OPD at 837 doesn’t mean what Dellums seems to think it means

So, if you read the newspaper, it probably did not escape your notice that the Oakland Police Department has now exceeded its staffing requirement of 803 officers, and is, in fact, now at its highest level of staffing in history, with a total of 837 officers.

When you read these stories, you may have noticed two claims from Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums that probably made you feel a little better about the direction Oakland’s been heading. First, this one:

“We have now met the test and responsibility of Measure Y,” said Mayor Ron Dellums. “That’s an extraordinary thing.”

As a matter of fact, we haven’t. Measure Y does not simply mandate a total staffing level of 803 officers. Measure Y funds an additional 63 positions above the previously authorized 739, and gives very specific instructions about what those officers will do. It’s supposed to guarantee a Problem Solving Officer (PSO) in every beat. We now have PSOs assigned to every beat, but due to equipment shortages, many of them split their time between the beat they’re assigned to and another. It’s also supposed to add six officers to Oakland’s crime reduction teams. Not only have we not done that, but we’ve actually disbanded the existing crime reduction teams to serve as field training officers for the new recruits. Measure Y was also supposed to supply school resource officers and domestic violence officers, which, of course, hasn’t been done.

In the meantime, Measure Y funds, instead of paying for the positions explicitly delineated in the measure, have been funding the 6 Sergeants who supervise the 57 PSOs. I am not pointing this out to minimize the achievement of reaching full staffing, and I know that to some people, it probably seems like nitpicking or gratuitously raining on the Department’s parade or something. That’s not my intention.

I understand that these issues of what was promised and what was mandated versus what was delivered are probably migraine-inducing to people who just want enough police on the street. But I wouldn’t keep harping on them if I didn’t honestly believe they’re important. For me, this is an issue of the public trust, and the betrayal of that trust by the City. When you take someone’s money, you have to give them what you promised them. When City Councilmembers sign a ballot argument asking people to vote to tax themselves that says:

Measure Y will decrease violent crime by adding at least one community policing officer in each neighborhood beat, and expand specialized teams focused on violent crime, drug dealing, and gang activities.

the City needs to then deliver those specialized teams. It isn’t okay to lower our expectations just because they say it’s too hard to meet them. It’s like dealing with a self-involved boyfriend. You might get all upset when he flakes on something important to you or says he’ll bring you hot and sour soup when you’re sick, but instead shows up with wonton soup, because he likes wonton soup better even though he should know by now that you hate it. It’s totally tempting to just not say anything because you don’t want to seem petty or whiny or too demanding or whatever. But when you let it slide, all you’re doing is telling him that’s it’s okay to treat you that way. Why would you then expect him to ever behave any differently in the future? Same exact thing with the City. When we give the City a pass on abandoning their promises on one issue, we’re letting them know that the practice is okay. Why should they then feel obligated to do anything else they say they will?

The other thing you may have found heartening from all the news accounts is this:

Tucker and Dellums said violent crime is down from last year, which they cautiously attributed to more officers being on the force and problem-solving officers being assigned to each of the city’s 63 police beats.

Unfortunately, this is also not true. Violent crime is, in fact, up from last year. As of November 13th (xls), we were at 7,054 violent crimes for the year. Last year at that date, we were at 6,799. That’s a 3.8% increase. That’s right, violent crime is up from last year, when we had a total of 7,900 violent crimes reported for the year, representing an increase of 4% over 2006, when there were 7,599 violent crimes reported. That figure, of course, was 38% higher than it had been in 2006, when we recorded 5,519 violent crimes, which was 7% higher than the 5,150 we had in 2004. So, to sum up. Violent crime is not down from last year, it’s up. And last year’s violent crime total is 53% higher than it was in 2004, the year Oakland voters passed Measure Y.

Another sad bit of news in all this is that in order to pay for all these new officers, we had to cancel our next scheduled academy. This means the achievement, such that it is, may be short-lived. At the October 14, 2008 Public Safety Committee meeting, Assistant Chief Howard Jordan told the Councilmembers present “If we don’t fund the December academy, we will be below 803 by April.”

The coverage of the graduation of the 165th Academy also highlighted another long-standing problem I have with our local traditional media – they don’t seem to know how to have any fun with the news. How else to explain that while every report I saw featured a quote from at least one of the graduates, not a single one of them used new officer Jesse Lawless for that part of the story? Talk about missed opportunities.

13 thoughts on “OPD at 837 doesn’t mean what Dellums seems to think it means

  1. Jennifer

    Sounds like Dellums and Tucker have close to a Palin-like grasp of reality — even it what they say contradicts the facts, simply by them saying it makes it true. Isn’t there a name for that mental illness?

  2. ronoz

    Add this hiring toxicity to all the other debacles in the Tucker almost four years… He has survived incredibly , by many accounts, in the zone between mediocrity and incompetence. Look at the stats carefully. He has reigned over the fastest acceleration of violent crimes in Oakland’s history – at a time when everywhere else the trend has been downward.

    However, this recruiting/hiring/training fiasco might well fall within the bounds of fraud or deceit too obvious to ignore… Just think for a moment… Tucker convinced Lenore Anderson (Public Safety Director) and Dellums that we were in a hiring crisis when he had to know we weren’t. Edgerly co-signed his February 19 report that was rife with recruiting/hiring/training crisis. The Council saw it as the “Augmented Police recruitment Program.” I presented narratives at the time to the policymakers trying to warn them. Look at the tape… it was a panic. Edgerly and Tucker wanted $7,722,339. They had to know better. Anderson and Dellums were likely duped, but added their gravitas. The Council fell neatly into the trap..

    Reid asked, Where do you think you’ll find the needed 110 individuals in the next four months? The last sentence in Tucker’s emergency report stated “…an aggressive and creative recruiting campaign must begin immediately.”

    They all bit, hook -line-and-sinker. But wait a minute. On November 14, just last Friday, there were 837 cops on the OPD payroll. That’s 34 (35) more than authorized.

    Work backwards… it takes 26 weeks in the Academy, and over 12 weeks of background investigations, and a dropout rate of about 36.6% (in the report). Looking at these factors should tell us what Tucker really knew and when… versus what he told the policy makers.

    He told the policy makers in his report that he expected to have 807 cops on Dec 1 and that he would lose five that month. If true that would cut it really close for Dellums’ promise to have 803 by year end. But it wasn’t true.

    Going back 266 days from graduation day on Nov 14, 38 weeks, is to visit February 22,2008 – at the time of his dramatic presentations to the policy makers who finally gave him what he wanted on March 10. He already had more candidates than he needed!

    The academy graduated 38 cops, and if they had an attrition rate of 36.6% that means that 26 weeks earlier Tucker had about 60 enter the academy. Memory tells me it was less, so make it 50 for argument sake. Doesn’t matter, except to know what others inside knew back in February.

    It means that Tucker had to have known that he had enough candidates recruited and in the hiring pipeline by February 22 to give Dellums at least 837 cops by November 14. So why did he make a raid on Measure Y $7.7 million – when he didn’t need it?

    As for your other points regarding Measure Y and the Violent Crime rates not being truthfully addressed, these are only the tip of the iceberg. Tucker’s veracity should have been challenged going back to early 2004 when he closed the Jails and continued to methodically dismantle the OPD since.

    I count at least two dozen serious issues that are thinning the ice on which Tucker is skating. The Chauncey Bailey and Search Warrant affairs are merely the latest. Even though, as you point out, the violent crimes are up, while Tucker says they have gone down… it would be nice to conduct a forensic audit to see where they really are. There is significant under-reporting, mis-reporting, non-reporting to be sure.

    Just imagine how Tucker was able to foist “Area Command” and 12-hour shifts. He made statements without facts… appealing to a desperate audience… just like the hiring debacle.

    I regret acting so quickly with this comment, but I’ve been traveling and out of the loop lately. Anyone wishing to see considerably more detail on OPD/Tucker/violent crime/better solutions/etc… should read some of the essays on ronoz.com to stimulate their own questions and thoughts.

    ronoz.com is not meant to be a blog, but having it saves me having to copy the many requests. I have nothing but admiration for http://www.abetteroakland.com as it is truly a worthwhile, credible and relevant blog. … with much respect…


  3. Robert

    V, It looks like almost $1M of the $3.2 M went to “administrative support costs” with not further explanation. Know what these are?

  4. Mike Spencer

    OPD and Dellums can yap-yap all they want. I live in a “nice” neighborhood just below Montclair; the last couple months we are plagued with auto theft, auto break-ins and residental burglaries.

    Does OPD ever do anything proactive, i.e. bait cars? (Remember the SFPD vid of them catching the guy on camera who busted into the car and stole the laptop?) It just blows me away how OPD and The City seem to constantly be reinventing the wheel. THIS IS WHAT YOU DO FOR A LIVING. I would say get Tucker out, hire a dynamic top-cop and turn law enforcement over to the professionals, not to the Mayor or the Council.

    Quality of life crimes are under-reported but just a constant annoyance, and one that Oaklanders too readily tolerate.

  5. Andrea

    This is a “purely for the sake of argument” comment, but what if the drafting on the original ballot measure was the problem? Specifically, why should it be left to the voters to understand the nuances of police management and deployment? When I voted on it, I didn’t understand it to specifically require a certain kind of policing; I understand it to increase police staffing, and I wanted that. (Of course, now I’ve seen all 5 seasons of The Wire, so I have opinions about how police should be assigned.) And while I agree that trust of city officials is rightfully at an all-time low, maybe the Obama victory has caused me to put on my rose-colored glasses and ask, shouldn’t we leave some of the specific decisions to the professionals we hire to make them? Okay, feel free to eviscerate my argument….

  6. Max Allstadt


    Ah the Wire. Omar Little for Mayor!

    Actually, if V’s right and the PSOs are suffering from lack of resources, then I’ve lost some skepticism about that part of measure Y. About a year ago I met my PSO on my street, and he was doing what PSOs are supposed to do: PSing (no pun intended, really he was doing good outreach). I would love to know if that was just him doing his job, or if leadership decided to the PSOs out for the launch of that program, to give them face time with the population, and then promptly forgot about it.

  7. SF2OAK

    Mike Spencer said use bait cars- today an article http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2008/11/18/BAJD146AHC.DTL re people w/ suspended licenses trailed out of courtroom and busted for driving home. This situation just criminalizes people. I guesstimate the cost for paying a fine, car tow, storage, increased insurance at around $1000-$1500. I know the people did something wrong to get their license suspended but a $1500 hit in this economy is too much and it obviously punishes the poor worst. It creates criminals. Instead give them an option at a license suspension to maybe turn in their car or some solution instead of immediately criminalizing people. Public transit is so poor in OAK; we have been feeding that pig for too long- it needs reform. Usually I’m a law and order guy but I don’t see the system working. We need creative solutions like making convicts wear the pink jail suits ala sherrif Joe, shame them , provide hard work opportunities to make ammends. But I do agree we need to change tactics- criminals are costing the city too much, and making law abiding residents pay for poor policing and being victims, gird for another round of affluent flight.

  8. MarleenLee

    After watching the full video of the March 4, 2008 meeting where the Council approved the $7.7 million, the abuses with the accelerated recruitment program have become even more apparent. The chief tried to convince the audience that all of the new officers would be Measure Y officers. He, as well as the City Council, had to know that this couldn’t possibly be true. There were only about 25 vacant Measure Y positions at that time, and they were trying to recruit at least 75 officers. Moreover, everyone knew or should have known that only veteran officers can become Measure Y officers. None of those new recruits were going going to be assigned to Measure Y (nor have any of them been assigned to Measure Y positions). The entire plan to use Measure Y funds for the recruitment plan was a scam of major proportions. To her credit, Jane Brunner insisted that the City provide monthly reports to the Public Safety Committee outlining which funds were spent on Measure Y officers, and which on non-Measure Y. This was actually included in the resolution. But to date, the monthly reports do not contain the required information.

  9. ConcernedOakFF

    Here is something else to chew on:

    Apparently the OPD’s helicopter program (ARGUS) falling is under budget issues as well. It has been grounded until next month for monetary reasons. Not sure what difference waiting 1 month will do….

    Great isn’t it!