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140 fewer officers? Try 202

on June 13, 2009

Mayor Ron Dellums’ proposal to reduce the Oakland Police Department by 140 officers if he fails to get federal stimulus money could end up cutting 202 officers and effectively ending  community policing, according to police.

The emergency 911 would not be affected, police said. “It is going to be traffic officers and Problem Solving Officers,” said Jeffrey Thomason, the public information officer at the Oakland Police Department.

Thomason said that even if the cuts were made, the Oakland Police Department would maintain 100 officers on each patrol command in East, North and West Oakland. However, Thomason said that the biggest blow would be to community policing, which  was strengthened after the passage of Measure Y in 2004.

Measure Y funds the Oakland Police Department with $20 million a year and adds 62 officers to the police department. Fifty-seven Problem Solving Officers are assigned to each of the 57 crime areas to work with the community.

“If we are going to cut 140 officers, Measure Y is not going to fund 57 Problem Solving Officers and six additional officers for the Crime Reduction Team,” said Thomason.  That would mean the Oakland Police Department would lose 202 officers in total—not just 140.

Measure Y mandates that to receive the extra funding, the city’s police force stay at a minimum of 739 officers.

“The city only pays salaries of 739 officers out of 805, letting Measure Y money go does not save any money for the city. The city only loses Problem Solving Officers,” Thomason said.

Residents are already uneasy about the possibility of losing any Problem Solving Officers.

“We saw a reduction in homicides and burglary ever since Measure Y has funded Problem Solving Officers,” said Sandra Sanders-West, a neighborhood service coordinator in parts of West and Downtown Oakland area.

The officers have been effective, according to city reports. The 2007 Strategic Area Command Report said that Problem Solving Officers and Crime Reduction Teams were efficient especially in a parolee compliance project in District 3, in the western part of Oakland. Approximately 15 operations were conducted over the course of 11months resulting in 40 compliance checks with 15 arrests and 10 guns recovered. The officers were also efficient in reducing drug dealing and gang activity near 4601 Park Blvd, the report said.

Others agreed. “Nobody knows about the community better than the residents,” said Paul Brekke Miesner, a neighborhood service coordinator in North Oakland. Brekke Miesner said that, the officers had been effective by listening to the local residents and working with them. “The communication between the police and community is very important for crime prevention, he said.

Sanders-West added that cutting police protection could endanger tourism.

“The city of Oakland is hosting a marathon next month inviting more than 8,000 people as a part of positive campaign, “ said Sanders-West an Oakland resident for 33 years. “But if we are going to reduce the number of police officers, people will think Oakland is still a dangerous place to visit.”

In 2007, Oakland recorded the third highest murder rate in California behind Richmond and Compton. Oakland’s rape and robbery rates were almost twice those of Richmond and Compton, making Oakland’s violent crime rate the highest overall.

Oakland currently maintains 18 police officers per 10,000 residents. However, the cuts would reduce that number to 15 per 10,000 Oakland residents. According to a 2004 census, New York has 44 officers per 10,000, San Francisco 29, and Los Angeles 23.

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Photo by Basil D Soufi
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