Councilwoman proposes 2 police academies to stem loss of officers

An Oakland city councilmember is proposing to add two police academies to stem the city's loss of officers. 

Councilmember Sheng Thao submitted her proposal on Tuesday to be heard at the next scheduled City Council meeting on Sept. 21. Recently, the number of officers on the police force dropped below 700, which is the lowest number is six years, according to the Oakland Police Officers' Association, the police union.

Thao said if the number of officers fails below 678, Oakland will no longer be able to collect Measure Z taxes, which help fund among other things fire safety and violence prevention programs.

"We must act now," Thao said in an interview Tuesday afternoon.

The money for one of the two academies Thao is proposing would come from savings police Chief LeRonne Armstrong discovered in paying for the already budgeted police academies.

Thao is seeking City Council approval for money to pay for the second additional police academy. That academy would be held in the city's 2022-23 fiscal year under Thao's proposal.

The money to pay for the two additional academies would not affect funding for the provision of other critical services, she said.

City councilmembers during budget discussions earlier this year said the city's police academies are doing poorly at graduating recruits and some councilmembers were reluctant to support more than two academies each year, which is what passed the council.

Thao said the academy has a 60 percent failure rate.

"We all know that's a failing grade," she said.

Under her resolution, the chief would have to do better at local hiring. Thao suggested the Police Department work with Merritt College, for example, to help prepare new police officers.

Thao said the department needs to hire people of color and women and it needs to provide childcare even for recruits.

Childcare can be a barrier to entry, she said.

Thao also wants the Police Department to hire Oakland residents, who she said will be invested in Oakland.

She said that public safety is her number one priority and rising crime in the city is something she doesn't take lightly.

Violent crime has risen again this year in Oakland, police data shows, with shootings and killings up. Eighty-eight people have been killed in homicides this year, according to police.

Armstrong said on Thursday more than 400 shootings have occurred this year, up nearly 50 percent from last year.

Children should be able to play outside or walk to school without parents fearing for their children's safety, Thao said, and seniors should feel safe walking to the store and residents should feel safe in their homes.