Oakland mayor proposes hiring 60 officers amid surging violence

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced a proposal Friday to hire 60 more police officers as the city continues to struggle with rising violence and officers are leaving the department in increasing numbers. 

The city council will vote on the proposal during a special session on Tuesday morning. 

"Our staffing levels are at a crisis point right now," Schaaf said during a press conference announcing the plan. "We are determined to keep the promise to Oakland’s voters to maintain adequate staffing levels of our police."

The proposal comes as city leaders in the Bay Area and beyond have largely changed their rhetoric around calls to defund the police that erupted in the wake of the killing of George Floyd in May 2020. 

Surging violence has plagued cities across the nation, but Oakland has seen some of the most troubling increases. An early-morning shooting left a woman dead at 14th and Castro Streets, marking the 129th slaying of the year. Last year saw 102 homicides, a sharp increase from just three years earlier when there were 69 homicides in the city. 

Schaaf’s plan includes hiring 60 vacant officer positions by expanding future academy classes from five to seven between now and July 2023. It would also unfreeze 20 positions at the start of next year.

The total cost will be $5.8 million, which Schaaf said will come from "salary savings" and "savings in equipment costs" not from existing city services. 

On Thursday, Oakland city councilmember Sheng Thao – who’s running for mayor -- proposed her own plan that would offer hiring bonuses to lure officers from outside Oakland.

Schaaf said Thao’s plan isn’t in conflict with hers, and she doesn’t oppose it.

The mayor said her plan factors in the current high officer attrition rate as well coming retirements. 

"We value their service we want them to continue in this incredible sacrifice to the public’s safety," Schaaf said.

Chief Leronne Armstrong said the city will graduate an academy of 39 trainees next year. He said 35% of them were born, raised or have some connection to Oakland. 

But groups that have been calling for defunding the police – including activist Cat Brooks – pushed back on the mayor’s proposal.

"The people of Oakland came out in tens of thousands last year to demand the city of Oakland reinvest our tax dollars in programs that will actually keep us safe, not over-police black and brown communities," Brooks told KTVU in a statement. 

Evan Sernoffsky is an investigative reporter for KTVU. Email Evan at evan.sernoffsky@foxtv.com and follow him on Twitter @EvanSernoffsky