OAKLAND -- Skyrocketing injury claims have decimated Oakland's already understaffed police department, forcing city leaders to address inadequate injury tracking systems and hire someone to keep tabs on the injured officers.
Oakland has about 90 officers currently on medical leave, Chief Howard Jordan told council members at a budget hearing this week. That means nearly one out of seven of Oakland's 646 police officers is physically unable to work the streets. In San Jose, only one out of 17 officers is on medical leave.
Police officers in Oakland are projected to file 276 injury claims this fiscal year, a 29 percent jump over last year. And the number of officers on injury leave far exceeds historical averages at a time when the department continues to shrink.
Oakland is down to just 260 officers assigned to patrol, not counting the 63 community policing and crime reduction team officers funded by a voter-approved tax. San Francisco has 1,471 officers patrolling the city and airport; San Jose has 633.
Oakland typically has between 50 and 60 officers on medical leave, Sgt. Chris Bolton said. The department has not yet been able to analyze why injuries have increased.
Police union President Barry Donelan attributed the injury spike to an ever increasing workload including mandatory overtime during the Occupy Oakland protests.
"The guys are trying as hard as they possibly can, and the result is these guys are
The increasing number of officers on medical leave is an added financial burden to the city, which still has to pay officers who are unable to do patrol work. About 30 of the officers on leave are working "light duty" jobs, Jordan said.
Even more troubling, according to council members, is that the city doesn't have the systems in place to adequately track the officers on leave and determine why injuries are on the rise.
The city's record-keeping system doesn't automatically break down injury data by date and type of injury. Also, different departments get varying sets of information, Deputy Director of Police Gilbert Garcia told the City Council's Finance and Management Committee last week.
"Basically, we just need to implement better management practices," he said.
The department is once again getting a human resources manager, and Mayor Jean Quan's proposed budget includes money for a staffer to stay in contact with officers on medical leave. Both jobs had been eliminated in previous budget cuts.
Council members ordered Garcia to return to the Finance and Management Committee on Tuesday with a more detailed plan for improving record-keeping and reducing injuries.
"This is clearly a management issue," Councilmember Pat Kernighan told Garcia and Human Resources Director Andrea Gourdine. "And it's important that you figure it out. It's costing the city a ton of money."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6345.