Oakland police try to do more with less

July 6, 2011 5:10:28 PM PDT
It will be a new Oakland Police Department, but that might not mean better. Oakland's police chief unveiled a major reorganization plan Wednesday.

The chief says they will see more crimes solved and better public service, but that really remains to be seen. There are fewer officers on the force now and those that are there will be doing a lot more work

Chief Anthony Batts is bargain shopping in a way, by trying to figure out how to get more out of his police force with less money and fewer officers.

"The unfortunate part is we don't have the capacity to deal with the demand that we have in the city of Oakland," Batts said.

The complete top to bottom department reorganization begins to take effect this weekend.

Oakland residents will see the difference, starting with the elimination of the entire motorcycle force. In addition to their regular patrol duties, officers in cars will now respond to all traffic calls, more officers will patrol high crime east Oakland and many officers will be walking the beat at least four hours a week.

Additionally, all homicides, robberies assaults and searches for fugitives will fall under the umbrella of a major crimes unit. Officers who now specialize in individual crimes will be retrained to learn how to investigate all the major crimes.

One of the most violent cities in the country now has just 636 officers on the force. Police expect that number to drop even more and for crime to go up this summer.

Batts says the Oakland Police Department will have a new focus.

"Our focus is going to be dealing with homicides and violent crime," he said.

But some wonder what that means for other crimes and traffic enforcement and their priority in the city.

"I think the community will see an effect pretty quickly given the fact that traffic is such a huge entity in this city," Oakland police union spokesperson Barry Donelan said.

Some changes will happen as soon as this weekend, while others will roll out in August.

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