Oakland will have two more police academies over the next two fiscal years to hire more sworn officers into the Oakland Police Department, the City Council decided Tuesday.
The hiring would allow the city to meet the requirements of Measure Z, a parcel tax approved by voters in 2014, which helps fund other city services such as fire and violence prevention. It will also add 60 more officers to the force.
Six councilmembers — Nikki Fortunato Bas, Dan Kalb, Rebecca Kaplan, Treva Reid, Loren Taylor and Sheng Thao — voted in favor. Councilmember Noel Gallo voted no and Councilmember Carroll Fife abstained.
The vote overall is meant to address the high levels of violent crime in Oakland and was denounced by at least one community group.
Mayor Libby Schaaf thanked the six councilmembers who voted in favor of the hiring. She said the action will give the city the chance to “carry out a holistic vision of public safety” after a recent surge in crime.
“Our residents spoke up today and their voices were heard. They spoke up for a comprehensive approach to public safety — one that includes prevention, intervention, and addressing crime’s root causes, as well as an adequately staffed police department,” Schaaf said in a statement.
Keeping a promise
Schaaf had reiterated her support for the additional officers during a news conference this past Friday in which she called department staffing levels “at a crisis point.”
On Nov. 30, Oakland police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said the number of sworn officers was at 676, below the threshold for retaining Measure Z funds.
“We are determined to keep the promise to Oakland’s voters to maintain adequate staffing levels of our police to continue a balanced and comprehensive approach to public safety as well as to increase the sense of safety in our streets,” Schaaf said.
Arriving at the goal of 60 new officers would include removing a hiring freeze for 20 current officer positions.
“We are determined to keep the promise to Oakland’s voters to maintain adequate staffing levels of our police to continue a balanced and comprehensive approach to public safety as well as to increase the sense of safety in our streets,”Mayor Libby Schaaf
Schaaf said the proposal will cost $5.8 million, which will come from savings already realized. That means the city would be able to maintain funding for all other city services, the mayor said.
“People feel very disturbed by all the violence, all the unprecedented robberies,” she said last week.
Schaaf said Oakland has reduced gun violence in the past, and the city is determined to do it again as quickly as possible. Armstrong said homicide detectives have investigated 129 homicides in the city this year, representing a significant increase.
Schaaf also wants to send a message to police officers that their service is valued to help improve retention rates. She said she wants to interview any officer who is considering leaving for another police department.
A ‘failed policy solution’
Cat Brooks, who has been advocating for fewer police and more social services to prevent violence, said, “For decades in Oakland we’ve over-invested in policing, and the number of homicides and robberies this year are clear proof that this approach to public safety simply does not work.”
“We can’t make the same mistakes we made in the past. We cannot throw more good money after failed policy solutions, she said prior to Tuesday’s vote.
“The additional $5.8 million Libby wants to spend on more policing should be invested on violence prevention, mental health services, jobs programs, and housing support,” Brooks said. “This extra money is on top of the current plan to increase the police budget next year in Oakland by $38 million dollars.
“The people of Oakland came out in tens of thousands last year to demand the City of Oakland reinvest our tax dollars into programs that will actually keep us safe, not over-police Black and Brown communities, Brooks said.
“The City Council was given a very clear mandate from the people. The people of Oakland trust they won’t let a lame-duck mayor pull this one last fast one on the people,” she said.