Nearly half of Oakland PD absent from work

February 27, 2008 12:00:00 AM PST
Next Tuesday, the Oakland City Council will vote on Mayor Ron Dellums' request for $7.7 million dollars to recruit and train more police officers. What about getting the officers already in the department to show up for work? We went to Oakland and tried to get top city and police officials to reveal what they're doing to reduce the department's staggering absentee rate.

"We need to get 803 police officers. Let's get it done!" said Mayor Ron Dellums, as he requested for money for more police.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums and Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker have both been highly visible and vocal in their public pleas for nearly $8 million dollars to hire additional police officers.

But today, neither was available when ABC7 asked why so many of Oakland's current officers are absent on a daily basis.

It's a question that Oakland City Councilmember Jane Brunner wants answered too.

"Are they out on training? Are they out on sick leave? Family leave? It's been a struggle over the last year and a half to actually get the information from the police department," says Brunner.

According to an independent arbitrator last November, the daily absentee rate for the Oakland police department was more than 40 percent. That means four out of ten officers scheduled to work a particular shift don't show up. According to the arbitrator, Oakland's rate is at least twice as high as comparable departments.

Michael Rains, attorney for the Oakland Police Officers Association, did talk to us. He attributes many past absences to Oakland's high injury rate and current and future ones to a new 12-hour work schedule.

"The workforce is becoming demoralized under this format. And that means probably you're going to have increased illnesses, more officers calling in sick," says Michael Rains, Attorney for Oakland Police Officers Association.

Besides illness and disability, a department spokesman blamed state and federal training for the high absentee rate. It's a notion disputed by the watchdog group "People United For a Better Oakland."

"I can't imagine how you could classify training as absence. Training is on the job. They're being paid. They're presumably upgrading their professionalism, so that makes no sense to me," says Rashidah Grinage, People United For A Better Oakland.

A deputy chief told us that his report will show a reduction in his absentee rate, which is due to the Oakland City Council by Friday. Next Tuesday, the council will consider a recruitment plan that is being proposed by the Mayor and Oakland's police chief.