Oakland’s Police Department is shrinking so fast that it doesn’t have enough officers to cover some patrols, and many of its investigative units have been stripped to the bone, says San Francisco Chronicle columnists Phillip Matier and Andrew Ross. Eighty officers were laid off in July to save money. But since then, 21 more have retired, 12 have decamped for other police departments, five have simply quit and one has been fired – dropping the total number of officers to 670. Thirty more officers are undergoing background checks by other departments seeking to hire them. And another 40 will be eligible to retire by year’s end.
The columnists note that another 77 cops – or more than 10 percent of the entire force – are on the shelf because of injuries. That’s about double the usual rate. Twenty will be going back to work in the next two weeks, but only for “light duty.” And thanks to a provision in a parcel tax that city voters passed in 2004, 63 cops have to be assigned as community problem-solving officers who ferret out trouble spots and crime trends in designated districts. That means they can’t be assigned to investigations or to work in other neighborhoods. Put it all together, and you have investigative units such as the burglary and robbery details being raided to fill patrol beats.