Oakland to bring back 10 more officers

Oakland to bring back 10 more officers

February 1, 2011 12:30:12 AM PST
The Oakland Police Department caught a break on Monday when city officials announced they will re-hire 10 of the 80 officers laid off last summer. Also, additional money from Washington could mean even more officers will get their jobs back. Back then those officers were laid off after they refused to budge on health care contributions. However, on Monday, the mayor and police chief caught everyone by surprise, including the police union.

Inside the headquarters of the Oakland Police Officers Association, there is a feeling that maybe, just maybe, the city and department just bounced from rock bottom.

"Yeah, I was a little taken off guard, today. I'm very pleased with this announcement," says OPD union president Dominique Arotzarena.

Quan and Police Chief Tony Batts announced that the city of Oakland will rehire 10 of the 80 police officers it laid off, due to budget woes, last July.

"I hope that the officers see that the city is going in the right direction, working together, to make sure their workplace, and their environment is the best," says Batts.

It has not been that way, lately -- not with 70 shootings in Oakland in January alone -- and a department that has been plagued by both hardware problems in its fleet, and software issues with its computers.

At this time, last year, the department had 800 officers. Now, that number is 650.

John Breden is one of those former officers who lost his job. He says these last six months have not been easy. Nor does he expect to be among the first 10 hired back.

"It's difficult out there trying to find another agency. There are so many officers that are out of jobs, not just in Oakland, but throughout the state," says Breden.

Oakland says the 10 rehirings will be based on seniority. The process may take days, even weeks. Nor does the union consider this an end to the city's problems.

"It's 10, obviously I would like to have it be 80. However, it's a step in the right direction. We have some movement, I'll bring some officers back," says Dominique.

Even with the rehirings, both the union and the police describe the department as being understaffed. Especially in a city that is ranked as one of the most dangerous in California.

According to FBI statistics, last year Oakland averaged 21.9 murders for every 100,000 citizens.