Tuesday, May 5, 2009

Dellums Threatens to Lay Off 140 Cops

By Robert Gammon
Tue, May 5, 2009 at 9:43 AM

In a surprise move, Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums is threatening to lay off 140 cops in an effort to help balance the city's projected $83 million budget deficit, according to the Oakland Tribune. But Dellums may not have to go ahead with the massive layoffs if the city receives a $67 million federal grant over the next three years. Nonetheless, Dellums' move is surprising for several reasons. First, laying off police officers in a crime-ridden city like Oakland will be extremely unpopular. And second, if the department lays off that many officers, then the city may have to abandon Measure Y, the 2004 community policing initiative, thereby costing Oakland much-needed revenues.

The reason is that city officials have said that they cannot collect Measure Y parcel tax funds from Oakland residents unless the department maintains an authorized force of 739 cops. But if the city lays off 140 officers, then the department will fall well below the 739 requirement. It'll be interesting to see whether the Dellums administration has done an about face and now believes that they can still lay off that many cops and keep Measure Y going. Because if they haven't, then the massive layoff will cost the city another $20 million or so in annual Measure Y revenues.

On the other hand, Dellums may just be issuing a threat of massive layoffs in order to convince the Oakland police union to take substantial pay cuts. If so, then it'll be interesting to see whether the union buckles, or stands firm, knowing about the Measure Y problem and the unpopularity of laying off cops. Dellums also could be issuing the layoff threat in order to convince federal officials to fork over the $67 million grant. If so, let's hope it works.

Correction: An earlier version of this post used out-of-date figures to describe how much Measure Y produces in annual revenues for the city. According to Mayor Ron Dellums' 2009-11 budget, Measure Y is expected to generate about $20 million in annual tax revenues for each of the next two years -- not about $12 million, as stated in the earlier post.

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