OAKLAND (KCBS) — A dozen candidates who want to be mayor of Oakland faced off Thursday night in a campaign debate at City Hall in which public safety was hot-button issue.

The crowded debate included Mayor Jean Quan and the 11 candidates who want to unseat her. They were asked early on how many police officers should be on the job in Oakland.

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“We’ve already lost 70 officers though August through attrition,” San Francisco State University professor Joe Tuman. “If you don’t plan for more police officers in this force, you’re going to be left with veterans exiting and a department that’s filled with 25 year-olds.”

The department, which had 837 officers six years ago dropped to the low 600s recently. As of April 2014, after a class of cadets graduated, there were 659 officers.

The department takes up almost 50 percent of the city’s annual budget.

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Port Commissioner Brian Parker said he would like see Oakland get up to 800 officers.

Civil rights attorney Dan Siegel disagreed.

“The number is 700; we can’t afford more. Plans for 800 or 900 are complete fantasy,” he said.

Quan said the appropriate staffing level depends on many circumstances.
“It’s the quality, it’s the relationship, it’s the organization and what else you might have to cut in order to balance it because quite frankly, you offer jobs to young people, that might be as effective as having an extra 50 police officers,” she said.

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The debate also featured questions from social media, including Twitter and Facebook, as well as the live audience.