Last summer, the City Council was preparing to vote on the budget for fiscal years 2021-22 and 2022-23. In her May 2021 budget proposal, Mayor Schaaf had proposed an increase in funding for the Oakland Police Department by spending $693 million total. The mayor’s plan would have paid for two additional police recruit academies, bringing the total to six. The Council shifted $18 million from the proposed OPD budget to other entities and departments involved in violence prevention and public safety, and limited academies to two per year. Six Council members voted in favor of this reduction, including District 4 council member Sheng Thao.

Note that the limited number of academies, and the low graduation rate in those held, has resulted in a reduction of sworn police officers to 698 as of this month, a number below 700 for the first time in recent memory. 

However, on September 7, Councilmember Thao issued the following press release:


OAKLAND, CA – Today, Council President Pro Tem SHENG THAO called on the City Council to immediately approve and fund two new police academies. Pro Tem SHENG THAO is bringing forward a plan to use cost-savings from OPD to immediately fund an additional police academy this fiscal year, ’21-’22, AND is also urging her City Council colleagues to fund an additional police academy for fiscal year ’22-’23.

“Public safety is my number one priority. As a representative on the Oakland City Council, I do not take lightly the rise in crimes throughout the city, including violent crimes and property crimes. We cannot afford to wait. Our children should be able to play outside, walk to school, or ride their bike without their parents having to worry for their safety. Our seniors should not have to feel unsafe just to walk to the store and as Oakland residents, we should be able to feel safe in our own homes”,

said Council President Pro Tem SHENG THAO.

“There have been changes made in Oakland’s police department by the Chief that I believe will increase not only the graduation success rates among academies, but will improve Oakland’s recruitment efforts in order to close the gender gap in OPD. That is why I am calling upon my City Council colleagues to support my legislation to immediately move forward with a 5thPolice Academy that will include a higher number of local hires, a higher number of women recruits, and an option for childcare for recruits that are in need.”

As the city continues to have trouble with police officer retention, Council President Pro Tem SHENG THAO states that finding more local candidates or candidates with ties to Oakland is key to finding and keeping officers who are invested in Oakland. Pro Tem SHENG THAO has submitted her request to be heard at the next scheduled City Council meeting on September 21st. See attached for scheduling request.

Her attachment was a memo to the Rules and Legislation Committee (also dated September 7) asking that it get this on the City Council’s agenda for September 21.

There recently (the next day) was full coverage of this in the San Francisco Chronicle by reporter Sarah Ravani, available here

The September 21 City Council Meeting Agenda is now on line here, and there is no mention of Councilmember Thao’s proposal. Nor is there any mention of it on the Rules and Legislation Committee’s agenda for the one meeting scheduled between September 7 and the present.

Make Oakland Better Now!’s position on this is as follows:

  • As the number of police has gone down in recent months, the violent crime rates have dramatically increased, as Oaktalk has reported in the blog in recent months. There are many steps that need to be taken to reduce violent crime, but decreasing police officers is certainly not one of them, and its impact is terrible.
  • In late 2013, the police research organization hired by Oakland, Strategic Policy Partnership LLC, issued a report suggesting that Oakland could study its need for particular numbers of sworn police officers. The primary researcher and author of the report, Robert Wasserman, advised MOBN! that the firm ready to conduct such a study was ICMA. Many Council members were aware of this recommendation, but no steps were taken.
  • For now, Oakland should not allow the number of sworn officers to continue to decrease. It should conduct a fully scientific study, whether by ICMA or some other highly qualified entity (and not one that is either overwhelmingly supportive of increased policing nor of defunding, but rather one that is not biased and is qualified to conduct a proper study), and then evaluate what the City’s steps should be. 
  • This kind of study will be a long and complex process, and until it is complete, Oakland should definitely ensure that its academies per year are increased.

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.

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