A defensive Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums promised during his first State of the City address on Monday to put more police officers on the streets to battle street crime, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Dellums acknowledged that public safety is “the elephant in the room,” but he insisted the crime problems preceded his entering the office. He has been under increasing criticism from residents and business leaders for not acting more aggressively. Oakland finished 2007 with 127 homicides, down from 148 in 2006 but the second-highest total in 12 years.
The mayor called the fatal shooting of journalist Chauncey Bailey and last week’s gunfire that paralyzed a 10-year-old piano student senseless acts that diminish the community. The 72-year-old mayor said he will convene a public safety summit. He called on the City Council and Police Chief Wayne Tucker to increase the number of recruits in the city’s police academy, to establish incentives to keep older officers on the force beyond retirement , and to better prepare Oakland residents and others interested in law enforcement for police jobs. The city is about 70 officers short of its authorized force of 803. Like many other cities, Oakland has had difficulty recruiting qualified candidates for the police academy. Five officers retire from the force each month. Dellums promised that by year’s end, the police department will be fully staffed.