Oakland Police: Don’t Call Us

Oakland's police chief, miffed at recent budget cuts, has listed 44 crimes that his officers will no longer respond to.

Oakland’s police chief, miffed at recent budget cuts, has listed 44 crimes that his officers will no longer respond to.

Anthony Bates, hired in October, has lost ten percent of his work force, “about 80 officers.” Until that’s resolved, people experiencing any of those 44 crimes will have to file reports online. A partial list:

  • burglary
  • theft
  • embezzlement
  • grand theft
  • grand theft:dog
  • identity theft
  • false information to peace officer
  • required to register as sex or arson offender
  • dump waste or offensive matter
  • discard appliance with lock
  • loud music
  • possess forged notes
  • pass fictitious check
  • obtain money by false voucher
  • fraudulent use of access cards
  • stolen license plate
  • embezzlement by an employee (over $ 400)
  • extortion
  • attempted extortion
  • false personification of other
  • injure telephone/ power line
  • interfere with power line
  • unauthorized cable tv connection
  • vandalism
  • administer/expose poison to another’s

Another’s what, it doesn’t say.

I’m especially amused that they won’t be responding to “false information to peace officer.”   I’m sure that’ll put a big scare into the community.

So, what’s the deal?

The Oakland City Council voted June 25 to eliminate the positions to help close the city’s $32.5 million funding gap. According to the city of Oakland, each of the 776 police officers currently employed at OPD costs around $188,000 per year. Most of the officers who will be affected by the layoffs were on the streets of Oakland when Johannes Mehserle’s involuntary manslaughter conviction caused riots last Thursday.

The sticking point in negotiations appears to be job security. The city council asked OPD officers to pay nine percent of their salary toward their pensions, which would save the city about $7.8 million toward a multi-million dollar deficit. The police union agreed, as long as the city could promise no layoffs for three years. No dice, says city council president Jane Brunner.  “We wish we could offer them a three-year no layoff protection we just can’t financially. It would be irresponsible of us,” Brunner said. The city agreed to a one-year moratorium on layoffs, but it is not enough for the union.

The problem is money. In the last five years, the police budget — along with the fire department budget — have amount to 75 percent of the general fund. After years of largely sparing those departments the budget ax, now it appears there are few other places to cut.

My expertise in police budgeting approaches nil, so, while I’m surprised at the $188,000 per officer per year figure, it may well be reasonable.   And, while my first reaction to the loss of 80 “mostly new” cops is that this is a “budget cut” in the Washington sense of giving a small-than-asked-for increase, these may be a mere keeping pace with attrition hires.

Bates is using a time-honored tactic for public officials facing budget shortfalls:  Trying to scare the public with dire cancellations of favored programs.   But police protection isn’t high school football or access to the Washington Monument.   It would be one thing to announce that these 44 incident types will receive lower priority than more serious crimes — which one would hope would have always been the case — but quite another to announce that police won’t take the reports.  Surely, there are lulls in violent crime even in Oakland?

Further, I don’t understand what filing the reports online does.   Or is filing online the equivalent to placing the report in “the circular file” or “your objection has been noted and logged”?  If they’re not going to respond, period, why take the report?   And, if they’re going to respond eventually, why online?    Are they getting rid of most of their telephone operators?

FILED UNDER: Policing, Uncategorized, , , ,
James Joyner
About James Joyner
James Joyner is Professor and Department Head of Security Studies at Marine Corps University's Command and Staff College. He's a former Army officer and Desert Storm veteran. Views expressed here are his own. Follow James on Twitter @DrJJoyner.


  1. Brummagem Joe says:

    Hopefully the mayor will fire him or the Feds will take over his department. Teachers are often accused of having a sense of entitlement (correctly in my opinion) but their sense of entitlement pales into insignificance with that of police departments.

  2. steve says:

    I believe he means that they will not send an officer out to your home to take a direct report. Filing the report online would be much more time effective. The report could be read by an officer, then follow up calls made as needed. Should cut down on nuisance calls. The poor and the elderly are the ones likely to bear the brunt of this plan as they may have less computer access or ability.


  3. John Peabody says:

    Police reports are usually required for insurance purposes. This would be the reason for filing reports, even if no actual police investigation / apprehension is expected.Makes sense to me.

  4. MstrB says:

    The dollar figure for cost may not be too far off. From consulting experience the cost would be the salary plus benefits and all of the capitalized overhead (rent, training, supplies, etc.). Using something like a 3.0 multiplier the average salary would be around 62k.

  5. Ben says:

    Notice that they’re willing to stop arresting for burglary and grand theft (things that are fundamental violations of personal security of self and home), but possession/distribution of a controlled substance is absent from this list. They still gotta keep the weed under control!!!!!!

  6. wr says:

    How dare the chief of police point out the fact that if you want government services you have to pay for them. Doesn’t he know it’s the duty of every official to pretend that no matter how much you slash their budges and fire their employees they can provide the same level of services? If this keeps up, people will be forced to accept the fact that they can’t have low taxes and high amounts of service, and the conservatives will start screaming that their freedom is being stolen.

  7. Mars vs Hollywood says:

    When a police report is filed, it is typically referred to an investigator for follow-up. The online reporting by citizens of some crimes is more efficient in some cases, but will generally make the follow-ups harder, as cops taking a report will know better what information will be helpful to detectives.

    I’m surprised burglary is on the list. Does this mean they aren’t sending crime scene techs out to dust for prints or take evidence?

    On the $188,000 figure, I’m guessing they’re including costs like equipment, fuel, training, and liability insurance (which I suspect is crazy high in California).

  8. jeff nolan says:

    Does anyone really believe they have been responding to such heinous crimes as “stolen license plate” and “unauthorized cable tv”?

    What I find more disheartening is that the OPD is engaged in a subterfuge of the highest order by suggesting that crime will increase unabated without the 80 officers that were laid off this week. It is dishonest because it suggests that police prevent crime, which anyone living in Oakland will surely testify that it does not.

    If OPD isn’t going to respond to complaints for 44 types of crimes and public safety is impaired as a result, then there are two things that we should expect of them, the first being that they will drive down the highest murder rate in the state by focusing their resources on career criminals and parolees, and secondly that the police union put job security and seniority ahead of public safety.

    Lastly, in the private sector for highly skilled jobs you can expect a fully loaded cost of around $150k a year for salary and benefits so the OPD $188k per year per officer really illustrates how benefits have perverted the public sector finances, assuming the average officer makes $80k in salary.

  9. Trumwill says:

    Does anyone really believe they have been responding to such heinous crimes as “stolen license plate” and “unauthorized cable tv”?

    Not unauthorized TV, but yeah on the stolen license plates. Cable TV is stolen by everyday citizens that are unlikely to do much worse than that. License plate theft seems to me to be more likely part of a greater crime. If I’m going to rob a bank, I might steal someone’s license plate first.

    Maybe I’ve been watching too many cop shows.

  10. jeff nolan says:

    Stolen license plates are most often related to people with expired vehicle registration than serious crime. They used to steal just the renewal sticker but then the state started perforating the stickers so you could not peel them off with a razor blade.

  11. wr says:

    Jeff Nolan: First of all, I have to say I’ve got no problem with a police officer getting paid more than a middle manager at a corporation. More to the point, the only “pervsersion” involved in extra paid in benefits to the public sector worker is the way the private sector has, by spending forty years trying to destroy unions, managed to steal back what they used to pay in benefits.

  12. jeff nolan says:

    I do have a problem with it… state and local governments have been committing taxpayers to a compensation system that is unsustainable and because of the political consequences of taking on popular public sector unions like firefighters and public safety these same politicians have been reluctant to put the brakes on a system they themselves know is unsustainable.

    In business you have two options when you are faced with cost increases that go beyond the rate of inflation, you cut costs through efficiencies and where possible increase prices. When is comes to police, fire, and education the raising revenues (taxes) has been a well pulled lever in CA yet the efficiencies topic is rarely attacked unless additional revenue comes with it (e.g. traffic cameras). The union work rules, seniority, and benefits system all conspire to create a system that collapses under it’s own weight.

    How much more evidence do you need? CalPERS just pushed a $600 million rate increase through that the already broke state will have to step up for and CalSTRS is moving in lockstep, the LA County system (which along with 39 counties operates outside of CalPERS) is on the brink of insolvency, counties are going bankrupt (literally) under the weight of employee costs, and the list goes on.

    Labor unions have once again proven themselves to be their own worst enemy, following in the footsteps of longshoreman, auto workers, steel, and transportation industries. Police and fire unions are at a tipping point in the public consciousness, how they act at this moment in time will define the perception of them for generations into the future… just like the auto industry and the UAW.

  13. wr says:

    Jeff Nolan: Yes, public employee unions are at a tipping point in the public consciousness for exactly the same reason hit that same point — a massive, hugely funded propaganda campaign ruthlessly waged against labor by the very rich. It’s really quite brilliant. First they managed to wipe out pensions that were guaranteed by contract — looting the pension plans as they bought as sold the companies — and then they can point to the last set of people who are actually guaranteed a decent retirement and say to those whose pensions were stolen “Why should they have this when you don’t?”

    As for raising taxes in California being a “well-pulled lever” — have you actually set foot in California in the last couple of decades? It’s impossible to raise taxes because we have this insane supermajority requirement, so that even though the Repubs have a small minority in the legislature they can block all new taxes .