Oakland swears in 30 new police officers

July 25, 2008 6:58:59 PM PDT
The Oakland Police Department is now just 25 officers shy of reaching full staffing, and given the state of violent crime in the city, every single cop on the beat is needed. With murders and assaults up this year in Oakland, there's been enormous pressure to hire more officers.

The homicide rate stands at 77 and it was 70 at this time last year. Assaults are up 11 percent in the city, but Chief Wayne Tucker says keep in mind, other crimes have decreased. ABC7 covered an Oakland Police Department Academy graduation back in April. At that time, they put 28 new officers on the street. Still, in that three-month period, more people have been killed.

Click here for Bay Area homicide maps

Oakland's 30 new police officers are on a mission to make a difference.

"I just want to make it so innocent people can go outside without the fear of being robbed, raped, or murdered," said Officer Donald Lockett, a new Oakland police officer.

The mission is what Police Chief Wayne Tucker calls the most demanding police job in the state.

"The demands that the Oakland Police Department are under vastly exceed any other large department in the state in terms of the number of crimes per officer that we respond to," said Chief Tucker.

For example, overnight officers responded to three homicides within a four-hour period. At 4 a.m. following the pursuit of a possible drunk driver, an officer shot and killed the man on Fruitvale Avenue.

"We're not sure what caused the shooting, what the state of mind the officers, what they thought they had and think we're still processing the scene," said Chief Tucker in an earlier press conference.

At 2 a.m. on Plymouth and 81st, police found 24-year-old Avnell Durham III killed. Two hours earlier on East 17th and Seminary, 36 year-old Fidel Lopez died from multiple gunshot wounds. Chief Tucker says there's an ongoing drug war in the east part of the city.

"We see some surge in Latino gang violence, that's a concern for us. We hope some of the staff graduating today will allow others to go into some of those gang units," said Chief Tucker.

"We will strive to continue the tradition of excellence by working hard, and working efficiently as so many officers have done before us," said Officer Andrew Bicker, the Oakland Academy's valedictorian.

The 30 graduates bring the total force to 778 officers, just short of being fully staffed at 803. Most of the rookies are young, all of them eager, just as the citizens of Oakland are eager for peace.

Hiring new officers is a costly venture for the city. They pay an annual salary for new officers of $69,000 to $87,000 a year. It also costs $150,000 to train them. Mayor Ron Dellums was not at the graduation, as he usually is, because he had to attend a funeral. In a written statement, he said he urges witnesses to the homicides to come forward.


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