OAKLAND (KPIX) — A day after Oakland hit the grim milestone of its 100th homicide so far this year, city council members who voted to reduce resources to the police force reversed course. In a 6-to-2 vote the council voted to increase the number of new police recruits.
Tuesday’s late-night vote will fund two new police academies over the next two years.READ MORE: Stolen RV Pursuit Ends In Horrific San Ramon Crash
Councilmember Sheng Thao introduced the proposal to add the new police academies. It was a move that Mayor Libby Schaaf has been advocating for months.
The department has shrunk to 694 sworn officers—the fewest since 2014.
“Good policing requires officers that are not just running from 911 call to 911 call or are exhausted because they’re working too much overtime,” said Schaaf. “Oakland has the lowest per violent crime staffing of any department in America.”
The city’s 100th murder victim of 2021 was a man found shot to death Monday morning outside the Coliseum BART station. On Tuesday afternoon, Oakland officers were called to another shooting as a man was rushed to a hospital after gunfire near Bond and High Streets.
One concern facing the city council is that if the number of officers falls below 678, Oakland could lose Measure Z funding, which goes to various purposes including firefighting and violence prevention.
But some feel the city could get an exemption from that. Much of the public comment at the council meeting reflected a lack of support among residents for the police department.
“I want to advocate against the creation of more police academies that we know don’t keep us safe,” said one caller to the virtual meeting.
“We can’t keep throwing our tax dollars at police,” said another.READ MORE: Torrential Rains Ease 'Exceptional' Drought Conditions In Marin County
“Having more police does not prevent more crime, so I’m not sure why this would even be a viable option,” said a third.
At a Monday afternoon press conference on the recent rise in gun violence in Oakland — which saw ten homicides in the space of a week — Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong expressed his frustration over the escalating number of homicides.
“We can be vocal about certain things. I just don’t understand why this community can’t be vocal about a hundred lives lost,” said a clearly frustrated Armstrong. “We can scream and yell about anything that the police department does wrong, but in this time, we cant speak up about what’s plaguing all of us. And that’s gun violence.”
Despite a rocky relationship between police and the black community, African American Oakland resident Christian Cooper still sees the need for them.
“In the current climate, a lot of people don’t trust police,” he said. “But unfortunately, they are people that we need because people want to feel protected.”
But even with Tuesday’s vote to add more academy classes, Oakland Police Officers’ Association President Barry Donelan insists it won’t be nearly enough.
He noted the academies take a year and a half to produce a maximum of 45 new officers. However, the department is currently losing an average of 10 officers per month.
Donelan said they’re not retiring; they’re leaving to work someplace else.MORE NEWS: Flight Attendant Attacked By Passenger, Flight From New York's JFK To John Wayne Airport Diverts To Denver
“They’re not valued,” explained Donelan. “They’re not valued by the city council, they’re demonized, they’re vilified. Oakland police officers seem to be blamed for all the ills in the city, yet there are so few of us.”