Cuts, retirments cutting OPD workfore

A 46-year-old man was shot and killed after leaving a class for people on probation or parole to get their GED.

December 6, 2010 7:16:35 PM PST
Oakland's police department is shrinking so fast, it doesn't have enough officers to cover some patrols and many of its investigative units have been drastically cut.

In November, 2008 the Oakland Police Department declared itself "fully staffed" with the swearing in of 38 new officers, bringing the total at that time to 837.

"I believe our new number is 668 officers," said Dom Artozarena, the president of the Oakland Police Officer's Association.

Artozarena says recently the department's been losing about 10 officers per month, on top of the 80 layed off in July. He said a fair number have also been hired away by other departments in the Bay Area.

"A lot of people are also taking service retirements, a lot of people are leaving earlier than they normally would," Artozarena said

Of the current 668 total, 77 offices are currently on medical leave, about twice the normal number.

"There's really low morale here at the police department," said Arotzarena. "A lot of police officers here feel that city management has failed them."

"These are the realities of the budget," said Oakland City Councilman Ignacio De La Fuente, who believes police officers should have to do their part in tough times. "Mayor-elect Jean Quan already said it," said De La Fuente. "I think they need to start paying the 9 percent on their pension as part of whatever we do."

In July, the OPOA did agree to pay 9 percent, but only in exchange for a promise from the city that there would be no officer layoffs for three years. The City Council rejected that offer and due to prior agreement, the officers will begin paying 2 percent, beginning in 2013.

Oakland Chamber of Commerce President Joseph Haraburda is concerned about the disappearing police force.

"Obviously we need to change the perception of our city and the way that we do that is to make it a safer place," he said.

Restoring the force to previous levels could be tough. Next year, Oakland's budget deficit is expected to be about $60 million.