OPD Holiday Overtime

I wasn’t feeling so hot last night, so I skipped the Art Murmur and instead spent the evening curled up in bed with a big mug of hot tea catching up on all the TV I just couldn’t find time to watch last week. First, last Monday’s Gossip Girl (which was totally awesome, as usual), then Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting (which was almost as awesome).

And just like at every other Public Safety Committee meeting in the history of the world, you had the Police Department there, whining about how they can’t do this or they can’t do that because they don’t have enough money. It’s one of those things that you’re sympathetic to at first, but after a while really starts getting tiresome. It’s like a clearly exasperated Jane Brunner said at a recent Council meeting during yet another session of OPD crying poor. “You already have all the money in the City!”

It’s true! The percentage of our budget we spend on the Police Department is incredible, and even more incredible is our refusal to force them to stay within their allocations. Everyone wants to blame the economy for Oakland’s budget deficit, and while that is in large part the case, it’s also true that the amount of money by which OPD exceeded their overtime budget last year ($11 million) is the same as the shortfall in our expected real estate transfer tax. OPD is considered untouchable because public safety is a primary concern to most of our residents. Yeah, I get it. But the City’s funds are not unlimited, and we have other needs too. Giving the Police Department a blank check hasn’t resulted in reduced crime so far, I can’t imagine why anyone would think that the strategy is just going to all of a sudden start working.

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums seemed to agree with this – at least back in October, when the budget crisis was on everybody’s mind. Then, a few weeks ago, he abruptly changed his tune, and agreed to lift the overtime restrictions on the department for the holiday season. Okay. Fine. I want people to feel safe doing their holiday shopping or whatever. I don’t want to see a year-end crime spike either.

But you know what makes it really hard to feel like extra overtime is necessary? When you’re out on the town on a weekday evening and you watch three policemen just standing at a highly trafficked downtown corner passing out jaywalking tickets. Yeah.

8 thoughts on “OPD Holiday Overtime

  1. Mike Spencer

    Police work in myserious ways, or at least their assignments. My neighborhood at least twice a month has cops monitoring a three-way stop at an obscure intersection and giving lots of tickets where there are rarely pedestrians but cars don’t always stop. Then, we have officers looking to cite people for off-leash dogs on a trail above Dimond Canyon. I think we are going to see more revenue-generating types of police work. The police union has really benefitted the most from the crime problem and the understaffing.

  2. We Fight Blight

    Fire the Police Chief and replace him with someone who is actually competent and can manage the resources efficiently and effectively. The rank and file despise the Police Chief. When will Dellum’s and the City Council wake up. For all of Jane Brunner’s whining that the Police Chief hasn’t provided a public safety plan she refuses to push the Mayor to fire the Police Chief and on top of that she advocated for the parcel tax to give the Police Chief more of our hard earned tax dollars…Maybe we should get Joseph McNamara out of the Hoover Tower and into the top spot at the Oakland Police Department. http://www.hoover.org/bios/mcnamara.html

  3. JB

    Special traffic enforcement efforts such as the jaywalking operation mentioned by V — and DUI checkpoints and Click-It-or-Ticket operations — are usually funded by grants from the state Office of Traffic Safety and the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration. Such grants come with exacting specifications about how they can be used. It is simply not the case that these operations carry a high opportunity cost — i.e., that they take officers away from violence-suppression efforts and the like.

  4. Max Allstadt

    And why the hell is national funding going to bust jaywalkers? Jaywalking tickets? WTF? These shouldn’t even exist unless you’re jaywalking across 880. How much is a Jaywalking ticket in Oakland anyway?

    If we’re looking for revenue generating operations, how about beefing up crosswalk enforcement instead? Oakland drivers habitually fail to yield to pedestrians in crosswalks. The same goes for running stop signs. Couldn’t we issue great hods of fines and do great piles of warrant checks if we had cops set up to bust for these offenses instead? Come to GhostTown, sit by a stop sign, and watch the thugs roll in.

    I think it makes sense to loosen up overtime restrictions during the holidays, but from everything I’ve heard from V and others, funding isn’t OPD’s biggest handicap. If we want our police department to work, we need a new chief, a new contract, and we desperately need to renegotiate the Riders settlement.

  5. V Smoothe Post author

    JB, that’s how I had always thought those things were funded too. Which is why I was particularly surprised to read Dellums’s directive to the Police Department about the overtime, where he specifically said the money should be used for – you guessed it, special enforcement operations like this one.

    Also, the Oakland Police Department has received no grants for jaywalking enforcement that I’m aware of. In the past year, the receipt and appropriation of grants for traffic enforcement came to the Public Safety Committee only twice. I watch the discussion both times, and on both occasions, it was very explicitly outlined exactly how the funds were supposed to be used, all of it on DUI enforcement and the Committee had lengthy discussions on the subject.

  6. Mike Spencer


    I would love to see police stings aimed at drivers not observing crosswalks. That is a win-win, amazed more pedestrians aren’t maimed…..

  7. We Fight Blight

    The Oakland PD was recently working College Avenue and Telegraph Avenue in North Oakland with a decoy walker in the cross-walks. They number of tickets they were writing was phenomenal. We sat and watched for 15-20 minutes as car after car was pulled over.

    There are several North Oakland locations that Oakland PD will sit and wait for stop sign runners. According to a good source, there are so many runners that the Police Officers write out their tickets before hand to save time and they have stated that they could sit and issue tickets all day to generate revenue for the City. According to the Chair of one North Oakland Neighborhood Association, residents were complaining after getting tickets for running stop signs. They were upset and requested the Chair inform them when the next sting was in operation.

    Traffic stops can be good way to let residents/visitors know that Oakland is serious about crime and good driving behaviors. Given the high crime rate and the large number of parolees in Oakland, traffic stops can also yield guns, drugs, and other evidence of crimes and help put away true criminals. This is not unlike the NYPD cracking down on turnstile jumpers in the subway. Focusing on the small crimes sends an important message to would be criminals that somebody is watching.

  8. Ken

    Asswipe drivers. I keep seeing drivers running the east-west stop signs at 49th Street and Manila Ave.

    Why are neighbors complaining about not following the goddamn rules? DMV tests need to start including education about bicyclists too–what are drivers’ responsibilities (3 feet of passing room, not 3mm), and what are bicyclists’ responsibilities (no gunning through street lights)… all a city of idiots! Sometimes. =)