Despite last-minute negotiations Tuesday, one of the nation's most crime-ridden cities had to lay off almost 10 percent of its police force.
Oakland city leaders and its police union failed to reach an agreement before a 5 p.m. deadline, forcing 80 officers to turn in their badges. The dismissals leave the embattled department with 696 officers in a city of more than 400,000 residents.
The sticking point was over job security. The Oakland Police Officers Association said it would give concessions and contribute 9 percent of their salaries to their pensions only if the city guaranteed a three-year moratorium on layoffs.
The city, however, said it could only offer a one-year freeze.
Police are the only city employees who don't make such a contribution.
“We could not carry out our fiduciary responsibilities talking about the second year and third year in an iffy proposition,” said Mayor Dellums.
"I think we're all disappointed that we couldn't come up with an agreement at this time. But we tried really hard," City Council president Jane Brunner said Tuesday, adding that talks could resume at a future date.
Rocky Lucia, an attorney for the police union, said despite good-faith efforts, it was a dark day for the union.
"I will tell you that our primary focus was to give up more than any association has given up in my knowledge... All we wanted was job security," Lucia said. “The mandate was for a three-year deal with job security and they never came close to that. Never.”
After the city's announcement, the mood inside the Oakland Police Officers Association headquarters was grim.
OPOA President Dom Arotzarena compared it to one of the department's darkest days.
“Losing four officers last year was a shock to us all, and we haven't really recovered from that yet,” said Arotzarena. “And now we're losing another 80 officers this year, not by the hand of a gun but by the hand of a pen.”
Union reps said no California police department is making the kinds of concessions city hall demanded. And even if it did, the whole process could be repeated again next year.
Last month, the council voted to cut nearly 10 percent of the city's 776 officers to help close a deficit of more than $31 million in the city's 2011 budget.
Police Chief Anthony Batts said many of the officers laid off were on the front lines last week, trying to control protesters after former Bay Area Rapid Transit officer Johannes Mehserle was convicted of involuntary manslaughter in the shooting of an unarmed black man in 2009.
Earlier Tuesday, Batts was hesitant to say if the city and police union could strike a deal.
"Well, I don't want to scare anyone. We will continue to do a great job," Batts told KTVU-TV. "However, Oakland has a tremendous amount of demand here ... Oakland, compared to other cities of its size, has a lot more demand."
Gordon Dorham, one of the 80 officers laid off Tuesday, was more blunt. The officer of 2 1/2 years said one word describes how some Oakland residents now feel: "Fear."
"The citizens are scared," said Dorham. "They're scared and they know that the wolves are coming out."
On Monday, police released a list of crimes -- including grand theft, burglary, vehicle collision, identity theft and vandalism -- that officers would not respond to in person if there were layoffs.
Victims would have to report those and other crimes online.
Officers also would not be able to register sex offenders in person.
City leaders and police are hoping voters in November will approve new tax measures and amend an existing 2004 tax ordinance.
If the measures fail, police could lose another 122 officers in January.
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