The Oakland Police Department is feeling the burn of California’s unending budget crisis, as 80 officers were laid off Tuesday night after negotiations between city and police union failed to reach an accord.
The department’s chief had said in recent days that unless the city could meet the union’s demands, officers would no longer respond in person to register sex offenders, or for reports of vehicle accidents, grand theft, identity theft, burglary, embezzlement, vandalism, stray animals and others.
Instead, victims in most non-emergency situations are being directed to file reports over the Internet. Police say the move will help them better focus on emergencies and violent crime.
In Oakland, one of the nation’s most crime-plagued cities, non-violent reports make up about a quarter of 911 calls, according to area reports. The 80 officers laid off constitute about 10 percent of the police department’s total manpower.
Tuesday’s layoffs complete an action taken by the city council, which voted on June 25 to axe the jobs. If the city’s voters refuse this November to approve new taxes, another 122 Oakland officers will be out of a job by January 1, 2011.
Union and city officials had been in talks to save the jobs by requiring police to contribute 9 percent of their paychecks to pension funds: something already required of other city employees. The police union balked and demanded Oakland ensure that if they agreed, no officers would be laid off for another three years. The city could not make such a promise, so the impasse grew.
“In a press conference tonight Brunner said the cityÃ¢â‚¬â„¢s final offer was to allow police union members to pay 4% of their pension now and an additional 3% come July 1, 2011,” California Beat reported. “Because the union had already agreed to pay 2% beginning January 2013, officers would have contributed the 9% the city sought, Brunner said.
“But representatives [still] held out for the three-year layoff moratorium.”
The Associated Press added: “Police Chief Anthony Batts said many of the officers laid off were on the front lines last week, trying to control protesters after former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of an unarmed black man in 2009.”
A police union official told California Beat they will move forward by lobbying the city to reinstate the fired officers’ jobs.
Layoffs leave the Oakland Police Department with just under 700 officers to enforce laws in a city of nearly 400,000.