Thursday, October 18, 2012

The high price of Oakland Policing

We need to face the fact that the Oakland Police Department is a failure. 
We fail to stop crime. We fail to prevent crime. We fail to get our youth away from crime. 
And we fail to have the respect, trust and support of enough of the people. 
We also fail to deal with normal pubic events, such as Occupy and Raider’s games.  

Our police department has successfully resisted efforts to reform it, to hold it accountable and they have successfully resisted implementing public policy in community policing and restorative justice.  

Take a look at this 1974 video of our Oakland Police “reforming” themselves with the help of an early computer, a training program and an early congressman Ron Dellums and ask yourself if that reform effort reflects the Oakland Police that we know now a generation later.
Before spending another dime on more police, let’s look at all the costs and do some housekeeping.

Top of the list is some kind of civilian oversight of the police with the power to terminate the employment of police officers who have abused members of the public. The idea that we do not have this should have us all upset, but we get used to a lot of disappointments in Oakland government and accept bad situations when we should not.  

Quickly following this, and totally related, we need to stop the millions in lawsuit payouts for police misconduct.  We seem to be paying out more than San Jose and San Francisco.  

The biggest lawsuit, the Riders Case, needs to be resolved.  We cannot put any resources towards our police only have them in danger of being controlled by a federal judge.  

My suggestion for these accountability problems is a Police Commission. 
Other cities have them and we should too. 

Not to have police accountability costs us in the most expensive way possible because we have lost community trust and support.  

There are also dollar costs that need to be brought down ASAP because a million dollars a year is too much to pay for 4-5 police officers.  

The cost of overtime needs to be stopped.  A freeze on overtime except for those who actually patrol and are at the bottom of the pay scale would be a good place to start.  High salary office staff should not be on overtime.  That is the most expensive overtime possible.  And that kind of overtime distorts the calculation of pension costs later.  

The costs of having 90 officers (out of 630?) out on workers comp needs to be dealt with.  Do we have a plague?  How do we cut that number down or get people who are not coming back to work on the roles? 

The cost of having an armed, badge wearing officer do paper work, take finger prints, visit the families of truant students is ridiculously high and their effectiveness is radically low.  The civilian side of the police department is too small and not allowed to do enough.  

The cost of the pension program needs to be brought into something manageable.  It is not now.  We are building up a bill for pensions and retiree health care that could bankrupt the city.  

The cost of having officers ramp up their last years on the job so that they can collect the highest pension possible is a big part of why pension costs are so unmanageable.  

The cost of the top paid officers needs to be capped.  The whole wage scale needs to be reviewed.  

The cost of the “academy’ system to train new officers needs an audit.  3 million to train 40 cops? 

Today I read that they want to outsource police services and rent police from other areas? 
What will that cost? 

And the cost of employing people who will not live in our city should be brought into account. That costs us in trust, in support and in flat dollars.  Why are we hiring people who do not want to live here?  

Do some of this housekeeping and then the cost of hiring more officers would not be the multimillion dollar hamster wheel that it is now and we could expand staff with the support of the public and enough funds to hire them.  

But first, the public needs to feel that our police are held up to a high ethical standard and that they work for us and not the other way around.  If we do not feel that the police serve us, why pay the cost?

1 comment:

  1. I personally would put it in terms much stronger than housekeeping. I think the OPD needs to be completely stripped, sanded and repainted. We need to be asking questions not just about money but about culture. And looking at every aspect of the department - recruitment, training, supervising, reporting, accountability etc etc to find the bits that contribute to too much brutality without enough accountability and a stubborn resistance to reform. And what SHOCKS me, repeatedly, about the candidates running for city council against Don in district 1 is their talk of increasing the police force without talking about reforming it.