Oakland, CA – A member of the Oakland City Council is pushing to amp up recruitment for the city’s understaffed police force by offering a $50,000 cash bonus to experienced officers who sign up to serve for at least five years.
Oakland City Council President Pro Tem Sheng Thao, who is running for mayor, announced the proposed hiring incentive last week and is slated to present her idea to the city council Tuesday, KTVU reported.
“We are in a public safety emergency right now,” Thao told the news outlet. “It feels like every day we face a new senseless tragedy. And at the same time, our shrinking police force does not have the resources to adequately serve our community.”
The Oakland Police Department (OPD) currently has 60 vacant police officer positions, KTVU reported.
Thao said she came up with the idea in order to help increase the visibility of the OPD, to improve 911 response times, and to expand gun violence prevention programs.
Thao, who also wants the city to partner up with a hiring agency to recruit experienced officers from around the nation, says her proposal would fill the OPD’s positions much more quickly than simply adding police academies.
She noted the officers she wants to attract are “lateral officers” who have already put their training to use out on the street.
“Unlike graduates from traditional academies these officers are already experienced and ready to hit the streets as patrol officers,” Thao told KTVU.
Under the proposal, lateral officers who receive the $50,000 hiring bonus and opt to leave the agency less than five years later would be required to pay back the prorated amount of the bonus, Thao said.
Those who leave OPD before serving at least 18 months would be required to pay back the entire bonus amount, KTVU reported.
She us also proposing a $20,000 hiring bonus for Oakland residents who join the department as new officers.
“I believe there are many amazing dedicated residents here in the city of Oakland who are eager to protect and serve,” Thao told The Mercury News.
OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong, a native of the city, said he hopes to see the development of a plan that would also benefit current officers who have stuck with the department, KTVU reported.
Chief Armstrong said he also is concerned about the potential of hiring new officers who may be coming to the city solely for monetary gain.
Just last year, Thao and other city council members were taking steps to reduce the OPDs ranks, KTVU reported.
The city’s crime rate skyrocketed as a result, and homicides have hit a high Oakland hasn’t seen in nearly a decade, according to The Mercury News.
“Residents and businesses are asking for a sense of urgency from city leaders,” Thao told the paper. “No one is coming to save us. We’re going to have to save ourselves. That means being aggressive, creative and disruptive as we look to do things differently at City Hall, because the results are in, and what we are doing isn’t working.”
Oakland Police Officers Association (OPA) President Barry Donelan said the city council needs to put more attention on retaining the officers who are currently working for the OPD, KGO reported.
The last time an officer from another department joined OPD was 2014, Donelan noted.
“I think it smacks of being naive, and a desperate effort to try and fix the defund decisions that she and her colleagues made just a couple of months ago,” he said of Thao’s proposal, according to KGO. “I find the whole thing ridiculous.”