.25 through September, 2012, the administration assumed the downward trend would continue and that a reasonable projected attrition rate was four officers per month. Based on this assumption, and again assuming two academies per year, the administration estimated it would take five and one half years – i.e., until the end of Fiscal year 2017-2018 – to build the department to 793 officers (see page 44 of this report).
The administration’s hope that the attrition rate will fall is probably not realistic. Many officers report that department morale is very poor. The City and Plaintiffs have now reached agreement on a “Compliance Director,” with broad powers over police affairs, and that fact is not likely to have a positive impact on morale. Ten miles away, San Francisco has a major campaign to hire and train new and lateral officers, so Oakland’s police have other readily available employment options.
The proposal by Council Members Reid and Schaaf to remove the conditions from Council’s approval of a June 2013 academy does not address when or how often subsequent academies should be held. But if they were scheduled in September, March and June of subsequent years, and if the attrition rate was as Chief Jordan projects, it would take Oakland until March, 2016 to get back to more than 803 officers. To achieve the MOBN! goal of 900 officers would take until March, 2018.
And the big question that remains unaddressed by Chief Jordan, City Council, the Mayor and the City Administrator is this: if our goal is to rebuild the Police Department, what will it cost to do so, and how will this be financed? In The Five Year Plan (Page 44), the City Administrator apparently projects that increased costs for the OPD at its current size will be more than $30 million by 2018. If the OPD increases its sworn staffing to 793 by 2017-2018, the added annual cost (including salaries, benefits, retirement and academy costs) will be another $28.2 million. (MOBN! presently has a detailed public records request pending with the City to help us understand all the elements that go into this figure, and we hope to share an analysis of the data in the second half of January.)
Oakland is a city with a tragic murder rate (123 as of December 18). We have seen a 23% spike in murders, muggings and other major offenses and a 44% decrease in arrests. All the while, Oakland has shrunk its police department by 25% in less than three years.
If public safety is truly our top priority, city leaders must focus on growing the department. And we cannot wait six years, let alone twelve or fifteen, for that to happen. Oakland must commit to an accelerated plan for academies and for the funding of the restored department.