Walking police beats to increase
By Quynh Tran
Contra Costa Times Staff writer
Oakland walking police officers will change their duty schedules and hit the pavement more days of the week in the new year.
Beginning the last week of January 2006, officers will shift from a four-day work week to a five-day work week, said Lt. Fred Hamilton, but their shift hours will be reduced from 10 hours a day to eight hours a day.
"It's wonderful. It'll be great to have officers on the street more days," said Shari Godinez, a Dimond merchant who has been advocating for more walking officer presence. "It'll make customers and merchants feel safer. It's much more of a community feeling than seeing a patrol car drive by."
Walking officers are assigned to commercial districts. Most are concentrated in downtown Oakland.
The Dimond area will share an officer with the Laurel district and Montclair will share an officer with the Piedmont Avenue area, said Hamilton.
Dimond has not had an assigned walking officer for almost two years since its officer left on medical disability. The community has pushed for a replacement but the lack of police officers citywide has forced the department to deploy officers in the most needed areas of the city.
While funds from Measure Y pay for more officers, officer recruitment has been a struggle for Oakland. From the first step of submitting an application to the written, oral, physical and psychological examinations, the number of candidates quickly dwindles even before the 10-month long training in the police academy and field begins.
According to Anne Campbell Washington of the City Administrator's Office, 25 officers from an original pool of 750 applicants have joined the latest batch of trainees in the police academy. They join 18 officers from an earlier academy who will graduate next spring.
About eight officers are expected to complete field training this week and will be given new assignments.