Oakland Police Knowledge Reveals Shootings, Homicides Declined As Variety of Officers Grew – CBS San Francisco

OAKLAND (CBS SF) – Amid an ongoing debate over the role and size of city police forces, 10 years of Oakland police data shows that the number of shootings and homicides decreased as the city’s police force grew.

Although the size of the emergency services and the number of homicides and shootings have fluctuated from year to year, the trend is clear. From 2011 to 2014 there were an average of 105 homicides per year and an average of 501 executions. Those numbers declined to an average of 85 and 334 from 2017 to 2020 as the average police force increased from 635 in the earlier 4 years to 742 in the later 4 year period.

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“Having a well-staffed police department is part of” a holistic approach to public safety, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said on Twitter the day before the city council was expected to vote on hiring more officials. “We must prioritize ending trauma and loss from crime and violence.”

The statistics come from an intense debate in Oakland about the size and role of its police force.

Following the death of George Floyd in the summer of 2020, some community activists vigorously advocated downsizing the police force. A community group, the Anti-Police Terror Project (APTP), helped divert millions of dollars from a proposed police budget to the Violence Prevention Department, which works with people likely to be perpetrators or victims of violent crimes. This money was earmarked for two police academies. Upcoming academies start with more than 30 cadets each.

But in 2020 the number of deaths from shootings rose again in Oakland, with 109 people killed by gunfire. By early December this year, 129 people had been killed in shootings, including a security guard who was shot while protecting a television crew. Two months earlier, an alleged robbery suspect had been killed in a firefight at a gas station with former police captain Ersie Joyner in Oakland, who was seriously injured.

Meanwhile, the police force has shrunk, the number of employees was reduced to 676 in early December and a further decline is expected.
“This department is really short of resources,” said Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong, a passionate advocate of more officials, in a recent interview with Bay City News. “We have to address the loss of life in this city.”

Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, the union that represents officials in Oakland, said the department had so few resources that it could only sort calls.

In response to this situation, city officials are recruiting more officials.

In September, Oakland City Council voted to create an additional police academy, and in early December the council added two more – bringing the total number of academies planned for the next two years to seven. And City Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao, a candidate for mayoral, has proposed a $ 50,000 hiring bonus for senior officials coming to Oakland for work.

Ultimately, Armstrong believes that a city the size of Oakland would need 1,100 to 1,200 sworn officers. Oakland has 440,000 residents, or about half that of San Francisco, and San Francisco has about 2,000 sworn officers. By mid-September, San Francisco had fewer than half the murders in Oakland.

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But despite the move to strengthen the police force, the debate about their size and role is far from over.

Although police department data suggests a decrease in shootings is related to greater police force, experts studying these trends warn that many elements play a role in increasing or decreasing crime.

Whether more officials will lead to a reduction in violent crime is not an easy question, according to Cory Lepage, professor at the Institute of Criminology at California State University East Bay. Lepage said that “intervening variables” influence the level of violent crime. Such variables can be anything from population shifts and economic fluctuations to police guidelines and unexpected events like the COVID-19 pandemic.

For the anti-police-terror project, more police force is still not the solution.

“Perhaps the solution (to Oakland crime) lies in affordable housing, violence prevention, mental health services, and less in the Oakland Police Department (OPD),” the group wrote in a Twitter post last month.

And for others, policing only works when it’s combined with other efforts.

“Reducing violence takes many different approaches,” said Guillermo Cespedes, director of violence prevention in Oakland and national expert.

Oakland cannot stop or prevent its way out, Cespedes said.

“You need a balanced approach that includes both.”

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