Stressing that nothing will be finalized until the middle of the summer, Oakland police spokeswoman Holly Joshi said reorganizing the criminal investigation division, known as CID for short, "would make us more efficient."
But Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, the president of the union that represents Oakland officers, said the proposal "would significantly affect the way we do investigations," and not necessarily for the better.
Arotzarena said if the proposed change is made, officers in the CID would focus on violent crimes such as homicides, robberies and assaults. Conversely, he said, property crimes such as burglaries and thefts would be given a lower priority and in many cases would not be investigated.
"It's a big deal," Arotzarena said.
The criminal investigation division currently has separate units for homicides, robberies and assaults.
Joshi said that under the proposal that was presented to the union last week, officers assigned to the CID would work in all three categories, not just one.
"Officers would be generalists instead of specialists," she said.
Joshi said officers would "broaden their capabilities" and there would be "team investigations" instead of investigations by a few officers in each unit.
Arotzarena said the union was told that CID would be divided into five teams of four officers each.
One team would be on-call for major breaking crimes for a week at a time on a rotating basis, he said. Teams not on call would focus on long-term investigations and other duties.
Arotzarena said, "It will be very difficult that week" for the team that's on call.
"There will be a lot of work, and it will be so overwhelming that some things won't get done," Arotzarena said. "It's just too much."
However, Arotzarena said he understands that the main reason the department's leadership is proposing the change is that it must cope with Oakland's large budget shortfall.
"I don't blame them at all given the limited resources they have," he said.
But Arotzarena warned, "No one knows how it will work."