Throwing More Money at Police | Feature | Oakland, Berkeley & Bay Area News & Arts Coverage
As crime has remained at high levels in Oakland over the past few years, there's been a growing call in the city to allocate tens of millions in additional dollars to the police department to hire more cops. And while it's true that Oakland has fewer police officers per capita than similar cities nationwide, public records show that Oakland already dedicates a higher percentage of its budget to its police department than comparable cities with high crime rates. The reason that Oakland has fewer cops yet spends more money than other cities on policing per capita is that its officers are among the highest paid in the nation, according to research from UC Berkeley.
Yet over the past fifteen years, as the police department's spending has consistently grown at a faster rate than the city's general fund budget, Oakland leaders have done little to address OPD's unusually high costs. Instead, politicians have responded by proposing to give the department even more money. Mayor Jean Quan's proposed budget for the next two years aims to hire approximately fifty new police officers, and doing so will require spending another $24 million because of recruiting and training costs. The budget proposal currently under review by the city council would allocate approximately half of the $48.5 million in new revenues that the city estimates it will collect in the next two years to the police department, bringing OPD's share of the city's general purpose fund to 42 percent — a number that is higher than nearly every other city in the country. Under Quan's proposed budget, funds for many other city services would be held flat, or cut in real terms, in order to pay for the police department's latest spending surge.
At the same time, interviews and public records show that the police department has repeatedly wasted resources and failed to enact reforms that could bring down its costs, reduce crime, and decrease the need for more police expenditures. A recent review of the department by leading law enforcement experts criticized OPD for failing to properly focus on solving felonies to lower the city's violent crime rate. Instead, the department has allocated most of its resources over the years toward patrol, a tactic that has failed to reduce crime and thus has fueled demands for more spending on police.
. . .