Oakland council votes to hire more police

March 5, 2008 11:35:34 AM PST
Oakland police are looking for someone who killed one man and wounded another early today. The shooting happened just before 6:00 a.m. near the intersection of San Pablo Avenue and 32nd Street. And it came just hours after the city council voted on a plan that could beef up Oakland's understaffed police force.

The police department in relieved to know that it can hire more police officers, but they say hiring those officers isn't as easy as it sounds. It's hard to say if more police officers on the streets of Oakland would have prevented the shooting that happened on San Pablo Avenue at 5:40 this morning. But they certainly wouldn't have hurt.

"An officer has an ability, with his presence alone, to prevent crimes and that's what we want," said Ofc. Roland Holmgren, Oakland police department.

The shooting came just hours after the city council voted unanimously last night to spend $7.7 million dollars to hire more Oakland police officers. The goal is to have 803 officers on the street by the end of the year. Right now they have 729.

"We need at least 1,000 or 1,200, but I don't think we'll ever see that," said Ofc. Rufus Wright, Oakland police department.

Rank and file officers and residents alike seem to agree this will only chip away at a huge problem.

"They need to put more police officers out on the street. They may need to bring in the National Guard, who knows, this is a rough neighborhood," said Richard Littlejohn, Oakland resident.

Police plan to use some of the money to rent out space at the sheriff's training academy, so they can train more recruits at once and get them on the streets. But, when you consider the department loses about five officers a month to retirement, and that about 30 to 40 percent of recruits drop out of the academy, just maintaining status quo is tough enough. But while they hustle to beef up the ranks - police and residents both hope the city is also looking for other solutions.

"That's what they need is more jobs and get these kids back in school. That's what I believe," said Richard Littlejohn.

Last night, the city council approved a sign on bonus for any cops who transfer to Oakland from another department. Oakland has its eye on the Vallejo police department where police are facing pay cuts because Vallejo is facing bankruptcy.