Questioning Dellums’s promise

I wrote yesterday for Novometro about the feasibility of Ron Dellums’s promise to fully staff the police department by the end of 2008. CBS 5 had a report last night on the same topic.

In my story, I focused on the realities of the police hiring timeline, showing that even in a best-case recruiting scenario, there simply isn’t time to train any police who have not yet begun the hiring process and completed their POST exam by the end of 2008. The CBS 5 story didn’t really look into that aspect, but spoke with OPOA President Bob Valladon, who said “No, it’s not realistic, in fact it’s almost impossible. There’s not enough people that actually want to apply for this job and be able to go through the background and pass.” They also interviewed Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker, who said “It’s going to be difficult. It’s a real challenge for us, but it’s realistic.”

Um…it isn’t.

Tucker acknowledged that they would need to receive roughly 12,000 applications to get 100 new police, and the report explained how the department plans to address the training issue, by holding 2 classes of 60 recruits at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Academy (at a cost of between five and six million dollars).

Okay. So the police department already told the City Council, when asked last fall, that using other academies wouldn’t work for Oakland. Here’s their response from the staff report:

OPD also researched the use of other academies and outside training resources to accomplish the training of more POTs at an even greater accelerated pace. The other academies in the Bay Area are either already functioning at capacity, offering no available slots to OPD, or do not have a schedule that would allow for a timely graduation of new officers to mesh with OPD’s mandatory field training program (see below). Additionally, new police officers receiving training at a non-OPD academy would require attendance at a six week transition course to provide them instruction in City, OPD and NSA specific requirements, delaying their actual deployment to the street.

They summarized with:

  • With the nationwide law enforcement recruiting crisis, the City has reached the maximum size of the POT candidate pool.
  • Academy attrition rate increases with the size of the academy class.
  • Mandatory City, OPD and NSA training requirements eliminate FTO training flexibility
  • Field Training Program output limited to 90 to 105 officers per year.

So if OPD has found a way around those problems that will allow them to use the Sheriff’s Academy, that’s great. I’m curious about what changed between November and the present, though.

Anyway, if they do this, will they be able to reach 803 by the end of the year? Um…no. The Sheriff’s Academy is program is 27 weeks long. Counting backwards, that puts you at a start date of June 24 to be completed by the end of the year. But remember – officers trained at other academies need 6 weeks of training in Oakland. Assuming they could set up a training program to time perfectly with the Sheriff’s Academy graduation, you now need an academy start date of May 13. And since the screening process takes about four months, those 12,000 applicants they need would have to be taking their POST test today.

And this is a big problem I have with Dellums. Everything has to be these big goals, landmark this, unprecedented that. What I want to see is a long-term, and realistic plan for a sustainable level of service. So as much as I personally would love to see the department fully staffed like, yesterday, it gives me no comfort to hear to a promise that I know will not be kept. I would much prefer a promise that the department will be fully staffed by say, the end of 2009, which is far sooner than the current estimates, coupled with a realistic strategy plan explaining exactly how that will be achieved.

One thought on “Questioning Dellums’s promise

  1. len raphael

    several months ago at the brunner townhall meeting at rockridge library, chief tucker discussed how unexpectedly high disability retirements were partially offsetting recruiting gains. i asked him whether high disability claims = low morale, and his answer was “oh no, because most of these claims are for soft tissue injuries”. i’m not a doctor, but my understanding is that soft tissue injuries = back problems that are impossible to verify by xrays, cat scans, mri’s.