Oakland lays off employees, adds officers

November 14, 2008 6:18:18 PM PST
In Oakland is all about balancing the budget and public safety. Friday is the last day on the job for 69 city employees who are being laid off, while 69 new police officers are being added to the payroll.

Thirty-eight of officers were sworn in the shadows of City Hall on Friday morning, where 69 people spent their last day on the job.

A graduating class of police cadets puts the Oakland PD at full staffing levels.

With the graduation of a new academy class, Oakland finally reached its goal of putting at least 803 police officers on city streets. Even though it took the city years to reach that number, there might not be that 803 officers on the force for very long.

One by one, 37 police academy graduates became full-fledged Oakland police officers on Friday. And one of those rookies allowed the city to finally reach its goal.

Oakland native John Romero is police officer number 803.

"We didn't come here to be the 803 officers. We came here to be Oakland police officers," said Romero.

Four years ago, Oakland voters passed a measure that set the department's minimum staffing level and this year Mayor Ron Dellums promised the city would hit that mark.

"It has taken us since the middle of 2005 to 2008 to achieve this goal. This has been monumental," said Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker.

"Today with the graduation of 38 beautiful young men and women we have not only met 803, we are now at the accurate number of 837," said Dellums.

But maybe not for long. Dellums added the city will postpone, possibly cancel an upcoming academy class. There's not enough money to hire more officers right now.

Even though Friday's graduation pushes Oakland past its goal of having 803 officers on city streets, that could just be a temporary fix. With retirements and a possible academy class cancelation, Oakland could be back below 800 officers by next year.

Just hours before the graduation, a man was killed near Mills College, bringing this year's homicide tally to 112 -- nearly the same as year ago.

"Oakland is a really great city. Some people have their views of what they see on the news and what they think. But you have to come here and live here to experience Oakland to really appreciate it," said Romero.

Most of those new officers will report for duty for the first time Saturday morning.

Mayor Dellums says he feels terrible about having to do layoffs, but public safelty is issue number one.


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