Oakland facing job vacancy crisis as it goes 1 year without a police chief

Stephanie Sierra Image
Thursday, February 29, 2024
Oakland faces citywide job vacancy crisis 1 year without PD chief
Oakland has been without a police chief for more than a year, but the prolonged search comes amidst a much larger job vacancy crisis facing the city.

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Oakland has been without a police chief for more than a year, but the prolonged search comes amidst a much larger vacancy crisis facing the city.

MORE: Oakland mayor will not attend public forum introducing 4 police chief finalists

There are 789 vacant positions across the city, according to an October 2023 staffing report that's compiled twice a year. That's more than 18% of positions across all city departments.

A vacancy rate that's higher than San Francisco, San Jose, Berkeley, Concord, Hayward, Fremont and Richmond.

"I was surprised to see that - from the police department to the public works agency, where I need people to clean my streets," said Oakland City Councilmember Noel Gallo.

The I-Team's analysis of city data found 13 city departments have a vacancy rate between 20% up to 44%. These include departments that provide crucial public services like violence prevention, transportation, housing and community development, parks and recreation, the fire department, along with the city administrator and city auditor, among others.

MORE: Oakland's new resolution aims to grow and retain police staffing, increase video surveillance

There's only two departments with the fewest number of vacancies - the mayor's office and the Workforce and Employment Standards Department.

"The mayor elevated her salary and hired more people," said Gallo. "We're elected to serve the public, not ourselves."

The I-Team reached out to Mayor Sheng Thao's Office, but were told she was unavailable for an interview. Her office told us in a statement, "There's been significant hiring activity lately, with 92 new employees registered for the February New Employee Orientation."

The mayor's office couldn't clarify which departments were impacted, but says they're prioritizing hiring the most essential positions - including police officers and 911 dispatchers. Approximately, 70 of the 76 authorized dispatcher positions have been hired.

"But, I still don't have a police chief," Gallo said. "My understanding from the police commission is the mayor didn't even participate - she should be sitting at the table reviewing the candidates."

MORE: New Oakland police chief candidates revealed ahead of public forum

On Tuesday, Mayor Thao sent a letter to the city's police commission informing them she won't be attending Thursday's public forum to help select the new chief.

According to the letter, Thao states "A public forum does not help recruit the best candidates. A forum identifying candidates places those individuals at unnecessary risk with their current employers. it may also force Oakland to enter into a premature bidding war with an individual's current employer."

"Recruiting and hiring talented and dedicated people for essential public service positions is important for the City of Oakland. Like many cities and counties, attracting and hiring candidates is challenging."

One example shared was there are now 711 sworn Oakland police officers out of 712 authorized positions. The city also added they've increased police academies from four to six.

The I-Team has learned at least one officer recently left OPD to work next door in Alameda. Police Chief Nishant Joshi has an attractive offer.

"Our salaries are very competitive," said Joshi, who previously spent two decades with OPD. "The highest incentive in the country."

If you combine the starting salary with the one-time hiring bonus, an officer with no experience in Alameda is making $188,000 in year one. That bonus is distributed over a period of time, $25,000 given after being sworn in and $50,000 given after completing a field training program and committing to do five years of service.

MORE: Bay Area police department offering $75K signing bonus for new hires

Whereas in Oakland, the starting salary is $106,355.

"I'm hopeful we will have the entire patrol division fully staffed by the summer of this year," said Joshi.

The neighboring city is a stark contrast of success, as Oakland faces hundreds of resignations.

According to the city's latest October report, there have been 583 resignations in Oakland since fiscal year 2020-2021. That figure is towering over the 342 retirees that left during that same time period.

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