Oakland’s police chief is calling for more cops amid a staffing shortage to deal with increased homicides and widespread looting in the NorCal area.
Bay area Chief LeRonne Armstrong began with a moment of silence for the city’s 127 homicide victims this year when speaking with reporters after the fatal shooting of a San Jose police officer over the weekend. Officer Nishita was fatally shot while protecting a San Francisco news crew during an attempted robbery of their camera equipment.
A former Oakland Police Officer was also a victim of gun violence after being shot during a gas station robbery in October. The officer, who was the former head of the department’s gun and gang intervention program, is still recovering from his injuries.
The city of Oakland has seen a 50% increase in shootings and robberies, and a 100% increase in carjackings this year compared to 2020. To make matters worse, the department is saddled with a staffing shortage.
The Oakland Police Department is one officer short of its minimum staffing requirement set by a voter-approved parcel tax measure. The department currently has 677 sworn personnel, one of the lowest numbers in recent years.
“That is the smallest staff that we’ve had in several years,” Chief Armstrong lamented. “It is it wholly lower than the staffing we had at this same time last year where we had 740 officers.”
In a city like Oakland marred with gun violence, police cannot afford a staffing shortage.
The day before Armstrong’s remarks, Mayor Libby Schaaf said she intends to submit a revised plan to hire more officers and to add an additional police academy class.
Two recruit classes, one of 39 and another of 26, will graduate in December and April and will be assigned to patrol duty immediately, the police chief said.
Armstrong said he will also deploy tactical teams to vulnerable locations to deter retail store thefts after several high-profile incidents of flash mob looting in malls.
The thieves carry out a flurry of sometimes upwards of 30 robberies within a single hour, the chief pointed out.
He added that their actions are more coordinated than police originally thought.
Armstrong said that the police will collaborate with the Public Works department to place barriers on the road strategically to cut off traffic and prevent the thieves from easily escaping.