What Will It Take To Restore The Oakland Police Department?

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.

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 23 Comments

  1. John Lefman

    The first step would be to remove the idiots from City Hall that brought Oakland to its current state.

    We need to start by NEVER voting for the likes of Jean Quan because no one in their right mind would ever decrease the police force of a very violent city.

  2. Howard Nathel

    San Jose also has an exodus of police officers. Although they are suffering from budget problems, which exacerbate the issue, and perhaps geographically not as attractive as San Francisco, San Jose potentially offers an alternate to Oakland’s exiting officers.

  3. Here in the flat parts, we think it would help if the officers were from our local communities. The reason is complex, and is not what you think. *Respected* local men and women who join the force can actually become vanguards for peace in their own neighborhoods, and this does not require any special government program.

    Think of how urban policing was done in NYC 100 years ago. The immigrant Irish police officers were more akin to local mini-Sheriff’s, and the position was somewhat political. In other words, the officers became public advocates for their own local areas. Google “ward politics” to see how this dynamic worked.

    This is kind of social theory “901” – and I know that some of the smarter folks BESIDES ME, who have looked at this issue agree. . . As always, it helps to look at the issue from the perspective of the “client group,” of which I get to speak for a little bit now and then, being part of it.

  4. Jonathan C. Breault

    More than just a little introspection would be a good start. How this town can on the one hand endure mindless savagery and criminality to degrees unknown in most parts of the civilized world and at the same time witness endless public denigration, humiliation and unjustified condemnation of our Police Department by our elected officials is perplexing and depressing to me. The culture, the abiding, implicit belief structure in town, is warped, corrosive and most importantly self destructive. Most days when I witness the latest assault on my sensibilities my visceral reaction is to just ask people in charge to just Grow Up! Their pathetic ignorance is so manifest and it just plain alarming to me that they cannot figure out how ridiculously foolish and amateurish their behavior and policy direction appears. Police risk their lives for us, deal with the most sordid, evil, horrible people among us and when they do their jobs the ridiculous fools in charge quite predictably side with the “I Hate the Police” gang who can be counted on to descend en masse to City Hall to propagate some fiction designed to further demoralize, demean and destabilize the Police Force. There is serous pattern of collective psychosis pervading the public consciousness. Oakland does not want to take responsibility for the appalling mess. Easier to blame the police. Unless smart people show up to take the place of the foolhardy, cowardly incompetent narcissists who run this town the Police Department will continue it’s downward spiral to irrelevancy as much of the town will be considered a de facto war zone.

    1. The East Oakland faith communities agree that there is a pervasive almost kind of “invasion” of bad “city hall thinking” on this topic, as well. The vast majority of people where I live, East of 105th, ARE good people. In the flat parts, at least, City Hall – REALLY does need to listen to the churches more.

      Our churches are the vanguards of positive change here, and are highly respected among our own flatlands communities. One issue I see is that downtown city hall simply disregards us, somehow, as being “uneducated” or something. I myself hold a law degree from Hastings, and *set* national civil rights policy on certain rights issues. “We” are not dummies here, but we often feel excluded from the endless discussions downtown. In many of our minds, the REAL “side shows” happen at city hall. . .

  5. Mike

    It’s a good thing to try to explore the problem of adequate OPD staffing. On the other hand, OPD needs much more than greater numbers to be “restored” to an effective, adequately-staffed, community-oriented, highly-ethical and fully-up-to-date police force. Which it never was. We can only hope that it someday may be. Unfortunately, that prospect is, right now, quite dim.

    MOBN might make an effort to take a holistic view of Oakland’s police and crime problems. A holistic view could well be summed up in a comprehensive public safety plan which sets specific goals for violent and other crime reduction, which assesses the resources needed and those that are missing and which provides for all the missing resources. Creating such a plan would be the best possible evidence for public safety having become the first priority for Oakland. It’s not the first priority right now and I don’t see any real prospect for such a thing to happen.

    Rather than talking about a public safety plan, the Council is tied up with such matters as a poorly-conceived anti-graffiti law. As Jonathan Breault points out this group of ne’er-do-wells can’t ever get their act together on anything. They are ever mistaking the forest for the trees and failing to think things through. I’m not convinced that the three new Council members are any more competent. One already has shown, just this week, that she can get lost in minor policy distractions, unable to focus on what really matters which she has said is crime.

    I don’t have any idea why MOBN thinks that a compliance director in Oakland will have a negative effect on police morale. It’s more likely that the compliance director will have a negative effect on the elected officials in whom MOBN has so much faith and on MOBN itself. I would think it much more likely that if OPD became, as a result of the work of a competent compliance director, a truly up-to-date, modern police department, that morale would very likely improve. I agree again with Jonathan Breault that the corrosive culture in city hall is the main reason for poor OPD morale. OPD needs steady support from electeds which means provision of adequate staffing and other resources for them to be able to carry out their work effectively and efficiently. If OPD works ethically and thoughtfully in the most violent parts of Oakland then local residents are much more likely to provide the information needed to resolve the violent crime problems that afflict those neighborhoods. It’s a matter of trust and if cops are confident that city hall is backing them up and if they do their work by the book, then the best environment will be created for effective police work.

    1. Me Again

      Yes. The issue is very much cultural. 😉

  6. Not amused

    You all have your heads so deep in the sand. The main issue is resources and salary. There’s no way Oakland will ever be able to staff up its police department as long as the current OPOA contract stands. Unless y’all in the hills are willing to shell out more in taxes to fund this sweetheart deal, we’re going to have this conversation every single year.

    1. The Hill People won’t. They tried to game it with Measure Y, which if you deconstruct it, it primarily designed to keep a certain number of officers on patrol in the hills. It failed them.

  7. Eloise

    “The Hill People?” Officers ‘on patrol’ in the hills? Are you kidding me? Kevin, your “us vs. them” divisiveness has become almost as tiresome as your constant recitation of your “credentials” and your full resume.

    1. Yes, and it is kind of contagious. Inside joke that certain folks will get.

  8. Nathan

    Kevin, to clarify. Everyone on the MOBN! board lives in Oakland. We work with community members and groups in many parts of the Town and are continually developing, expanding, and strengthening those relationships. I We all want to live in an Oakland that does not bury 131 of it’s residents every year. The level of violence in this City is intolerable. I had only to live in Oakland for less than six months before I knew someone who was shot in the face.

    I am on MOBN’s board. Have been for 2+ years. I do not live in the Hills. I am an organizer and muckracker. I have knocked on doors in the Lower Bottoms, the Acorn, and the San Pablo Corridor for various reasons. Spent some time in Jingletown, Glen Park, and with Fruitvale merchants. In Deep East, I worked the Castlemont community, Sobrante Park, and Brookfield neighborhoods on issues facing public education and school board elections.

    I extend a hand to you and your militia on a E.105th to make this City better. I’d rather not have this devolve into yet another yelling match between groups that want the same outcomes, but waste emotion, time, and passion because they can’t sit at the same table long enough to get there.

    1. There is no “militia” at all. That is a somewhat paranoid thought, actually, on your end.

      This is not local. All I do in Oakland is go to church and ride my motorcycle. OPD is very aware of where I live, who I know, and what my politics are. I know that because I met with their top person a couple of weeks ago.

      What you are seeing in *national* social media, if you know where to look, is an entire *country* rising up against people from “the left,” just like you, who have failed us.

      Your group is most certainly part of that.

      What is happening is that me, and millions like me, are just people who are seeing truth.

      ALSO – I do not even engage much in “city talk” these days. It is pointless.

      Remember, my friends *are* law enforcement, first responders, military, faith communities, social clubs, working people, trade unions, enlightened lawyers, and just about every single group **except** for the one group that has failed us for the last 1/2 century. That would be: “city hall,” and those politicians and media folks, who continue to play dog and pony with our lives.

      There is simply no militia, my life is fairly boring on this end. I just preach some truths, and know some lawyers, and other folks, who know how to change large systems, much larger than Oakland.

      And if systemic change happens, I won’t even be connected to it, but I will speak in favor of it. That is my duty as someone who loves my neighbors, community, city, and country. And the deal is, like I said – “we” are in the majority.

      Please stop with the “militia” talk, it is very nearly libelous. And I know a thing or two about Constitutional law. You most certainly do not want “this” little issue between you and me, to get blown out into national social media.

    2. JR

      Isn’t starting a militia in CA a crime? And isn’t accusing a lawyer of a crime without any proof, a crime? Tread carefully, Nathan, or you may find yourself behind the defendant’s table.

  9. Contra Costa Open Carry

    I want to know why/how/when that Nathan believes that Mr. Thomason has started a militia? Where is the proof?

    Starting a milita in CA is illegal, and accusing a lawyer of a crime w/o proof is also a crime. Be very careful Nathan. The ice you are on is getting very thin.

  10. Nathan

    Apologies for using the term ‘militia’. It was a playful, if not sloppy, allusion on my part. No harm or libel meant.

    1. JR

      Perhaps it was actually a Freudian slip.

  11. No problem. I think we are same side anyways. I just do not like the constant dysfunction at city hall, and I do respect your work within our communities. Please just realize that there are other viewpoints out there, and that “my” viewpoint, is actually fairly close to the mass of people I have met, in my 10 years living in East Oakland, the last 3.5 of which have BEEN IN Sobrante Park.

    You know that green liquor store on 105th? That is where LITERALLY where I hang out when I need a break from doing my lawyer work. Drive by some time, and you will see a black Harley parked on Edes & 105h.

    That is “me.”

    What you hear “in” my words, not just here, but on my FB wall, ARE the voices of my family, neighbors, and communities.

    I have said this before, and I will say it again:

    I did not “bring” my politics to here.

    I GOT my politics from here.

  12. JR – I am of the mind that it is more like a “projection.” We live in a very messed up media ecology where someone who is advocating for freedom and equality for ALL PEOPLE, like me – is somehow lumped in with people who are hateful racists, homophobes, misogynists, etc.

    This creates literal physical danger for me, and I have already recieved multiple death threats from a small little “progessive” man, in San Francisco. Since he texted them to me, amd has refused to meet with me to discuss the matter, I do not consider him a problem. But “this” sort of utter painting of “us,” as evil – IS EVIL.

    I challenge people to google my name, and try to find one single hateful word I have ever written. Or just meet me, and my friends. This sort of “strawman” argument (making “me” and “us” into evil “haters”) is exactly a tactic of people who do not think clearly, and who tend to govern from emotion, and not from discernible reality, or even sound policy.

    As you know, I sit on the same ABA subcommittee as UCLA law professor Adam Winkler, who is from the LEFT, and who says that same things I say.

    Alam Gura won the last two Supreme Court cases on this issue, and is literally a friend, of a friend. We all had lunch with Alan a couple of weeks ago, by the way. The plaintiff in the Mcdonald case is also a friend. He is an elderly black man, who lives in Chicago, and was unable to protect his home from thugs, due to their illogical gun laws. The criminals have free reign there, the citizens do not, and the police department there is very corrupt.

    I simply do mot argue anymore. We are so correct that it is not funny,mand those who can’t “see” this, are simpky not working from any discernible connection to verifiable truth. Like I have said before, “this” is very much an expression of class-based fear. Likely race-based, as well.

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