$1.5 million in police recruitment ad money denied

When I was buying my plane ticket for vacation, I struggled with when to return. My real work schedule allowed me to come home on Tuesday, but I hesitated to stay away that long, since it would mean missing all the Committee meetings for that day. I ultimately decided that it was beyond sad to schedule a vacation around the City Council, and went ahead and booked the longer trip.

Of course, when I found out that yesterday’s Committee meetings included a report (PDF!) from the Oakland Partnership, more discussion of the Estuary Policy Plan update, and Dellums’s police recruitment strategy at the Public Safety Committee, I was kicking myself. So many important topics, and I was going to miss them all!

Luckily I can get DVDs from KTOP, but until then, I’m stuck trying to tease out what happened based on a Trib story.

Anyway, it looks like one major decision last night was that we aren’t going to be spending a full $1.5 million on advertising, as requested in Dellums’s plan:

The committee gave its approval to the Dellums proposal only after taking steps to limit Measure Y’s contribution, demanding that officer bonuses be part of the package and insisting that the city spent less than $1.5 million on advertising and marketing, as Dellums had asked for.

How much money we will be spending on advertising, I don’t know.

The Express has a story about the recruitment plan today, and as usual, the degree to which Gammon gets basic facts wrong is almost comical. Not only does he apparently lack the most basic grasp of what the “strong Mayor” form of government means or how the City Council operates, but he also can’t even correctly report the major points of the proposal:

The mayor proposed operating four police academies in 2008

If Robert Gammon had bothered to read the proposal (PDF!) he keeps calling “ambitious,” he would know that it actually requests 6 academies this year, not 4.
In a blog post on the matter, Gammon criticizes the Public Safety Committee’s desire to reject the advertising allocation in favor of hiring bonuses, since signing bonuses are apparently “not an effective use of taxpayer funds.”

I find it fairly hilarious that Tucker could make such a statement with a straight face, when I have a hard time thinking of a less effective use of taxpayer funds than throwing even more money into recruitment strategies that yield virtually no applicants.

When job applicants take their written exam, they are asked where they heard about the available OPD positions. In November, the Police Department presented a report (PDF!) to the Public Safety Committee on the current recruitment efforts. This report contains a list of what every candidate’s response was during the most recent reporting period. In spite of aggressive media campaigns, hardly anyone who actually sat for the tests reported TV, radio, or newspaper ads as their source of referral:

Here are the actual numbers, broken down into more source detail:

With results like that, it seems to me that adding even more money to our advertising budget is about as smart an idea as tossing it onto a compost heap.

6 thoughts on “$1.5 million in police recruitment ad money denied

  1. Dogtown Commoner

    I’m not sure I would read too much into those numbers. The two biggest responses are “Friend or Relative” and “OPDJobs.com” But does that really mean that 254 respondents just happened to go to OPDjobs.com to see if the OPD was recruiting? Or did a lot of those people see a TV or newspaper ad, then go on the internet to find more details? Similarly with the 160 Friend or Relative responses — if Joe knows that his friend Jim is looking for a new job and he says “Hey Jim, I think Oakland might be hiring police recruits,” isn’t it possible that a decent number of those originate with advertising of some kind? The pdf notes that respondents could check more than one answer, but I wonder how many people who saw an ad then went to OPDjobs.com just chose OPDJobs.com as their only response on the questionnaire.

    I’m not necessarily arguing that the advertising has been effective, but I’m not totally convinced by these numbers that it has been ineffective either. Has Tucker or anyone else explained why signing bonuses are considered an ineffective use of funds? They seem like a decent idea to me, especially if Oakland is hoping to lure officers away from other departments, but I haven’t studied the pros and cons at all.

  2. MJH

    While I agree that signinficant consideration should be given to the signing bonus option, how do you suggest we generate interest in, and awareness of, potential available signing bonuses without putting substantial dollars towards the advertising campaign?
    This question should be taken in literal terms, as opposed to the a sarcastic alternative.


  3. Vicki

    They failed to ask about billboards. I’ve seen billboards this time. I haven’t otherwise heard/seen about OPD recruitment except here.

  4. CaliforniaCCW

    Why aren’t the residents of Oakland demanding CCW (concealed handgun permit) reform? CCW reform has been a success in 40 other states in the US. Every state within 1,000 miles of California is shall-issue. CCW issuance costs the city nothing (it’s paid for by fees). It makes business owners safer and will help keep much-needed jobs in the city. Oakland can join the 40 other states that issue, and the 20 counties in California that also issue concealed handgun permits. If the situation is so bad, and there’s no money available, it’s time to try a proven, no-cost solution that has worked everywhere else.

  5. Mike Hardy

    along the lines of Dogtown Commoner, I also wouldn’t put too much stock in the numbers, but I wouldn’t because they lack important context. Unless we also get to see how much was spent on what (hiring bonuses, advertising buys in various places, referal bonuses) we just can’t see what the most efficient $$-per-applicant ratio is

    With that in mind, it is possible to then speculate and say “we haven’t gotten many applicants from Radio ads because we’ve only run one, but we did get 7 applicants from that one ad, so it’s very efficient and we want to do more”. I’m not saying that represents reality at all, I’m just saying that without knowing how much money was pumped into a category, making (for instance) a “more radio” or “less radio” decision isn’t possible. Ditto for any of the other efforts

    I love the digging you’ve done so far though, and I wonder why the folks who are supposed to be doing this as their JOB (the OPD, that is) can’t easily and quickly cite these sorts of things.

  6. Patrick McCullough

    The reason the office holders want to pump more of our money into advertising is they know it’s hard to entice people who are familiar with Oakland’s recent history. Potential candidates don’t stay away because they’re afraid of the high level of crime; they aren’t unaware that large cities offer the chance to make $100K a year. What keeps many of the best away is knowing that the same politicians who first beckon them, will at the drop of a hat — or a complaint — turn their back on them and throw them to the wolves (cop-haters, muck-racking mews media, and lawyers). Word gets around that they’ll seldom if ever receive sincere expressions of gratitude, but will be scapegoated for eveything from budget deficits to why Johnny can’t read. Hiding the truth takes big bucks.