Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker said Monday that he will switch the department to a community policing plan in January.
The switch, long anticipated by many residents and police brass, had been delayed by the police union, which opposed changes to police officers’ work schedules.
A state arbitrator, Charles Askin, sided with the city Monday, giving a green light to the community policing plan.
The city and the Oakland Police Officers Association have been at an impasse in contract negotiations since February, and the state arbitrator has been reviewing the case. The union’s contract expired in June 2006.
Tucker will switch officers from 10-hour workdays to 12-hour workdays in an effort to put more officers on the streets during peak hours.
A union spokesman said the change could prompt officers to resign from the understaffed department.
Mike Rains, attorney for the union, said the decision “amounts to a trial-and-error experiment with the lives of Oakland police officers.
“It’s a tragedy not only for this department and its officers, but the citizens of this city.”
Rains and the union argued that switching from 10-hour to 12-hour shifts would exhaust already-stressed officers and run roughshod over seniority.
“This plan is devastating to the health of the officers and the families of the officers thrust into it,” Rains said. “You’re going to see a mass flight from an already-beleaguered agency.”
Tucker countered that with the ability to assign officers to slightly longer shifts, crime will go down, police response times will improve, and officers will reap the benefits of that success.
“The arbitrator ruled that the status quo is unacceptable and unsupportable,” Tucker said Monday. “This will provide better staffing, reduce overtime and will better serve the interest of Oakland residents.”
Tucker said he will launch the new scheduling in January, along with so-called geographic policing, in which a captain is responsible for a region of the city. Oakland will be divided into three regions: Central-North, East and West Oakland. Each district captain will be held accountable for reducing crime in his or her district. His or her subordinates will be expected to be in regular contact with neighborhood crime prevention groups.
Mayor Ron Dellums said that with the arbitrator’s decision, Tucker can now focus on bolstering recruitment and retention of officers.
“This is a tremendous victory,” Dellums said in a statement. “We can finally move closer to true community policing and effective police deployment. It could not have come at a more crucial time – with serious issues of crime and violence impacting our communities.”
The department is down about 70 officers from its authorized staff of 803, in part due to a large number of retirements and a dearth of qualified candidates for the police academy.
Tucker said the arbitrator concluded that the new schedule would be less fatiguing and stressful than the officers’ current shifts.