Homicides in Oakland are up by more than 100% since last year.
As homicides soar, the Oakland Police Department said it continues to lose burned out officers at a growing rate – either to retirement or to another city.
"Many members wearing the blue uniform are leaving the vocation because of the stresses on themselves and their families," said Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association.
During an Oakland Police Commission virtual meeting last week, Chief LeRonne Armstrong said his police force is shrinking.
"I have received nearly 10 either resignations or retirements in the last three weeks," he said. "So, officers are leaving at a pretty quick place."
OPD has 80 empty positions to fill. Right now, 706 officers are on the force – the lowest number in six years. This comes as the city grapples with its 52nd homicide of the year.
"I think every Oakland police officer is bracing for the challenges that we’re going to face this summer," Donelan said.
In the meeting, Armstrong alluded to the “defund police” movement and the toll the rhetoric is having on officers. In addition, other police departments are said to be particularly interested in Oakland police officers because of their extensive training.
"We are required to provide significantly more training than nearly every other police department in the state of California, but that makes officers prime for smaller departments," Armstrong said.
Mayor Libby Schaaf’s proposed budget calls for more police academies – six in total – so more cadets can get trained and sworn in. As more positions get filled, Schaaf hopes the city will spend less on police overtime.
"We have to be more aggressive in recruiting, training and be able to win the neighborhood trust as well," Councilmember Noel Gallo said.
But both Armstrong and Gallo pointed out the police hiring process can take up to a year, meaning OPD will likely rely on overtime to fill staffing shortages.
"We’ve all been traumatized by the pandemic, but the police officers have been traumatized," said Suzanne, an Oakland resident.