Residents prepare for impacts of OPD layoffs

July 14, 2010 7:58:06 PM PDT
Now the streets of Oakland are being patrolled by 80 fewer police officers. They were laid-off on Tuesday, which means residents are dealing with a new reality.

With fewer cops there will be longer response times or perhaps no response at all. It turns out city officials were warned two years ago about the dangers of a smaller police force.

Security alarm signs outnumber white picket fences in one Oakland hills neighborhood where there has been a surge in burglaries. Neighbors who were already on edge, are even more so now knowing that fewer officers means unless there's a suspect description, police will no longer respond to burglary calls.

"Obviously that's a cutback that's going to hurt, especially around here because burglaries are on our mind," says neighbor Michelle Meyers.

Eighty officers lost their jobs, after days of closed-door negotiations failed to bring a compromise between the cash strapped city and police union.

Now there are 694 officers on the Oakland police force. The Alameda County civil grand jury found OPD was understaffed two years ago. It said back then that Oakland needs nearly double the number of officers it has today in order to keep the streets safe.

"Do we need more officers? Absolutely, but until we have money and revenue to do that, we're not going to be able to," says Oakland City Council president Jane Brunner.

She says Oakland's $31 million deficit is what's dictating the staffing levels. Police say the public will see the difference because they'll have no choice but to answer fewer calls.

"With over 300,000 calls for service coming into OPD, we do need more officers here. We're just not going to be able to provide the same service other communities provide," says Oakland Police spokesman Jeff Thomason.

Both sides are now relying on Oakland voters come November. If they don't pass two measures, one of them a possible tax hike, 122 more officers will be laid off come January 1.

While some residents say more police is not the solution, others like Meyers can't imagine what life will be like with less. Police managed to catch the suspects who recently broke into her neighbor's home.

"I keep thinking, which of those 80 were the ones that were in front of our house catching these three suspects?" says Meyers.


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