Oakland police have less than 700 officers for 1st time in 6 years

OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Homicide and assault rates are on the rise in Oakland and Tuesday we received word that in the last four days the police department lost another three officers, bringing the number of officers there below 700.

It's the lowest number of officers we've seen in Oakland in the last six years.

"I think it's important to acknowledge that we are in a state of emergency," says District 6 Oakland Councilmember Loren Taylor. Taylor was addressing concerns about the uptick of violent crimes in Oakland and the number of total police officers there dropping below 700 for the first time in 6 years.

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"We have excessive gun violence that we haven't seen for four or five years and it's important that we respond commensurately," said Councilmember Taylor.

Homicides in Oakland have risen by 40 percent according to the Police Officers' Association.

The head of the POA says three officers have left the department in the last four days and the problem could get worse.

"Officers are leaving in droves, they don't feel valued, their vocations isn't preserved by the city council, they're derided and vilified at every turn," says Oakland POA President Barry Donelan.

2012 saw the lowest number of Oakland police officers in the last decade and the highest number of homicides, but Cat Brooks of the Anti Police-Terror Project says more officers doesn't mean fewer homicides.

"Spike in homicides started over a year ago when they had those numbers of crime. There's actually no definitive data that demonstrates a correlation between more cops and less crime," says Brooks.

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Taylor was one of just two councilmembers who recently voted against redirecting more than $17 million away from the police department, money that would have gone to two additional academies, which would have brought in more officers.

Now though at least one council member who voted in favor of that move is in support of some sort of additional academy.

"I think councilmembers are recognizing the seriousness of the situation and the need to increase the officers on the street especially as we are bridging the gap between now and the future state when we will have a more reimagined and reconstructed public safety system," says Taylor.

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