You know how Oakland politicians are constantly talking about how we can improve public safety by moving sworn officers out of desk jobs and putting them on the street? People running for office, people in office, people in office and running for re-election…pretty much everyone says this all the time. It’s one of those things that I get really sick of hearing. Like, yes, that sounds like a good idea, so why don’t you just do it already and stop talking about it. (Just like Ignacio with his constant harping about GPS and 311.)
In this case, if you watch enough meetings, you probably already have a fairly clear idea that it’s not the Council’s fault. I can’t count how many times I’ve heard at Council or Public Safety Committee meetings over the last year variations on “What’s going on with that civilianization we told you to do and you’ve been saying you’re going to do?” and of course the answer is always different and always some kind of weird excuse that conflicts with the answer from last time they asked.
Anyway, at next Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, we’ll finally get an update (PDF) on what’s going on with all that. The basic idea is that since sworn police officers cost so much more than civilian personnel, we should take those officers out of jobs that don’t require a sworn police officer and put them back on the street, then replace them with a cheaper employee. That way we add to the effective police force without having to increase our total number of officers.
So the department managed to identify a total of 47 positions they think we could do this with.
Problem is, even though adding this kind of staff costs less than adding more sworn officers, it still costs money, and as we all know, that’s something the City isn’t exactly rolling in right now. So in order to complete the switch, the Council’s going to have to find an extra four plus million dollars from somewhere.
Even if we do find the money to fund the effort, don’t expect to see progress too quickly. The implementation timeline provided by OPD would civilianize 15 positions by next summer, with the rest getting a ETA of either 1-2 years or just TBD.
In any case, this is something we’ve been waiting on for a long time, and it’s exciting to see any movement being made toward the goal whatsoever. I look forward to watching a more detailed discussion of the effort on Tuesday. If you’re inclined to tune in, the Public Safety Committee meeting (PDF) starts at 7:30 and you can catch it on KTOP, Oakland Cable Channel 10.