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Oakland police protest council's plan to cut jobs

June 21, 2010 11:25:33 PM PDT
The Oakland police union is trying to rally public support against proposed officer layoffs. The Oakland City Council is considering laying off 200 officers, which represents 25 percent of the entire force. The drastic cuts are being proposed as a way to help balance the city's budget deficit.

The Oakland Police Officers Association says Oakland has the highest violent crime rate in the state.

"Oakland is a dangerous city; laying off 200 officers would be a tragedy," OPOA President Dominique Arotzarena said.

At a news conference in West Oakland Monday morning, Oakland resident Gwendolyn Randall made an emotional plea against layoffs. Her husband James Lee Johnson was killed there earlier this month.

"I just feel that if they get rid of the police officers there's going to be more killings and more car jackings, theft, and we're not going to have enough officers on the streets to handle these cases," she said.

Suspects are in custody, but she said that with fewer officers, crimes like that will probably go unsolved.

"Not all people who live in these neighborhoods are bad. Very decent people live here and they need protection too," Randall said.

"We are absolutely concerned about public safety. Crime has gone down and we have a great new police chief. Now is not the time to cut police officers but I don't see any other answer," Council president Jane Brunner said.

Brunner says the deficit started at $42 million. After cuts to other departments, it's down to $30.4 million.

"Even if we said close down City Hall, we close down all libraries, park and recreation, seniors, you don't fill the gap. There's no way you can do it without affecting police," she said.

The OPOA signed a concessionary deal with the city last year. They say they have made a concessionary offer this year that has been rejected. They arre now negotiating with the city over pensions.

The council vote is set for June 24.


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