Three dozen graduates of the Oakland Police Academy were sworn in Friday, providing a much needed influx of new officers to help patrol the city's troubled streets.
"We do this because helping others is life's greatest reward," Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent said to the rookie officers. "People call police in their darkest moments and their times of greatest needs. You have now earned the right to be one of the trusted few who respond to their needs."
The Police Department said the new class will bring the total of Oakland officers to 647, still drastically below the 836 officers who patrolled the city streets in 2008.
Mayor Jean Quan said the officers are needed. When asked if the streets of Oakland were safe Friday, the mayor shook her head.
"No. Obviously a lot of American cities are not safe right now," said Quan.
A police department spokeswoman told KTVU that Chief Whent would like to have 700 officers on the street by 2015. Ultimately the chief would like 900 officers, but he did not give a timeline as to when that occur.
The 36 men and women – some from Oakland with one from Illinois – endured a 26-week academy. Starting next weekend, they will patrol some of Oakland’s most violent neighborhoods.
"There is constant action," said new officer Robert Gallinatti, "So I'm just looking forward to contributing to making the city safer."
Rookie officer Brooklyn Beckwith went to school in Oakland and said some of the best policing comes from getting out into the community,
"I think the key to anything is building a relationship with people. Being genuine and being real," explained Beckwith.
The new officers will start patrolling next Saturday, commencing 16 weeks of field training for the new graduates.
Watchdogs are questioning an exclusive agreement between the City of Oakland and a non-profit group, tapped to lead a multi-million dollar project to redevelop the area around the Coliseum BART station.