OAKLAND -- The city will hire back 10 of the 80 officers laid off in July, Mayor Jean Quan announced Monday.
In addition to rehiring the officers -- bringing the force to a total of 666 officers -- Quan is moving to repair the department's fleet of aging patrol cars, as well as broken radios and computers that rank-and-file officers have been complaining about in Quan's visits to roll call meetings, she said.
The hires and repairs are expected to cost about $500,000 through June and will be largely bankrolled by the money the city's been saving through attrition as other officers leave, mayoral spokeswoman Sue Piper said.
The move is a fiscal risk, Quan said, depending on how the year-end expenses will finally add up, but the department "has been doing their part to keep their overtime costs in line. I'm doing mine to provide as many resources as the city can afford." Oakland must close a $42 million budget deficit by June 30.
The laid-off officers will be offered their jobs back in order of seniority beginning immediately, City Administrator Dan Lindheim said. The process could be done in just days, but will likely take a few weeks, he added.
The announcement came four days after news broke Thursday that Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts, perhaps Oakland's most popular government head, was turned down for the San Jose chief job for which he'd been a finalist. Batts issued a statement later that day saying he refused to rule out finding work elsewhere unless the city showed significantly stronger support for its police force.
Batts praised Quan on Monday, saying she was taking his concerns seriously and had responded aggressively. However, he declined to weigh in on whether this means he will stay on and complete his three-year contract with the city, which started in October 2009. Though he's been openly supported and asked to stay on board by City Council President Larry Reid, Public Safety Committee Chair Pat Kernighan and Quan, some of Batts' important relationships in Oakland may have been damaged by his words and by his seeking work elsewhere.
"I'm sorry if I stepped on some toes with some tough statements I made last week," Batts said, adding that he's asked Quan for seven days to check in with people he may need to reconnect with before making a final decision, which he promised to have by Friday.
"I'm sending him a valentine, too," Quan joked, getting a laugh from Batts.
Larry Reid joined in, saying, "Hopefully, I don't have to get down on my knees and beg him to stay," to which Batts replied, "You're killing me."
In addition to the rehires, Quan announced a few other tweaks at the Oakland Police Department.
Four officers were promoted Friday to become sergeants, in hopes of getting more officer supervision on the street and bringing the Police Department closer to full compliance with the federal orders that have been looming over the department since 2003, Quan said.
In addition, the city's I.T. workers identified the problem that led to a temporary disruption in police radios during a high-speed chase and officer-involved shooting last week. The problem seems to have been a timing mechanism in the dispatch system, which was adjusted over the weekend. The system will be monitored on a regular basis to ensure that no further problems arise, Quan said.
Quan said she hopes to do more for the department, including scheduling a new academy to train new officers, if she can secure some federal grants in the coming year and make headway in negotiations with the police union. She has called on officers to pay 9 percent into their pensions.
Dom Arotzarena, president of the police union, called the rehires "a step in the right direction" but said morale remains low in the department. Attrition has been about double the usual rate, with about 40 officers having retired or chosen to leave in the last six months, he said. Arotzarena has resisted Quan's pension proposal, saying officers need more signs of goodwill from the city before they'll consider the idea to be fair.
Quan also said she would consider asking the City Council to put a parcel tax on the ballot in June to help fund the department, aiming for something in the $80 to $100 range, well below the $360 parcel tax Oakland voters rejected in November.