Oakland City Council votes to cut 80 police officers

June 24, 2010 11:52:32 PM PDT
Keeping Oakland safe is about to get even more difficult. The city with highest violent crime rate in the state voted late Thursday night to lay off 80 of Oakland's 776 police officers.

It was a 5-3 vote. The council president said every city department is suffering cuts and police should be no exception.

The majority of speakers spoke up in favor for the layoffs. One speaker said the police have been acting like spoiled children. One officer at the meeting told ABC7 it was tough listening to the comments.

Some of the officers who will be laid off listened from the balcony as Oakland residents advocated for cuts to the police budget.

"Ask them where in the city they suggest we cut. Ask them to go to those neighborhood recreation centers, go to where these children are in our community, and tell them we want to keep our salaries, but we have to cut your program," said one speaker.

Even the Mayor Ron Dellums said letting go of 80 officers was the best plan in order to have a well-rounded city complete with recreation centers and libraries.

"We will never arrest our way to public safety," said Dellums.

Police have spent this week trying to convince the public that layoffs would be dangerous.

To drive home their point, they held a press conference Monday at the site of a recent murder, with the support of the victim's family. Even that was criticized.

"I thought it was extremely despicable, despicable that you would go to a homicide scene and use it to advance your personal interests. Something's wrong," said City Councilmember Desley Brooks.

City leaders asked police to cut 9 percent of their salary and funnel it toward pensions. Police said in exchange, they wanted a guarantee there would be no layoffs in the future. The city refused.

Earlier on Thursday, Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente said they couldn't make any guarantees because the city deficit is expected to grow each year. "Next year is going to be a $43 million deficit. The following year is $54 million. The following year is $59 [million] and the last year is $64 [million]," says De La Fuente.

Late in the meeting, one resident noticed there wasn't a lot of support for police.

"We've been bashing the police all night saying, 'Give back, give back.' There's a reason they are compensated at the rate that they are. They put their lives on the line every single day," said Oakland resident Jeff Jensen.

But the majority of speakers wanted police to take the cuts. The president of the police association, Dom Arotzarena, wasn't surprised.

"I've been here 20 years. You're used to getting shot at, you're used to getting punched, you're used to getting spit on, you're used to getting a lot of stuff. It kind of rolls off your back," said Arotzarena.

At one point in the meeting, a speaker wasn't following the rules and the council called out for help. The irony wasn't lost on the police officers who were working as security for the meeting. The layoff notices will be mailed out on Friday, but Arotzarena says he will probably meet with city council members over the weekend to try and reach a deal.

Councilmember Jane Brunner says the layoffs don't necessarily mean there'll be fewer cops on the streets. Only 240 of the 776 officers on the force are currently on patrol duty.

"What the chief has said he is going to do is move everyone from desk, put them on patrol. Put the PSOs put them on patrol and he's going to keep the response to 911 the same," says Brunner.

PSOs are problem solving officers who work in neighborhoods to address citizen complaints, but the situation could get worse. If voters fail to approve two ballot measures in November, the total number of police layoffs could total more than 200.


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