OAKLAND -- Local law enforcement officials are seeking a $67 million federal grant to establish the largest ever Alameda County crime suppression team and help replenish Oakland's understaffed police department.
The grant would include money to hire 30 Oakland police officers, 30 Alameda County sheriff's deputies and 30 California Highway Patrol officers.
The three agencies then would assign veteran officers to staff the 90-member task force that would saturate high-crime areas every day of the week throughout the county.
The patrols would be modeled on those being conducted by the Sheriff's Office and CHP in Oakland to help the city while it rebuilds its police force which has been whittled down to its lowest staffing level in well over a decade.
However, as a key member of the task force, Oakland police would be expected to take part in crime suppression actions outside city limits, Sheriff Greg Ahern said.
Oakland City Administrator Deanna Santana said the city is willing to do its fair share in other jurisdictions, but several elected officials questioned whether Oakland could afford to send any officers outside city boundaries.
"I would certainly hope that the full focus and attention of (the task force's) work would be on making Oakland safer," Councilwoman Libby Schaaf said.
Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley, who represents District 4 in Oakland, said the task force should have enough members not to require Oakland officers to help out elsewhere. "I can't believe OPD will be spending much time if any at all outside Oakland," he said.
Prospects for the grant are tied to Congress finding additional funding for the federal COPS Hiring Program, which is already paying for 25 Oakland officers.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, earlier this month urged House leadership to bolster funding for the program.
The Sheriff's Office spearheaded the grant application, which would fund the new officers for three years and also involve county prosecutors and probation officers.
The crime suppression teams would focus on gangs, drugs and street crimes.
While many of the operations would take place in Oakland -- the state's most violent city -- Undersheriff Richard Lucia told county supervisors Thursday that Oakland wouldn't be the sole focus. "It would truly be a countywide task force," he said. "If Hayward has a problem, the task force could go there."
Oakland has lost more than one-fourth of its police force over the past four years due to layoffs, retirements and resignations. With just 611 officers and only 240 assigned to patrols, the city has had to mandate overtime for officers and pay for outside help while major crimes jumped 23 percent last year.
On Tuesday, the City Council is expected to formally ask the county for help in funding additional police academies and doubling the Sheriff's deputy patrols to four days a week.
Supervisor Scott Haggerty, who has been critical of past city actions, said he would be open to the city's request.
"I do believe Oakland needs the help," he said. "And this is the first city council that has stepped up and said they're going to deal with the crime problem."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.