Oakland Council Members Call for Full Police Staffing Levels

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    NEWSLETTERS

    TK
    NBC Bay Area
    File photo of an Oakland Police Department patrol car.

    Oakland City Council members Libby Schaaf and Noel Gallo alleged Tuesday that Mayor Jean Quan has failed to staff the Oakland Police Department at the level promised in the city's budget.

    Speaking at a news conference on the steps of City Hall, Schaaf, who is running for mayor in the election in November, and Gallo said the budget has funding for 675 officers but only 556 officers are available for full policing duties.

    Schaaf and Gallo said Oakland currently has 649 officers on the books, but 47 of them are still in field training, 21 are on disability and 25 are on modified duty.

    The city had 837 officers six years ago but the number dropped to the low 600s recently because of layoffs and budget cuts.

    Schaaf said, "The citizens of Oakland deserve honesty and transparency, especially when their public safety is on the line."

    She said, "The current administration continues to talk about police force numbers in terms of theoretical budgeted numbers instead of the number that matters most: the actual number of police officers on the street."

    Schaaf and Gallo said that at the council's Public Safety Committee meeting scheduled to begin at 5:30 p.m. Tuesday they will disclose a plan to reach full police staffing levels and hold Quan's administration accountable for the number of officers promised in the budget.

    Gallo, who chairs the committee, said the lower-than-promised number of police officers is "a misuse of our trust."

    He said the low number of officers is "a responsibility at the police chief level, at the mayor's level and at the city council's level."

    Responding to Schaaf and Gallo, Quan noted that the revised budget she proposed last Friday calls for spending more money on public safety, including additional police academies.

    In a statement, Quan said, "I'm glad to know we'll have support for our proposal to fund additional police academies this year and next year and I look forward to working with the City Council to fund our public safety priorities."

    Quan said, "With crime on the decline, a strong permanent chief (Sean Whent) in place and our staffing numbers growing, the momentum for the Oakland Police Department and Oakland public safety is heading in the right direction."

    Oakland has held several police academies in recent years to recruit and train new officers but Schaaf and Gallo said the new officers aren't increasing the Police Department's staffing level significantly because many officers are leaving the department to retire or to take jobs in other departments.

    Gallo said he believes many officers are leaving the department because of "poor morale."

    He said, "The Police Department must have a plan to address the problem of the many officers who are retiring or leaving for another department."

    Quan's office said there's a gap between actual and budgeted police officers because of a six-month period between the time that the city brings trainee recruits onto its payroll and when the city sends them out on patrol for field training.

    Quan's office said sometimes the number of officers on the city's payroll is below the budgeted number for some months but is above the budgeted number on other months.

    Schaaf and Gallo said the plan they will present tonight would create "an early warning system" that would alert the City Council and the public on a monthly basis when actual staffing numbers are falling behind the projections adopted in the city's budget and would direct the city administrator to bring immediate allocation requests to the council to address the shortfall.

    The two council members said their plan also would allocate sufficient recruitment and training funds, budget for an additional police academy and reduce officer attrition.

    Schaaf and Gallo said they want to fully analyze a recent officer survey that documented high rates of stress and low morale among Oakland police officers and create incentives for officers to delay their retirements.

    If the Public Safety Committee approves the plan it will come to the full City Council for final approval next week.