The Oakland Mayor and councilors offer a plan to increase the police force

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Councilors Loren Taylor and Treva Reid announced Monday that they intend to introduce law enforcement personnel in response to the rising number of shootings and murders.

They pointed right at that Killing of a security guard on a television news team last week downtown and a fatal shootout in a car break-in Over the weekend, as examples of the rise in crime, they hope that more police will prevent it. Reid and Taylor, who represent Districts 6 and 7 in East Oakland, also said their parts of the city have been particularly badly hit by gun violence.

“In East Oakland we asked for more, not less,” said Reid.

While the mayor and councilors didn’t go into detail, Schaaf said her proposal – which they plan to release on Friday – would reverse some of the city council’s decisions to redesign public safety, resulting in a smaller overall budget increase for the Oakland Police Department.

OPD’s budget has increased by approximately $ 38 million for fiscal years 2021-2022 and 2022-2023 as part of the spending plan approved by the Council in June. Although police spending increased, the amount was less than Schaaf’s budget and the council used the money saved to fund non-police violence prevention and emergency programs.

The council canceled two of the six police academies the mayor wanted. Police academies are used to train and hire new police officers. But in September, the city council partially reversed its course when it approved District 4 city councilor Sheng Thao ‘s plan to establish a fifth police academy. Thao had also spoken out in favor of setting up a sixth academy next year, but wanted the city administration to provide information on the costs first.

Schaaf said today that at least one more police academy is needed because of higher “churn rates,” a term used to describe the pace at which police officers leave the department because of resigning, retiring, or for other reasons. According to the city, OPD currently has 677 officers, a level that Schaaf says is well below what is actually required to respond to emergency calls and provide other services. It’s also just below the threshold of 678 officers that’s required under Measure Z, a voter-approved package tax that raises millions for police and violence prevention programs. Under measure Z, the city is prohibited from collecting the tax for 678 civil servants.

The city council has been waiting for the city manager’s office to submit a recruitment plan report to keep the number of civil servants above the Action Z threshold. The report was due to be heard at a meeting on November 9, but city officials asked for more time to complete. It is now on the agenda of the Council on 7 December.

While the majority of the council approved of Thao’s proposed additional police academy, some members still have questions about what OPD is doing to better retain and recruit officials, as well as improve the academy’s graduation rates.

President-in-Office of the Council, Nikki Fortunato Bas, said she wanted to know how the police are using their resources and that she would like a stronger focus on ceasefire and violent crime investigations.

“The chief himself said that there are a relatively small number of people who commit crimes. We need to make sure that our police force is focused on this small number of people, ”Bas said on Monday. “I think I need and I think the council needs a thorough update.”

Schaaf, Reid and Taylor said they would also campaign to overturn a city council decision to freeze 50 police officer positions, mostly occupied by OPD with overtime. The positions gave OPD a “surge” capacity to respond to further emergency calls, but the council voted to freeze the positions from July 2022 to free up approximately $ 10.7 million, much of it going to the department for Violence prevention has been forwarded.

Schaaf said her plan will include an analysis “will show that additional police personnel will be needed after this act of violence”. However, she added that her plan will not cut the non-police violence prevention programs that the Council has already funded, including MACRO and the violence prevention department.

Schaaf criticized the council’s decision not to increase police spending by the amount it had proposed last summer. Taylor and Reid also opposed some decisions by the council majority and have since called for the police force to be strengthened to respond to the rise in gun violence from 2020 onwards.

“There is nothing progressive about unrestrained armed violence,” said Schaaf. “That’s what Oaklanders want, a comprehensive and effective approach to security, and that includes adequate police force.”

Councilor Rebecca Kaplan called Schaaf’s press conference a “political stunt” to give the impression that the city council is not seriously dealing with police personnel issues. Kaplan said the mayor and city council should focus more on filling vacancies. 737 sworn police offices are planned in the budget, i.e. 60 positions are currently to be filled.

“What was done today was an accomplishment and it was a poor accomplishment. It did not acknowledge that the council had already voted for an academy, ”Kaplan said. “You should focus on hiring people and filling the places.”

The best ways to reduce shootings and homicides are hotly debated in Oakland right now. Taylor and Reid are both running for mayoral next year and have positioned themselves as police supporters. Thao is also running for mayor’s office, with the support of most of the unions representing the city’s workers – with the exception of the Oakland Police Officers Association. Last week, OPOA President Barry Donelan wrote one op-ed criticize council members like Thao, who voted last summer to divert money from the police to fund alternatives.

District 3 city councilor Carroll Fife took to Twitter after today’s press conference and wrote that the Oakland Police Department’s staffing problems are not caused by city council budget decisions. “The personnel crisis in the police force, as well as the personnel problems for many municipal departments, are an administrative problem. [This is] the authority of the city’s administrative branch, including the mayor, city manager, and human resources director, ”she wrote.

A man shot dead on Sunday afternoon while confronted with suspected car burglars on Grand Avenue was the 127th murder investigated by Oakland police that year. The number of homicides is the highest since 2012, when there were 131 deaths.

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