OAKLAND | A package of three proposals to quickly bulk up the number of police officers on the streets of Oakland breezed though the finance and management committee Tuesday afternoon and will come before the full council in coming weeks.
The law enforcement ordinances offered by Councilmembers Libby Schaaf and Larry Reid would quickly add up to 21 non-civilian employees to aid its depleted crime lab and set up a police academy that will eventually add up to 40 officers to the police department’s dwindling force by next year. The council had previously approved the police academy, but Tuesday's plan moves to expedite it to this June.
More controversially, a third portion of the proposal would immediately infuse the force with 10 Alameda County deputy sheriffs and a sergeant for a 90-day crime suppression plan at a cost of $265,000. The expenditure would be taken out of the city’s general fund and includes a clause for reauthorizing another 90 days, bringing the total to $530,000.
“I think we know Oakland has had a horrific week,” said Schaaf, alluding to a spate of murders over the past weekend. “It is clear we need to put our money where our mouth is at.”
None of the committee members, also including Council President Pat Kernighan and Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan registered any opposition to the proposal; neither did the public. Councilmember Desley Brooks was absent.
Kernighan and Schaaf, however, were most vocal in supporting Oakalnd Police Chief Howard Jordan, while emphasizing the proposals before them Tuesday were not long-term solutions, but priorities moving in the right direction. “I’m very big on the City Council letting the chief be the chief,” said Kernighan. She also offered addition support for hiring even more cops in the future. “Today is just the beginning of the discussion.”
Added Kaplan: “We need more officers on the streets right now. This action is urgent, important and in keeping with the data we have about what works.”
While none of the council members questioned Jordan’s request for short-term help from the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office for 10 officers, he nonetheless spoke to some of the criticism from community leaders and his own police officers’ union. “This is road map to getting more officers on the street,” Jordan said Tuesday. “This is a cry that I made for help to the governor.” Jordan also said outsourcing to the county “is not unusually for the city.” Mutual aid was provided by county sheriffs and neighboring cities on numerous occasions, as recently as 2011, during the Occupy Oakland protests.
Jordan attempted to quell some concerns over the sheriff’s department role in fighting crime alongside Oakland police officers. “They are not here to take over the department,” Jordan said. “They are here at my request to help us.” OPD would have primarily jurisdiction, said Jordan. He characterized the sheriffs deputies as a “supplemental resource” with all intelligence fed to them by officers at OPD. The 10 added officers would be utilized twice a week for the 90-day action and used on the active days and hours of the week, he said.
The scene later Tuesday evening for the public safety committee set for 5:30 will likely be far more contentious. A proposed $250,000 consulting contract for William Bratton, the former police chief for Los Angeles and New York City will be discussed. While some experts laud Bratton for his innovative tactics for lowering crime, others, especially in Oakland, have voiced concern over the tactic known as “stop and frisk.”
The strategy has come under fire in New York by critics who say it infringes on civil rights and disproportionately targets minorities and youths. Acknowledging the looming fight later today, Kernighan, who called it “an interesting debate,” urged those supportive of law enforcement to voice their support amid the likely torrents of opposition tonight. “We are going to see people that don’t think police are part of the solution,” she said. “We need to build the voices of support. They are out there. They send us emails, but they don’t want to show up at council meetings.”