Federal grant helps kick off Oakland police academy

December 5, 2011 7:40:51 PM PST
With their numbers dwindling, Oakland police welcomed a badly-needed class of recruits on Monday, but will they actually have an impact in the city's most violent neighborhoods? ABC7 took a look at that critical question.

There is some concern about the outcome. The grant that is paying for these new officers requires they be stationed near schools. The president of the police union says that's fine, but he's concerned that the requirement may be hard to work around if the overall staffing level doesn't continue to grow.

It's been three years since Oakland's top officials have had the pleasure of welcoming a new class of police recruits.

"I know you could have gone other places. Some of your classmates left, but you chose to be here, you chose to stay here, and we're very thankful that you did that because we need your help," said Interim Police Chief Howard Jordan.

All of the men in the class thought they had jobs in Oakland in July 2010, only to be laid off just as they were about to begin their field training.

The grant requires the city to station officers around middle schools in the 100 blocks identified as the highest crime areas in the city.

"Twenty-five officers will now be assigned to five to six middle schools in our 100 block area," said Oakland Mayor Jean Quan.

"We want to protect our children and our community. So the officers will start at a school and work outward," said Johnna Watson from the Oakland Police Department.

The 10 recruits will eventually be joined by 15 more officers, paid for with $10 million in federal grant money.

"This does not necessarily free up anyone," said Oakland Police Officers' Association president Dom Arotzarena.

Arotzarena says with staffing levels down to just 645 officers, the grant requirements could be limiting.

"Now, if the officers, through patrolling these middle school areas, can solve some of our crime issues in these areas, then of course that would drop our calls for service in general," said Arotzarena.

Having waited so long for this opportunity, Oakland recruit Jared Blue can't wait to get started.

"It's great. I'm glad to come back. It's a dream job and I get a second chance to do it," said Blue.

The federal grant that's paying for these positions will last for three years. At this point, the Oakland City Council has agreed to fund the positions beyond that after the grant money runs out.


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