Cutbacks may be inevitable for OPD

May 26, 2010 7:10:26 PM PDT
Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts held a meeting with the ranks on Wednesday afternoon, and explained that hundreds of police officers could lose their jobs this summer. It's all part of a plan by the City Council to deal with Oakland's serious budget problems.

The chief wanted to put to rest all of the rumors circulating in the department among the officers who are just terrified that they could be the ones to lose their jobs.

If there are layoffs, OPD says those officers that could be the first ones on the line to lose their jobs, are those officers whose jobs it is to work closest with the community.

If Oakland lays off as many as 200 officers this summer, officer Maureen Vergara's job could be among the first to go.

"This is the most dangerous city in California and if we lose any more officers, we barely have enough officers to handle the crime that happens here," she said.

Vergara is one of 63 problem solving officers stationed around Oakland. They work directly in the neighborhoods and with residents.

But if City Hall lays off police to balance a $42 million deficit, OPD says problem solving officers often with less seniority will be among the first to get pink slips -- that's even though voters in 2004 approved an initiative known as Measure Y, which mandates they be part of the force.

"I think we've done a disservice to the voters," Measure Y oversight committee founder Maya Dillard Smith said.

Cutting officers means Oakland may no longer be able to collect millions in taxes residents now pay to keep the force at its goal of nearly 800 officers, and to keep those problem solving officers on the streets.

"I think we're really moving backward in thinking about dismantling Measure Y, which is essentially what laying off 200 police officers does," Dillard Smith said.

City officials say they have no choice.

"We really have two options, that's either to layoff officers or to put something on the ballot in November to bring additional tax revenues to the city," Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums' spokesperson Paul Rose said.

The Dellums administration is pushing for a new parcel tax measure on the November ballot and officials say if it doesn't pass, as many as 400 officers could be let go.

The police chief met with officers to talk about the looming layoffs. Officers gathered in East Oakland to hear about the grim possibility and now, a very realistic one.

"I think it would put the city in a lot of danger," Vergara said.

In addition to problem solving officers like Vergara, there are also other officers and OPD specialized units like the gang taskforce or the child exploitation unit that could lose their jobs.

No decisions have been made yet and the City Council has until the end of June to balance Oakland's budget.


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