SAN LEANDRO CITY COUNCIL | San Leandro is looking to dramatically increase its police force by 18 officers in the wake of the Sandy Hook shooting. The funding depends greatly on the federal budget, which is a hot topic right now in Washington, but gives no guarantee for San Leandro to acquire funding for officers outside of hiring 8 school resource officers.

There are three separate measures that San Leandro police hope to initiate. The first concerns current federal COP grant for five officers that include one safety resource officer, a bicycle cop, two gang suppression officers and one crime prevention officer. Currently San Leandro has 90 officers and the grant keeps that level above the city’s minimal police staffing requirement, which is 86.

But if the grant isn’t extended then the police force in San Leandro, which is already strained with an increase in 911 calls in the past two years and an increase in city population over the last 20 years, will have to burden the weight with a smaller force. Furthermore, San Leandro has witnessed a 10 percent increase in crime in 2012, although overall crime in San Leandro since 2008 is down.

The second measure includes 10 regional collaboration officers to focus on regional crime suppression by working with Oakland police and Alameda Sheriff’s Department. According to a Joint Public Safety Initiatives (JPSI), 40 percent of arrests in San Leandro are residents of Oakland, the third most violent city in America. Recently Oakland has been embroiled in heated debate over its high crime rate with the city’s populace angry over police shootings as well as a high homicide rate.

San Leandro police draw concerns from this violence noting that they share a border with the city. According to the JPSI, “Current crime trends indicate teams of traveling criminals based in San Leandro and neighboring cities are responsible for significant increases in violent and property crimes.” According to the San Leandro Chief of Police Sandra Spagnoli, these officers would be promoted from within the police force and additional 10 officers would be recruited to fill the vacancies.

The city also wants eight more SROs in addition to its current two SROs. Spagnoli said its disconcerting only two SROs currently cover 20 schools. If eight more are added there would be an SRO assigned to two schools to increase public safety standards, said Spagnoli. The tragedy at Sandy Hook has given the police an opportunity to increase security at schools for the first time since the federal government cut funding to school safety programs, added Spagnoli.

But funding for this dramatic increase in police is near impossible without a federal grant. Furthermore, grants only last a specific amount of time otherwise layoffs will occur or the city will have to leverage the weight of the funding through some other means. No distinct funding opportunity is available to the city just yet as the council and the police department brace for the outcome of discussion in Congress over various gun control bills.

Although funding for SROs looks far more hopeful. President Barack Obama this past week signed an executive order to provide local communities the opportunity to hire up to 1,000 SROs and counselors. Len Simon, a contracted consultant and San Leandro’s federal liaison, noted that it is likely that San Leandro can acquire funding from this executive order to fund their prospective eight new SROs.

Shane Bond is an East Bay Citizen contributor.