Town Business: ‘Delete’ the Police Academy, Fund a Police Commission

Until a few weeks ago, the goal of reaching 800 Police Officers by 2017 was something both Oakland’s mayor and city council could agree on. That’s no longer the case.

Now it’s likely that millions of dollars in the city’s mid-cycle budget will be diverted away from hiring more cops. Instead, the new revenue will be spent on efforts to reform the Oakland Police Department, or fund social services.

Mayor Libby Schaaf’s original mid-cycle budget adjustment released in May called for adding a 3rd police academy this year at a cost of $3.17 million. That was before Oakland burned through three police chiefs in a week, and before allegations and evidence surfaced that multiple OPD officers sexually exploited a minor.

OPD’s recruitment and training programs have come under criticism for allowing men of poor character to join the force. Younger officers who joined OPD since 2013 appear to be responsible for much of the recent misconduct, including alleged sex crimes.

Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks have responded to OPD’s problems by proposing a budget adjustment that would simply “delete” the 3rd police academy and save the city $3.17 million. Under the councilmembers’ proposal, this money would instead be spent on early childhood education, renters’ rights education, neighborhood jobs centers, a homeless camp pilot program, and other social services.

The councilmembers’ proposal also calls for capping police academies at 45 cadets “to improve the teacher to cadet ratio,” so that when Oakland does re-start its police academy it’s less likely that bad apples will make it through training.

Mayor Schaaf has devised her own response also. Her updated budget adjustments, released the day after Kaplan and Brooks filed their plan, includes funding increases for most of same social services asked for by Kaplan and Brooks.

Schaaf’s revised budget adjustment is also calling for “delaying” the 3rd police academy until after May 2017. This would allow the city auditor and OPD’s inspector general to complete their audit of OPD’s recruitment and training practices to figure out’s what’s broken, and how it can be fixed.

Instead of funding a new police academy, Mayor Schaaf is now proposing to set aside $1.5 million for a police commission, pending approval by voters.

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