Twelve years after Jean Quan took a seat on the city council, Oakland has fewer police than we had in 2002. Oakland has well under half the staffing maintained by most major cities.
Then in 2004, when Jean Quan campaigned for Measure Y, she insisted it would guarantee 800 police. Instead, the tax began, and staffing went down and stayed down for most of the past ten years.
Desperate for re-election, Quan puffed up a figure of 700 police as though it is an accomplishment, as though it is acceptable. But crime in Oakland is worse today than it was in 2002, and 2004, and 2010.
Staffing is so low that the department is unable to respond to entire categories of theft and other crimes, unable to investigate more than a handful of reported crimes, and completely unable to respond to neighborhood crimes when officers are required to work on a riot situation.
In addition to severe understaffing of sworn officers, the police department has almost five dozen budgeted but unfilled civilian positions, including twelve dispatchers and communications operators who take your 911 calls.
Oakland cannot be a safe city with so few police. The problem is the persistent refusal of the Oakland mayor and city council to make public safety a priority. That must change.
Do most other cities waste money on a police force twice the size they need? We don't think so. Oakland has half the officers it needs to maintain public safety. That's why the city ranks as the fourth most dangerous city in the country. That's why a culture of disruption and disrespect dominates our neighborhoods.
Oakland's ostrich crowd (the leaders who ignore our crisis in public safety while prattling forever about social programs) cannot say that poverty is the root cause of our problem. Oakland has a poverty rate typical of large cities, including many that are much safer than Oakland.