OAKLAND — Data being gathered to finalize police Chief Anthony Batts' strategic plan for the Oakland Police Department demonstrate what top brass and rank-and-file officers have said for years: Oakland police are drastically overworked compared with their counterparts in other cities.
The data — which is not final — compares the Oakland force to the nine other police departments that rank in California's top 10 in size. It was obtained by The Tribune as the City Council is seriously considering laying off as many as 200 police officers at a Thursday budget hearing.
The data shows that in 2009:
The numbers are preliminary and could change slightly before the report is final. That is because not all the departments surveyed responded to all of the categories, police sources said.
Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, head of the Oakland Police Officers Association, said the information shows how difficult it is to be an officer in Oakland.
"It shows the officers are very much overworked here," he said. "They absolutely earn every penny they make. They spend a lot of time away from their families to keep Oakland safe."
Batts was unavailable for comment Thursday. The final version of his plan will not be available until after the council's budget vote.
Oakland currently has 776 police officers.
In the past two years, Oakland has made $170 million worth of budget-balancing measures, according to the city. Police have not been immune from cuts, but so far the budget reductions have been made without laying off sworn personnel.
That could change next week. There is not much left to cut.
Roughly 75 percent of the city's $400 million general fund is spent on the police and fire departments — and firefighters cannot be laid off because of a clause in their contract. Other expenditures are tied up in debt service or voter-approved mandates for libraries and youth programs.
City officials say the only way to balance the budget is to cut police, find new revenue or secure major concessions from public safety unions.
Council members raised the issue of police pay at a meeting Tuesday, and Arotzarena's remarks seemed at least partially aimed to rebut their comments.
In Oakland, the starting pay for police is at least $71,000 and, with overtime and other compensation, first-year officers can earn more than $100,000 a year. In New York, starting pay is about $44,000.
Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan said that when it comes to cutting police, it is important for the public to know that police are not only highly paid but also that they do not — for now — contribute to their retirement plans. All other city employees do.
"We shouldn't have to pay double what New York City has to pay," she said. "We shouldn't have the highest-paid workers paying a lower percentage into their pension than the lowest-paid workers."
Kaplan said she knows it will not be easy to make the changes she sees as necessary to adequately staff the department while maintaining a sustainable budget. However, she views it as a problem that could trouble the city for years — not just until the next budget is approved.
"This is a long-term problem," she said. "Even if we started negotiating something now for the future, it is still worth doing because the problem is not going away."
In the short term, the police union is in discussions with the city as the time to approve a budget winds down.
Council members are hoping officers agree to pay 9 percent of their salaries into their retirement. Such a deal would be worth about $8 million to the city. City Council President Jane Brunner said June 2 that she thinks the council could avoid laying off police if officers agreed to the 9 percent contribution and the city was able to get some concessions from the firefighters, too.
Police do not contribute anything to their retirement. They are scheduled to begin making 2 percent contributions in 2013. Arotzarena indicated that there could be a possibility to negotiate the retirement contributions — provided officers get assurance they will not be laid off.
"We're listening to the city," he said. "We're talking to the city. We are willing to negotiate with our pensions, but we are demanding guarantees for long-term public safety."
Staff writer Harry Harris contributed to this story.