Police Shortage Causes Concern

Oakland, California is facing a serious police shortage. After laying off 80 police officers in July, the department is losing more to retirement at an alarming rate. The Oakland police force is shrinking so fast that more officers are needed to cover patrols. 21 officers have retired since July, and as budget cuts threaten pensions across the country, are more cops calling it quits before the issue spirals out of control? Retired NYPD detective Bo Dietl of Dietl & Associates joined Varney & Co. this morning to share his insight.

“We’re going to see a lot more of this for the fact that a lot of these police contracts say that whatever you do in your last year, with overtime, that you’ll be able to retire on that higher retirement,” said Dietl. “They want to get out, but a lot of people don’t realize it’s not going to get any better once you retire.”

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Betts says Oakland needs a minimum of 925 police officers, but starting next month, the city will only have enough money to pay for 637 positions. In November 2008, the department had 837 officers, but due to layoffs and attrition, the staffing level has dropped by 20%. This has lead to understaffed divisions of the police department.

“What’s happening in Oakland is that you need the proper policing there. You need X amount of cars going out there,” said Dietl. “That means cars that usually have a backup car, are not going to have a backup car.”

In addition to Oakland, other budget-strapped cities and towns across the country can no longer afford to pay police officer pensions. Some unions have agreed to minor givebacks and pay freezes, but many are refusing to yield, forcing cities and towns to lay off workers.

Bo Dietl says police officers need to acknowledge the problem and come to an agreement before a bigger issue arises. “Cops, unions, everybody has to say we all need to cut back. We have to cut it down rather than have the whole pension system fall apart.”