Oakland mayor, councilmembers push for more police in wake of violence

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf on Monday said that she's pushing for more police officers in the wake of gun violence across the city, as police for the first time gave a few more details about a man killed near Lake Merritt trying to stop a car burglary. 

"That analysis will make the case that additional police staffing is needed in the wake of this violent spree," Schaaf said. "We know what has worked in the past…There is nothing progressive about unbridled gun violence."

Specifically, she said she'd go to the city council with a plan to keep staffing levels at a minimum of 678 officers so that the police department can also revive its successful Ceasefire program, which was essentially dismantled during the pandemic.

As of Monday, there were 677 officers serving the city of Oakland, which is a violation of Measure Z, a 2014 parcel tax that guaranteed certain police staffing levels. 

To compare, when Ron Dellums was mayor from 2007 to 2011, Schaaf said, police staffing levels were over 800 officers. 

COVID interrupted Oakland's training and recruitment process, Schaaf said. 

She said that the city fell behind what the former hiring plan was, and the attrition rates were much higher than the city had anticipated.

In addition, the former head of Ceasefire, retired Capt. Ersie Joyner, was robbed, shot and injured in October at an Oakland gas station.  

The mayor's comments came as the city is reeling from its 127th homicide; a man trying to stop a car burglary near Lake Merritt on Sunday was shot to death.  Family members identified the victim as Eric Davis, 28.

At the news conference, Oakland police for the first time said the victim was shot by the passenger in a suspect vehicle, which was described as a black Toyota RAV4. A photo should be released in the next day or two. 

The day before, Kevin Nishita, a security guard for a TV news crew died after being shot protecting a KRON 4 reporter the day before Thanksgiving working on a story on retail theft. 

MORE: Interrupted auto burglary leads to fatal shooting near Lake Merritt

"It's heartbreaking to process," said Oakland Councilwoman Treva Reid.

Reid agreed that the city was "increase our efforts" so that police can have a "rapid response." 

Living in East Oakland, the district that she represents, Reid said that "many in our community traumatized with fear. Our businesses, our community are grappling to understand how they will get through as we come in these remaining days of the years. And so, yes, we must increase our efforts deeply to keep us safe, protected and at peace. And we can and must have adequate public safety." 

At the same time, Schaaf said the city was still committed to non-police responses to less violent emergencies, and she touted the MACRO program, which is aimed at helping those in mental health crisis, but which has not yet officially started. 

Schaaf says more details about how they'll budget for increased police staffing and services will be available Friday. 

One of those recommendations will be to add at least one additional police academy and an amendment to the budget to lock in that academy. 

She will also be proposing some cancellation of the cuts that are proposed to begin in July of 2023, including the freezes to 50 police positions starting in July 2022.

"I am hopeful that we as city leaders can send a unified message to the Oakland Police Department," Schaaf said. "The hard working men and women who risk their lives every day to keep us safe and to respond to those calls – more [violent] calls per officer than any other city in the country – that we value them, that we support them."