Oakland to meet goal for new officers

May 19, 2008 11:59:13 AM PDT
A Sunday night murder in Oakland brings a new high in homicides for the year. Oakland's top brass is swearing in enough new cadets to nearly double the incoming rate of officers. This is coming as the homicide rate has nearly doubled - 53 this year, compared to 37 at this time last year. The total number of homicides for all of last year in Oakland was 127.

Two police academies are getting underway on Monday with 97 cadets in all. Even though some of them may not graduate, the department expects them to reach full capacity by the time the cadets' graduate in November.

The police cadets of Oakland's 165th academy came to class shorn and suited up. The cadets will go through the same grueling training as their predecessors, but this class completes the city's goal for 803 officers by the end of the year.

"It's essential that people come and that they are willing to engage the problem, and to engage in community policing and to really be willing tackle the hard issues so not only Oakland can benefit but perhaps one day, other cities as well," said Tim Gougeon, Oakland police cadet.

Gougeon used to be a mortgage broker. Other cadets include a tree salesman and clothing store manager. They're as young as 22. At 43, a former San Francisco firefighter and paramedic is the oldest.

"I felt that I'd get the most experience from Oakland, that I'd learn a lot compared to a lot of other slower departments. I felt the activity level here is really high," said Michael Arsanis, Oakland police cadet.

Oakland's murder rate is really high, 53 to date, including one Sunday night - almost double what it was at this time last year. Monday morning Mayor Ron Dellums gave the cadets a pep talk.

"People are saying 'I'm beginning to see the police more regularly, I'm beginning to see a faster response time,'" said Dellums.

Dellums candidly told reporters, more officers is not the sole solution.

"The safest communities are not communities that have a police officer on every block. The safest community is where people have a job, hope and opportunities," said Dellums.

The new cadets are hopeful and optimistic about their duties.

"It's getting in touch with people. The reputation that cops have, the guys in this force are out to change that to make a difference," said Zoe Homayun, Oakland police cadet.

There is talk around town that Oakland needs more then a 1,000 police officers. Mayor Ron Dellums said he is considering a November ballot initiative so that it would allow the city to hire on 50 officers a year at a cost of $12.5 million dollars. He thinks that cost is more obtainable instead of hiring hundreds of officers at one time.


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