Talks fail, OPD lays off 80 officers

July 14, 2010 12:11:30 AM PDT
Oakland city officials and police union members met Tuesday ahead of a 5 p.m. deadline in the hopes of avoiding police layoffs.

They spent the day negotiating 80 positions in the Oakland Police Department, but with the deadline came the news that 80 Oakland police officers will be laid off.

Tuesday meetings were a back and forth between the two sides and the talks came down to how much of a salary reduction Oakland officers were willing to take, how much of their salaries they were willing to pay towards their pension, and whether they could get any protections from the city in terms of being protected from future layoffs.

The city says they could not afford to make that happen and they could not reach an agreement with police union leaders.

For the second day in a row, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and city council members spent the day in and out of emergency meetings, trying to hammer out a last-minute deal. Right up until the 5:00 deadline. The City Council was behind closed doors considering a counterproposal from the police union.

"It's unfortunate that we didn't see a vote from the rank and file on the other side," said Dellums. "I don't know what that would have been and I don't choose to speculate."

The two sides has been in agreement on one thing, that officers would pay 9 percent of their salaries into their pensions, something that would have saved the city about $7.8 million. What they could not agree on were the terms of the layoffs.

Police wanted a guarantee that there would not be more layoffs over the next three years. City leaders say they could not afford to make that promise.

"That was never a negotiating point because we could not carry out our fiduciary responsibilities talking about the second year and the third year in an iffy proposition," said Dellums.

"This is the process of negotiations and you just keep hammering out where you're apart," said Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner.

"The bottom line is the budget looks like a list of numbers, but it's also a list of community priorities," said Sgt. Brian Donehan. "Right now, many of us feel like the police department and public safety in general is not a priority here in Oakland."

Before the 5 p.m. deadline even passed, many of the 80 officers had already checked out for the very last time. They turned in their guns and badges and cleared their lockers. One Oakland officer with 1.5 years of experience told ABC7 he was an Oakland native who joined the OPD after two tours of duty in Iraq. He walked away from police headquarters hoping it wouldn't be his last time.

"You know, a lot of us are still dedicated to you know, not only to the job and to our employees, but also to the city," said Jay Factora. "I can't necessarily speak for others, but for myself, this is where I grew up, this is my home. I'm not going to leave and I'm not going to abandon it. I'm going to wait until the department opens its doors at some point and allows us to come back, and I'll be the first one in line."

"You know, I trust the OPOA, and they've represented me well, and never steered me wrong and have been completely open and honest with the officers about what is going on," said Gordon Doham, a laid off officer.

"Many of them told me that even if we had gotten a one year guarantee, they were still going to look for other jobs because they knew the city was in dire financial straits," said POA negotiator Rocky Lucia.

The police department actually functioned with fewer officers about two years ago, prior to the build-up. Still, the officers fear a lot of the ground level problem solving work they accomplished during the build-up will be lost.

City leaders say the door is still open for negotiations, but for now the talks are over.


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