OAKLAND — Twenty-two new Oakland police officers were sworn in Friday, increasing the ranks of the department to 741 filled positions, the most since 1999, officials said.

But the jubilation could be short lived, as at least five veteran officers are expected to be granted disability retirements by the end of the month and up to 20 more are expected to leave by the end of the year.

More help is on the way, though, as 41 potential Oakland officers are in a training academy that graduates in January, and another academy is scheduled to start in October. Even with Friday's graduation, there are still more than 60 vacancies in the department where the authorized strength increased by 63 to 802 officers after the passage of Measure Y in November 2004.

The graduates Friday were in the department's 161st Basic Police Academy and were cheered on by close to 300 relatives, friends and co-workers who attended the ceremony at the Scottish Rite Temple.

All graduates will hit the street after a week's vacation.

The new officers include Maurizzio Baglieri, Vincent Chen, Garry Dickerson, Roberto Garcia, Jason Gieser, Astra Goddard, Brooklyn Hann, Joel Hernandez and Maisha House.

Other new officers are Joseph Jochim, Eric Kim, Paul Lazzareschi, Mega Lee, Ernesto Leyva Jr., NickolaMacGregor, Holly Matthews, MyNguyen,, Roberto Ruiz, Irabe Taylor, Jason Trode, Raymond Ward II and Patrick Woods.

Also graduating from the academy Friday was Eric Koford, a Vallejo police officer whose father is Napa County Sheriff Doug Koford.


Class valedictorian was Barhin Bhatt, an Oakland park ranger. Bhatt graduated from the department's 144th academy in September 1999 as a ranger but left after a few years to become a Union City police officer.

He said he decided to return to Oakland because he missed the challenges officers and rangers face here, and because "it is a great place to work."

Assistant Chief Howard Jordan, who inspected the officers before they were sworn in, congratulated them on completing the academy, one of "the toughest and most respected in the country," and challenged them to leave a lasting and productive legacy.

He said for more than 150 years, Oakland police officers have been known as "keepers of the peace" and "defenders of the innocent," which he told them is the legacy they should strive for.

Jordan said "today's contemporary officer faces an incredibly broad range of troublesome situations" in their roles of protecting the community.

"From being an authoritarian one minute to being a mediator or a friend the next, you will face challenges at every turn," Jordan said.

"I expect that, when faced with these challenges, you will never forget or lose sight of the department's values of fairness, integrity, respect, service and teamwork." The road ahead, Jordan said, "is long and difficult, but together we can make it and help make Oakland a safer place."