It’s not a shortage of money, but a shortage of applicants that is keeping Oakland from hiring more police officers under Measure Y, an anti-crime measure voters approved in 2004 to finance the hiring of 63 officers and bring the ranks to 803 officers, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. Cities nationwide are finding a shortage of people willing to be police officers, but the problem is exacerbated in Oakland by steep housing prices and intense competition from rival law enforcement agencies and the military, according to a report the City Council’s Public Safety Committee will discuss tonight.
“We could expand the academies, but it wouldn’t have much effect because we aren’t able to attract a sufficient number of candidates,” said Don Link, chair of the community policing advisory board. Because just 5 percent of applicants meet the background check and academic and physical rigors needed to be an Oakland police officer, Link estimates the city would need 750 applicants to fill the 35 seats available in the next academy class. Compounding the problem is the fact that Oakland offers generous benefits that allow officers to retire at age 50, and the department loses about three officers a month. Measure Y, a parcel tax 70 percent of voters approved in November, provided $9.5 million annually to hire more police and $6.4 million annually to fund anti-violence programs. The city has deployed four officers so far; 18 more are expected to graduate in April.