The most painful part of being a councilmember is receiving an "executive notification" every time someone is shot in Oakland, along with the constant, justifiably agonized and angry emails from residents victimized by crime.

Oakland finished 2012 with one of its highest homicide tallies in recent history (131), as well as one of its lowest numbers of police officers (613).

I believe there's nothing more important to Oakland's future than building an adequately sized, well-managed police force. Studies show it's the most effective and cost-efficient means of reducing crime.

This Tuesday at noon, the Oakland City Council's Finance and Management Committee will consider three proposals from Councilmember Larry Reid and me to rebuild Oakland's police force as quickly as possible. These proposals would:

Increase Officers. Start new police academies as soon as possible. September is the soonest the OPD can launch its next academy after the one set to start March 27 -- but only if recruitment starts immediately.

Increase Civilian Staffing. Immediately hire 21 civilians -- an additional examiner for our crime lab and 20 service techs to free-up and support officers in the field to fight crime.

Secure Temporary Help. Contract for up to six months with sheriff's deputies to increase the number of officers policing our streets.

The full council should vote on these initiatives on Jan. 22. If approved, we'll start hiring as many police officers and civilians as possible during the next six months -- bringing us to July, when our newly adopted budget can continue that momentum.

Critics will say we should wait six months to consider this spending as part of our overall budget, along with competing priorities. Others might prefer different crime prevention approaches.

I urge you to contact Oakland's councilmembers at DL-councilmembers@oaklandnet.com and tell them:

  • Oakland can't wait six months to invest in crime-fighting; there is no higher priority!

  • No management guru, tough-on-crime-policies or progressive crime prevention programs (many of which I support) will succeed unless we first grow the Police Department to a functional size.

  • Vote "yes!" on the Schaaf-Reid proposals.

    Together, these proposals require significant investment -- $6.2 million annually for staffing and a one-time $4.7 million for recruitment, training and temporary assistance. I wouldn't propose these expenditures unless we could responsibly afford them.

    Last fiscal year, Oakland generated a whopping $34.8 million in unanticipated revenues above what was budgeted. Of this, $10.4 million came from economic growth, which means Oakland should be able to count on at least this much in the years ahead. This brings us back to a more hopeful message.

    We can get through this. We are Oakland -- gritty, resilient, beautiful. It will take more comprehensive planning and action -- the administration's consulting with famed Police Chief Bill Bratton and starting the Ceasefire program are laudable first steps. It will also take sustained political will, but we can start today by harnessing Oakland's economic recovery to put a lid on rising crime. This is something we can and must do now.

    Libby Schaaf is the District 4 representative on the Oakland City Council.