ALAMEDA COUNTY/OAKLAND//CRIME | “What’s good for Oakland is good for Alameda County,” said Supervisor Richard Valle Thursday as two Oakland council members lobbied the county for additional resources to help the city grapple with its continuing crime problem.
Oakland officials say a tax measure for additional police officer will certainly be proposed next year while a multi-agency strategy to procure a $33 million federal matching grant for additional cops in Oakland also remains an additional option, albeit, less appealing than much larger grants the county is currently pursuing.
As the Oakland Police Department deals with its chronically understaffed ranks, partnerships with the city and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department have recently coalesced for patrols of some of Oakland’s most notorious streets. However, they have provided mixed results and animosity over which entity should pay for officers injured on the job. Nevertheless, the Board of Supervisors view lowering crime in its largest city as a priority.
Alameda County Supervisor Scott Haggerty, often a critic of the administration in Oakland when it comes to public safety, lauded the new leadership on the Oakland City Council, elected last November, for its commitment to public safety. “I would have said something different a few months ago,” he added, however. Although Haggerty stated he was in favor of helping Oakland, he reminded Oakland officials in attendance at Thursday’s Board of Supervisors Public Protection Committee hearing the county already provides funding and resources for Oakland.
Oakland Councilmember Noel Gallo, the District 5 representative who has made public safety his signature issue since being elected last November, said the key to combating crime should be done through a regional approach. “We have to do things differently,” Gallo said. “We’re reaching out to you because the issue of crime is serious.”
Council President Pat Kernighan told the committee, the city will “certainly” place a tax measure for additional cops to the voters as early as 2014. Kernighan said the measure may be similar to the successful parcel tax measure known as Measure Y passed in 2004, but even larger. “We have to have dramatically more revenue,” she said, in the range of $40-50 million just for OPD. Kernighan, however, acknowledged such a ballot measure would be “hard to pass.” Measure BB, an amendment to Measure Y floated in 2010 failed to gain the necessary two-thirds majority.
Other funding mechanisms for aiding Oakland increase its police force, now at just over 600 officers include a potential federal grant facilitated through Oakland Rep. Barbara Lee’s office. Alameda County Undersheriff Richard Lucia said a four-year, $33 million grant that could fund 30 additional officers is a possibility, but downplayed its significance, calling it “not great, but better than nothing.” If procured, Lucia said the matching grant’s costs could be split among the state, county and City of Oakland at over $2 million annually for each government body.
A much more appealing and larger $81 million federal matching grant, instead, is on the radar, Lucia said, that could add 100 crime prevention officers in a multi-agency partnership between the Alameda County District Attorney’s office, county probation and social services agency, the California Highway Patrol and OPD.
Kernighan added the much-anticipated report from police consultant William Bratton will be released Friday that will reorganize the OPD into smaller geographical crime areas. Kernighan told the committee, she expects to see positive results from the new measures “within months.”
One of the proposed partnerships between Alameda County and Oakland discussed over the past few months has been the issue of sharing the exorbitant costs of holding police academies. Kernighan called the partnership “not our highest need.” When Haggerty asked to expand upon her statement Kernighan said now former Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan had soured on the idea of sharing police academies with the county sheriff due to practical and logistical issues. Kernighan said Jordan believes the proposal would not be cost-efficient because of the need for graduates to undergo further training in Oakland-specific policies.