OAKLAND -- Facing its worst police shortage in over a decade, Oakland is considering contracting with outside law enforcement agencies to help patrol streets and stem the increasing tide of violent crime.
While talks are still preliminary, city officials have broached the idea of paying for sheriff deputies and highway patrolmen to work in Oakland for several months while the city's police academy cadets finish up their training.
The outside officers would boost Oakland's undermanned police department without the red tape involved in actually hiring new officers, said Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who discussed the idea this week with Alameda County Sheriff Greg Ahern.
"For the next year, we need to supplement our manpower," she said. "I just don't think we can tolerate crime getting any worse in this city."
Major crimes are up 20 percent citywide this year. Burglaries are up about 40 percent over last year, and the city has already recorded 100 homicides.
Meanwhile the police force stands at 629 officers, down from a high of 837 four years ago. Officers are being required to work mandatory overtime just to fill beats.
The city has begun one academy and is planning for two additional ones. But high attrition rates mean the force is expected to dwindle to nearly 600 officers when the first academy graduates in March and potentially drop below 600 by the time the 40 recruits finish their field training next fall.
Sheriff Ahern said the county is willing to provide deputies if the city can pay for them, and he gets the green light from the City Council and the police union.
Union President Barry Donelan said he's not opposed in principle to bringing in outside officers but would need to see a final proposal.
Ahern envisioned Oakland paying for deputies to work full time in the city, potentially on violent crime task forces with Oakland and CHP officers.
"If they wanted to do this and they wanted it to be effective, I think it should be an every day operation," he said.
Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan told council members on Tuesday that he was looking at hiring other agencies to come work in Oakland. He was unavailable for comment on Wednesday.
Ahern said he spoke briefly with Jordan about the idea but hasn't gotten a proposal from the city specifying how many officers it wanted or how it would deploy them.
Oakland also doesn't have any money budgeted to pay for deputies, whose salaries with benefits average $158,000 a year.
The city might have unexpected tax revenue or otherwise could dip into its reserves to pay for the officers, Schaaf said. "I would hope it could be accomplished without making any cuts."
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.