The midnight deadline for 80 police officers in Oakland who could lose their jobs if a last-minute deal is not made between their union and the mayor has been pushed back to 5 p.m. Tuesday.
The sticking point in negotiations appears to be job security. The city council asked OPD officers to pay nine percent of their salary toward their pensions, which would save the city about $7.8 million toward a multi-million dollar deficit. The police union agreed, as long as the city could promise no layoffs for three years. No dice, says city council president Jane Brunner.
"We wish we could offer them a three-year no layoff protection we just can't financially.It would be irresponsible of us," Brunner said. The city agreed to a one-year moratorium on layoffs, but it is not enough for the union.
Oakland's police chief is making some dire claims about what his force will and will not respond to if he loses the officers, which make up about ten percent of his work force.
Chief Anthony Batts listed exactly 44 situations that his officers no longer respond to and they include grand theft, burglary, vehicle collision, identity theft and vandalism. He says if you live and Oakland and one of the above happens to you, you need to let police know on-line.
Here's a partial list:
- grand theft
- grand theft:dog
- identity theft
- false information to peace officer
- required to register as sex or arson offender
- dump waste or offensive matter
- discard appliance with lock
- loud music
- possess forged notes
- pass fictitious check
- obtain money by false voucher
- fraudulent use of access cards
- stolen license plate
- embezzlement by an employee (over $ 400)
- attempted extortion
- false personification of other
- injure telephone/ power line
- interfere with power line
- unauthorized cable tv connection
- administer/expose poison to another's
Batts has only been chief since last October and was clearly unhappy with the probable cut back. "I came here to build an organization, not to downsize one," Batts said.
Batts said the 80 officers slated to be laid off - mostly new officers - are "pretty sad and pretty depressed," and those feelings are shared by the Police Department as a whole.
The Oakland City Council voted June 25 to eliminate the positions to help close the city's $32.5 million funding gap. According to the city of Oakland, each of the 776 police officers currently employed at OPD costs around $188,000 per year. Most of the officers who will be affected by the layoffs were on the streets of Oakland when Johannes Mehserle's involuntary manslaughter conviction caused riots last Thursday.
The problem is money. In the last five years, the police budget -- along with the fire department budget -- have amount to 75 percent of the general fund. After years of largely sparing those departments the budget ax, now it appears there are few other places to cut.
These are the last hours of negotiation and Brunner is hopeful that the city and police will find some sort middle ground.
"It's been very good conversation and not a whole lot of grandstanding." Brunner said. "There's actually real conversations. Each side understands the problem," she said.