On February 25, 2008, a representative of the Oakland Police Department, who called himself a recruiting specialist, when describing the accelerated police recruitment plan, the one we just funded with $7.7 million, told the Measure Y Oversight Committee that they had a “drop dead deadline” of March 31st to have 300 applicants in background in order to fully staff the two police academies beginning on May 19th.
Okay, so in case you don’t remember, I was hell-bent against this funding allocation. I said that it would not get us to 803 by the end of the year, that it would create serious deficit problems down the road, and that it was exceedingly irresponsible of the City Council to approve the request.
To recap – reaching 803 officers by the end of the year is entirely predicated on us filling two police academies beginning on May 19th and finishing this November. Now, the officers that graduate those academies will not be on the streets by the end of the year, they’ll still have to go through our 4 month long field training program. Since we don’t have enough field training officers to train them, they will be assigned to desk jobs until field trainers are available. (By the way, the 28 officers that we just graduated from the academy last month are not currently on the street or being trained. They, too, are sitting around waiting for fields trainers to be available.) The field trainer issue is a whole other mess, which I’ll try to give its own post soon.
Anyway, these two academies that start in May – one is a regular Oakland Police Department academy, and the other was supposed to be held at the Alameda County Sheriff’s academy. For whatever reason, the Sheriff has now decided that we can’t use their academy after all, and so now we’re going to be holding the second academy at the Santa Clara County Sheriff’s Office academy. Fine. The plan is to fill both academies with 50 recruits, and hope we have an incredibly low attrition rate.
I said in January that it would be impossible to fill those academies, but the department insisted otherwise, and as you all know, the Council went ahead and approved their $7.7 million request. Which brings me back to that “drop dead deadline” of March 31st to have 300 applicants who have passed all three exams – the POST written exam, the oral board interview, and the physical agility test – and are currently in the background check process.
As you can imagine, I immediately tried to find out as soon as March 31st arrived how many people were in background – did they have their 300? I was sure they wouldn’t, but I wanted to see the number. I sent inquiries to the police department, the Mayor’s office, OPRM, everybody I could think of, and could not get a single response, even after asking multiple times. Desperate for an answer, I finally turned to my surrogate Councilmember, Pat Kernighan, and asked her to ask the question for me at a Public Safety Committee meeting when they received the recruiting update. She very kindly obliged.
The response? (This happened on April 8, 2008.) “We have 13 people hired. We have 35 conditional job offers out there. We have 101 backgrounds that are out there, and those will be getting fed through our system, starting this week and next week.”
Bizarrely, when she followed up on the question and asked “So, you are confident you will have [both those academies] filled?”, the response was affirmative, and Chief Wayne Tucker said several times at the same meeting that we will be at 803 officers by the end of the year. This, of course, doesn’t gel at all with the statements they made when selling the police recruitment plan. We won’t have to wait much longer to find out, in any case.