There is a win-win solution to Oakland’s stalemate over police layoffs. There is an alternative to layoffs and to the impasse over pensions that is financially responsible. We must act to preserve the time, money and effort that has gone into recruiting and training our new officers, avoid layoffs, and get them back on the beat. As Chief Batts has recently pointed out, crime tends to peak in August and September, we need to act now to break this impasse.
The stalemate centers around the police officers’ union (OPOA) request for a three year no layoff pledge in exchange for the Officers paying their “employee share” pension contribution of 9%. This pension contribution would be an important part of helping to build a long-term financially sustainable system.
I think we should accept and I have a proposal that allows us to do so. My proposal avoids the need for police layoffs, gets the 9% pension contribution from the OPOA and does not require our residents to pay a new $360 parcel tax.
We were asked to refrain from publicly discussing our proposals, until negotiations ended, but given the lack of a resolution and the urgency for Oakland to resolve this logjam I am putting it forward now.
My proposal is during the next three years (the duration of the OPOA’s current contract) as long as the City honors its no lay off guarantee the police continue to pay the 9% toward their pension. We can avoid layoffs both by agreeing to a retirement program and by taking other steps to improve our financial situation. In order to protect all parties to the agreement, I would propose a provision that if layoffs took place during the contract, the pension contribution would be reduced to 4%.
A combination of normal attrition and the savings from the 9% would allow us to avoid police layoffs, while also giving us the opportunity and time to reach agreement on other cost-saving/non-layoff solutions for our police force. This would meet the police union’s demands of no layoffs and take a much-needed step toward necessary structural change.
Many of the recently laid off officers are some of our youngest and most diverse. They also cost less than older officers. Taxpayers have made a significant investment in their recruitment and training. This is an investment that cannot be wasted. We save much more money by allowing more senior officers to leave the force through a retirement program like the one requested by OPOA, rather than laying-off the most junior officers.
We must include other ways to reduce costs while assuring public safety. These include achieving full compliance with the Riders settlement so that we can move sworn officers from Internal Affairs to community policing, and civilianizing certain tasks, such as intake of civilian complaints and clerical tasks, to lower costs and increase efficiencies.
Other cities are using civilians to do routine clerical tasks previously done by police officers. The civilians cost about half what a police officer costs. This frees up more cops for patrol and community policing efforts. Here in Oakland we need to work together in a way that everybody contributes and shares in providing for the public safety and the fiscal sustainability of our city.