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Dellums’ Police Proposal to Get Further Vetting

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday February 26, 2008

Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums has run into a City Council delay in fast-tracking an Oakland Police Department enhanced recruitment plan, but it remains to be seen how much that delay is due to political, policy, or fiscal concerns, and how long that delay will last. 

With Oakland police strength consistently hovering at some 75 officers below the authorized 803 strength and with crime and violence a rising concern in Oakland, the mayor and Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker two weeks ago unveiled a plan to step up recruitment and retention of police officers with $7.7 million in Measure Y violence prevention money. 

The proposal went directly to the full Oakland City Council last Tuesday, bypassing the Measure Y Oversight Committee and the council's Public Safety Committee. But despite Chief Tucker’s concerns that “each week we delay makes it more difficult” for the proposed May starting date of a regional training class, a key component of the proposal, the council delayed action until both the Measure Y and Public Safety committees could take a closer look at the proposals this week. 

If passed by Public Safety, as expected, the issue would come back before the full council next week. 

The Measure Y Oversight Committee was scheduled to review the police recruitment on Monday night (February 25) after the Daily Planet's deadline for this story, while the council’s Public Safety Committee will take up the issue tonight (Tuesday, February 26) at 7:30 p.m. in Hearing Room One at City Hall. 

“I know the mayor is putting forward a plan that he feels needs to be done today,” Council President Ignacio De La Fuente said, shortly before the council took its vote. “But I know some of my colleagues feel some of these proposals need some refinement.” 

In supporting sending the proposal back to the Public Safety Committee, District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks added that the plan had “a lot of generalities but not a lot of specifics.” 

In their proposal, Dellums and Tucker are asking for $3.3 million in Measure Y money to run four police academies this year, twice the currently allocated number, with two of them operated for the first time by the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department rather than the Oakland Police Department itself. One and a half million dollars would go to advertising and marketing to attract new recruits, with $1.2 million in administrative support to expedite the police recruit application and selection process. 

The money would be taken from the $17 million Measure Y fund balance that has been accumulating during the years the city has failed to fully staff the violence prevention officer slots authorized by the measure.  

Despite an Oakland aity attorney’s opinion that the use of the Measure Y money was proper for the goals stated in the proposal, the use of that money was severely criticized by Measure Y Oversight Committee Chair Maya Dillard-Smith. 

“The use of Measure Y funds for this purpose is legally impermissible and fiscally irresponsible,” Dillard-Smith told councilmembers at last Tuesday's delibeations. "It feeds into the biggest fear some citizens had about Measure Y: that it would turn into a slush fund for [the Oakland Police Department].” 

And District 3 Councilmember Nancy Nadel had harsh words for Dellums, saying that “I’m in a mode to try to solve the problem, to try to take the politics out of it. But it seems like the mayor wants to place himself separate from the Council and say that this is his proposal. I resent that type of politics coming out of this.” 

None of the other councilmembers went that far in criticizing Dellums or questioning the use of Measure Y funds for the entire police recruitment proposal, but several said that its use was questionable for some of the items. 

Saying that “an overwhelming number of citizens have told us that we need to get to [the authorized police strength of] 803," District 2 Councilmember Pat Kernighan said that the city’s general fund should continue to support the two regular police academies, while Measure Y should pick up the tab for the two additional ones. She also said that because OPD was able to keep new hires even with retirements using two academies a year, the two extra academies should only be supported until the department gets up to fully authorized strength. 

District 4 Councilmember Jean Quan, on the other hand, said that she was “comfortable with the $3 million going to the double academies, but I'm not comfortable with the $1.5 million for advertising” from Measure Y. “We’ll have to find ways from the general fund to pay for some it.” 

And even District 1 Councilmember Jane Brunner, who said she supported voting on the proposal last Tuesday (“I think we're in a crisis; I’m ready to move”) had doubts that seemed to require further discussion. "I have a question about whether some recruited officers will go into non-Measure Y positions or categories," she said. “I don't want to come back in six months and learn we have to repay Measure Y from the general fund.” 

The proposal was originally intended by the mayor’s office to be brought before the Measure Y Oversight Committee before it went to the council, but problems with legal public notice requirements caused the committee to cancel two meetings in which the proposal was to be discussed. There is a dispute over why the proposal was not first discussed in the council's Public Safety Committee, with committee chair Larry Reid saying he recommended passing it on to the full council without discussion because he thought it was an informational item only and he did not know it included the $7.7 million funding request. A Dellums spokesperson said it was clear that the request was an action item.