OAKLAND _ Tense contract negotiations between the Oakland Police Officers Association and the city of Oakland have broken down over the city's demand that the police chief have more ability to deploy officers as he sees fit.

However, lawyers for the police union blame the impasse squarely on Police Chief Wayne Tucker, and his public pronouncements that the contract's provisions have made it impossible for him to manage the department.

``Many of the problems befalling the Oakland Police Department are a direct result of the city's failure to adequately staff the department,'' according to attorney Rocky Lucia's letter to city officials. ``The suggestion that the OPOA (contract) is impeding the chief's ability to protect the citizens of Oakland is patently absurd.''

Lucia also called the union and its contract a ``scapegoat'' for the city's lack of committment to its police department.

The issue of a new contract for the department's roughly 720 officers will be resolved through arbitration, which could take a year to complete.

During the months of negotiations that started after the June 30 expiration of police union's contract, the main issue was city officials' demand that the union give up the power to block the police chief from changing ``past practices,'' such as scheduling, deployment, benefits for union board members and holiday pay.

At a community meeting Monday night, Mayor Ron Dellums said it was critical for police officers to be effectively and efficiently deployed, and reiterated his belief that community policing is the answer to the spiraling violence plaguing Oakland.