As Crime Surges Oakland City Council Reverses Decision, Votes for New Class of Police Cadets

NEW YORK, NY - JULY 02: New York City Police Academy cadets attend their graduation ceremony at the Barclays Center on July 2, 2013 in the Brooklyn borough of New York City. The New York Police Department (NYPD) has more than 37,000 officers; 781 cadets graduated today. (Photo by Andrew …
Andrew Burton/Getty Images

Early this summer the Oakland City Council rejected creating a new class of police cadets, joining the nationwide anti-police movement. But after the California city recorded its 100th homicide in 2021 they are now in favor of training more officers.

Three months ago the council voted not to include a fifth police academy in the city’s two-year budget. But on Tuesday the resolution to add a fifth class was introduced and passed on a 6-2 vote.

Councilmember Sheng Thao introduced the resolution, with council President Nikki Fortunato Bas and Councilmember Carroll Fife casting the two votes against it. Thao said:

As a City Council member, a mother and a victim of a home burglary and a survivor of domestic violence, I know personally just how important effective policing and public safety is in the city of Oakland. No matter who you are, when your home is broken into, or you (hear) gunshots outside your door or when you walk to your car alone at night, you want to feel safe.

The San Francisco Chronicle reported on the reversal: 

Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong said the newly funded academy would have 20 trainees and would start in January or February. The resolution also orders the city administrator to study the possibility of adding a sixth police academy next year. It directs the city administrator to prioritize recruitment efforts with local community colleges to boost diversity and look into providing child care for police trainees.

The department currently has 694 sworn personnel, the lowest number since 2014. Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, said the city is losing about 10 officers a month to other law enforcement agencies and retirement.

In a statement Tuesday, Donelan criticized the council for voting in June to fund four police academies and not the six that Mayor Libby Schaaf had initially proposed. In May, Schaaf proposed a two-year budget that would increase funding for the police by spending $693 million total. Instead, councilmembers approved a budget that funds four police academies and boosted funding for violence prevention measures and social services.

Donelan said:

Oakland’s dwindling ranks of police officers are struggling to stem the violence and bloodshed on city streets. City Council members who previously voted to defund the police, helping fuel Oakland violence, are now considering more police academies. How about this strategy: support your hardworking police officers and act against violence.

“The department is currently funded for 45 police officer trainees per academy for two academies this fiscal year and two the following fiscal year,” the Chronicle reported.

The Chronicle reported that some of the trainees dropped out, “leaving 41 funded positions that won’t be filled.”

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