OAKLAND — Eighty Oakland police officers lost their jobs Tuesday when the city and the Oakland police union reached an impasse over pension and layoff language that would have saved the jobs and added $7.8 million into the city's cash-starved budget.
"There is no deal," announced Oakland City Council President Jane Brunner, the lead negotiator for the city, as she left a closed session meeting Tuesday afternoon. "The officers are laid off today."
The disappointing news came after marathon negotiating sessions between the city and the Oakland Police Officers Association on Monday and early Tuesday failed to produce an agreement both sides could live with. There were offers and counter offers from both sides, but in the end, it came down to no layoff guarantees: three years versus one year.
Brunner said the city's latest offer called for the officers to pay 9 percent of their salaries into their pensions in exchange for a guarantee that there would be no layoffs of any active officers for one year. The pension contributions paid by the officers would have been staggered: 4 percent this month, 3 percent in July 2011, and 2 percent in January 2013 — the latter 2 percent having already been agreed to in an earlier contract.
The police association said it realized the city is in dire financial straits, which is why the rank-and-file voted to accept $30 million worth of contract concessions last year, and offered to contribute more in these latest negotiations. But the union wanted a three-year guarantee on layoffs, and the city wouldn't budge beyond a year, said Rocky Lucia of Rains, Lucia and Stern, attorney for the police union. Without the clause, the membership would be put through the wringer every year, he said.
"The foundation of the deal had to be job security," Lucia said. "We won't saddle our members with 12 months' protection."
Both sides said the talks could resume later, but that will not help the 80 officers who have worked their last shift.
"It's a very, very sad day," said Gordon Dorham, an officer who was born and raised in Oakland, and is now out of a job. "I've enjoyed my time serving here, and I will miss the citizens. "... The people who pay the ultimate price will be the citizens of Oakland, and I hope the City Council will realize that at some point."
Police and fire budgets represent about 75 percent of the city's $400 million general fund budget. The council has cut $140 million the past three years, but still needs to close a $31 million shortfall. In addition to the layoffs, on June 24 the council voted to trim $19 million from parks and recreation, human services, elected officials' offices and other departments.
Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums participated in the negotiations. He said it would have been wonderful if there could have been an agreement, but ultimately, the council had to make the hard decision that would protect the city financially.
The layoffs bring the number of sworn officers to 696. The department loses about five officers a month through attrition, and it could lose 124 more in January if voters reject tax measures headed to the November ballot.
Both Brunner and police association President Dom Arotzarena said they would work "hand in hand" to drum up public support for the ballot measures to help raise revenue to fund public safety. One measure would amend the existing 2004 Measure Y ordinance to revise the minimum number of police officers whose salaries must be paid from the General Fund. Without the revision the city could lose funding for 63 police officers.
The details of the other tax measure have not been finalized, but it could be a new parcel tax.
Oakland police Chief Anthony Batts was there to say goodbye to the officers Tuesday. He has reorganized the department to compensate for the loss of personnel, pulling many of the officers who represent the heart of the community-policing program and putting them back on patrol. Specialized units that were responsible for targeted enforcement of wanted violent felons and monitoring parole and probation violators were disbanded. Eight of the department's newest sergeants have also been reassigned and demoted.
Arotzarena called it "a very dark day in the history of the Oakland Police Department."
He said the department will do everything it can to keep the city safe, but it won't be the same.
"We'll do our best to protect the city, but going call to call and not really solving anything is like putting a Band-Aid on a tourniquet," he said, adding that the union will fight to find new revenue to get the 80 officers rehired and try to prevent any more layoffs.
That dedication goes both ways. Even as they turned in their equipment for the last time, at least 30 of the pink-slipped officers, many of whom were on the front lines during Thursday night's demonstration, vowed to stay on as unpaid reserves.
Gerry Moriarty, 29, a 2008 graduate of the police academy, is one of them.
He worked his last shift Friday, ending at midnight. At that point, he said, it hadn't really sunk in that it could be his last day on the job he loves.
"There was still a glimmer of hope, until today, when I was handing in my stuff," he said Tuesday afternoon. "For me it was over. My equipment was gone, I cashed out vacation and comp time, it's really over."
Moriarty said he would take time to consider his options. He used to be a CPA before he decided to give up his desk job, and he probably could go back to that career if he had to. He'd like to come back to the force, but if it takes too long, it won't be possible.
He said he felt that he had helped people.
"I can't tell you how many times on the street people said, 'I'm praying because we really need you guys out here.' That kept me going," he said. "But today, just seeing everybody in plain clothes, seeing everyone turning in their gear. There is a finality that's pretty depressing."
Contact Cecily Burt at 510-208-6441. Check out her blog at www.ibabuzz.com/westside.