OPD Must Civilianize Positions
THE CASE FOR CIVILIANIZING MANY OPD POSITIONS
“We need to increase the number of sworn officers in the Oakland Police Department.” It is this core belief that governs the budget allocations being proposed by the Mayor and City Administrator, as well as some City Council members.
But placing a priority on public safety doesn’t require increasing the number of sworn. What is needed is more personnel at OPD, but not necessarily more sworn officers.
For several decades, the trend in the United States is to hire civilians to do jobs within the police department that do not require sworn officers. Indeed, a 2008 report commissioned by OPD pointed out that at least 48 positions currently staffed by sworn officers could be filled by qualified civilians at much less cost. Former OPD Chief Anthony Batts included this recommendation in his 5 year Strategic Plan.
Hiring civilians to replace sworn doing jobs unrelated to crime fighting means that sworn can be re-assigned to patrol or criminal investigation, where they are needed to cover ‘hot spots’ and respond to calls for assistance. Moreover, these re-assigned (senior) officers will hit the streets much more quickly than the year it takes to get the academy rookies out on patrol.
Why does this make sense? Check out the comparison of costs for the same number of increased sworn on the streets, or doing criminal investigations.
Recruiting through pre-academy, academy and post –academy process is extremely wasteful. From the Budget Office, these are the costs of obtaining 55 successful graduates from an original pool of 4,000. It must be pointed out that, of the 55 successful graduates, only 40 are actually hired by OPD.
Pre-Academy: $1,120,000 (most of the costs are associated with background checks)
Post-Academy 1, 173,000 (3 Field Training Officers are needed to supervise one trainee)
So, in addition to the exorbitant cost and the length of time it takes from beginning to end of this process of acquiring a new sworn officer, we must also acknowledge that for each graduate, 3 Field Training Officers are required to spend their time supervising, monitoring and evaluating their trainee, when they could be devoted to crime-fighting or investigating crimes, instead.
At the same time the number of sworn has been depleted, so have the number of civilian positions within OPD. In the last years, 34% of non-sworn workers have been laid off, including communications, police evidence technicians and criminalists, etc. Yet, the average cost of a civilian is three times less than the average cost of a sworn officer.
Look at the following cost comparison for 48 positions within OPD:
Total Annual Costs for 48 sworn positions: $10,926,524
Total Annual Costs for 48 civilian positions: 4,124, 064
Total Annual Cost Savings for Department: $6,802, 460
How will this plan improve public safety?
First, the annual costs savings can be used to fund key public safety strategies like the Cease Fire program. Currently, while that program is funded to cover the costs of running the program which calls upon known violent criminals to give up these behaviors and change their lifestyle, the funding isn’t sufficient to provide employment opportunities that would give them a realistic alternative to their illegal activities. The costs savings applied to the Cease Fire effort, providing meaningful incentives for shooters to stop the violence, might be the wisest use of City resources intended to promote public safety. Without it, the funding for Cease Fire will result in another failed effort and another case of wasted resources.
Actually,the cost-savings above also approximate the amount of revenues brought in annually by Measure Y, which the City hopes will be authorized by the voters next year. It’s hard to imagine why tax payers would voluntarily continue to be taxed in this way when the City fails to adopt cost-savings and more strategic use of resources, such as multiple police academies in lieu of civilianizing. Should Measure Y not be reauthorized, the City will lose funding that supports 35 Problem Solving Officers that work with Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils to promote pro-active community policing efforts.
• The 2013-2015 budget adopted by the City Council must reflect an increased commitment to civilianizing positions within the Oakland Police Department. At least 25 positions should be civilianized, initially, and one scheduled police academy should be omitted.
• Public Safety Allocations should fund the strategies that hold the greatest possibility of reducing crime and violence. It is a mistake to place greater value on increasing the number of sworn than on what jobs the sworn actually do, and the extent to which their ability, experience and training are utilized to prevent crimes and close investigations. If civilians took accident reports, collected evidence, worked in CompStat and crime mapping, oversaw communications and other non crime-related activities, our sworn could be used much more strategically and with better outcomes in crime reduction.
• The City should demonstrate fiscal efficiency, discipline and wisdom in their allocations before coming to tax payers for additional revenues.