As each day goes by without a verdict in the Johannes Mehserle case, the chances that Oakland will lay off eighty police officers before jurors finish their deliberations continue to rise. Currently, the layoffs are scheduled to take effect on Monday, July 12 — unless the Oakland police union agrees before then to start contributing to its pension plan like other city employees do. The police union has been in negotiations with City Administrator Dan Lindheim and council members Jane Brunner and Ignacio De La Fuente. Mayor Ron Dellums has also participated in the talks.
If the two sides can strike a deal by Monday, then the city council likely will delay the layoffs to give rank-and-file officers a chance to vote on the pact. Councilmembers are mindful that younger officers slated for layoffs likely will vote to pay into their retirement plans in exchange for keeping their jobs. It’s the veteran officers, who have no fear of layoffs, who are objecting most strongly to having to contribute to their pensions.
The mayor and a majority of the city council want the police union to contribute 9 percent to their retirement plans — the same as what other city employees pay. The cops’ union wants the council to promise to not lay off officers for two years if it agrees. Council members have said they can’t make that commitment because the city’s projected deficit next year is higher than this year’s.
According to City Hall sources, Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts has asked council members to delay the layoffs until after there is a verdict in the Mehserle case — even if there is no agreement with the cops’ union. City officials and police brass are worried about not having police officers if the jury acquits the ex-BART cop in the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant and rioting ensues.
There had been indications that a verdict could come as soon as this week, but the jury’s deliberations have been repeatedly delayed. Deliberations were canceled yesterday when a juror became ill, and then were shortened today because of a juror’s doctor’s appointment. Jury deliberations also had to start over today when a juror left on vacation and was replaced by an alternate.