Monday, November 17, 2008

Nirvana Realized: Oakland At 837 Cops

By now most readers have heard the news that the Oakland Police Department graduated a new class of cops, bringing the total staffing above the magic 800 number for the first time in recent history. At the same time, there's a fair bit of bellyaching that this accomplishment will not make a significant difference to the city.

There also is some discussion of how this feat serves as some sort of vindication for Mayor Dullums. Let me counter that assertion first and then move on to the question of what this will mean for Oakland residents.

Ron Dullums is the political equivalent of a fair-weather fan. The issue with him is not that he didn't manage to survive long enough to witness the promised increase in policing. It's that he did very little to support it -- and indeed opposed it -- until it became clear that it was the only alternative left.

But just as the president frequently gets credit for "running the economy," though he does nothing of the kind, Dullums has received some totally undeserved accolades here. Fair enough. Hopefully it makes him sleep better at night.

But on to the issue of the 837 cops. I'll admit that the first thing I noticed when reading the announcement was these cops' starting salary: $70,000 per year. I'm sure that number ignores the cost of benefits and retirement, which typically adds about 50 percent to a civil servant's cost. So, these cops are cosing us about $100k per year each.

That's quite a price to pay for rookie cops, especially when you consider that New York pays its rookie cops just $36,000 a year.

Sit back and think about that for a moment. Our leaders are chortling that they managed to hire police by offering to pay them double what they would earn in NYC (which, incidentally, has a higher cost of living than the Bay Area).

And, what do you want to bet that Oakland is not rationally reserving money for these officers' retirement pay? Given what we've seen throughout California in recent months and years, I'd be pretty surprised to see anything reasonable on that front.

Still, I'm glad to see the number of police increase, and I continue to support any well-written proposition to increase them further -- provided it uses regressive taxation as did Measure Y.

Doing so is a true win-win for Oakland residents. First, spending money on police will decrease crime.

Now I know that Dullums likes to say things like, "We can't arrest our way out of this problem." I disagree. I think we can and should arrest people like crazy to get this problem under control.

If I were an anti-social element looking for a city to loot, I'd absolutely factor my chances of getting caught into my decisionmaking. As criminals learn that Oakland is serious about rounding up criminals, they will go elsewhere. It's simple self-preservation.

But that's just the start of it. By diverting tax money from liberal social programs to the police -- no matter how inefficiently it is done -- the city is sending out a clear message to the poor: Get Out.

The same goes for regressive parcel taxes which hit hardest those who can least afford them.

This is exactly what Oakland needs to do. Tax the poor and stop spending money to support them. Our city lies at the gateway to San Francisco. We have Bart stations which will whisk a business commuter to Market Street in under 15 minutes. What we need is an environment more conducive to getting those people to live here. That means keeping prices cheaper than San Francisco (we've got that covered, courtesy of the housing crash), and it means making the streets livable.

So, I applaud whatever forces have brought this about, and I hope to see more of the same. May our better-policed city flourish!


  1. Couldn't agree with you more. I pay more taxes here than I did to live in Marin County and for what? To support more than my share of poor folks, some of whom turn out to be criminals. Oakland is filled with tax-payers who consistently vote against their own best interests. A good case in point are my neighbors, they owe more on their house than it is worth, but they both voted for Measure OO because they want to "help". If several analysts are correct and Measure OO forces Oakland into bankruptcy I wonder if they will still think they helped. My grandmother used to speak of people who didn't have the good sense God gave geese, she must have been speaking about Oaklanders.

  2. I think BK might actually be helpful IF union contracts can be renegotiated. We are on this big merry go round where every bay area city's muni employees are tied to other city's bargaining (and it's all tied to big brother SF). It is clearly the salaries and benefits that are killing OAK, OK I should mention the dismal workproduct too.