Oakland police brace for layoffs

July 10, 2010 8:09:22 PM PDT
Oakland police confronted rioters Thursday night in the aftermath of the Johannes Mehserle trial verdict, but now they are facing a different crisis -- imminent layoffs for 80 officers beginning Tuesday.

Oakland's Chinatown, where several businesses suffered damage Thursday night, is expecting to lose as many as four foot patrol officers.

"It's going to be devastating in Chinatown because we'll be losing the Asian liaison officer and we'll also be losing the neighborhood services coordinator," Chinatown Chamber of Commerce member Carl Chan said.

Chan tells ABC7 discussions are underway to have business owners pool their own money to pay for Oakland officers to watch over their neighborhood.

Foot patrols in the Diamond District in downtown Oakland would also disappear and about 60 officers who work in the problem solving unit would be shifted as police refocus on 911 calls.

Among those out of work would be Gordon Dorham, a patrol officer in East Oakland who joined the force just over two years ago.

"I want the citizens to know that I'll keep doing my job, I'll get up every morning and I'll go and protect them and I'll go and stand between good and bad; I just want to know that I'm going to have a way of supporting myself and putting food on the table," Dorham said.

The city wants officers to contribute 9 percent of their salaries to their pensions. The officers' union has agreed to that, but it also wants a guarantee of no layoffs for three years, something the city says it cannot promise.

"We want a guarantee that we're not going to go through this layoff thing next year," Oakland Police Officers Association spokesperson Dom Arotzarena said. "We went through this last year when we gave a concession, an over $30 million concession so we could avoid layoffs, and now we're here again this year."

City negotiator and council member Jane Brunner says that won't work, with larger deficits expected.

"There is no negotiations going forward; if they keep to the three years, it will be hard to get past that, but we're very open to conversations and see if either side can come up with something," she said.

The city says if voters this November pass Measure Y as well as a tax proposal, all 80 of the officers can be rehired. If the measures are rejected, another 124 officers could be laid off.


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