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Oakland police union blasts city over 911 system failure

A police officer sits inside a marked Oakland Police vehicle, with badge visible on the car door.
Oakland Police Department officers sit in a patrol car in Oakland’s Chinatown on Feb. 21, 2023. | Paul Kuroda for The Standard | Source: Paul Kuroda for The Standard

Oakland’s 911 system went down Thursday after a backup generator meant to counter a power outage failed, leaving residents calling for aid with no recourse, according to the city’s police union.

Even after power was restored, the system was not returned immediately to working order, according to the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, which said as of Friday morning, the system remains sluggish. 

The system’s issues appear to have begun Thursday afternoon, according to a series of tweets from the City of Oakland, which said technical issues began to slow the 911 system at 3 p.m.

“All emergency calls are being answered and appropriately dispatched for police, fire, and medical services,” a message on the city’s Twitter account said. “If your call drops or you receive a busy signal, please hang up and call back. Please only call 911 if you have an emergency.”

Greg Damo, a communication dispatcher, takes a call in the Oakland police dispatch center on April 27, 2010. | Carlos Avila Gonzalez/The San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images

The Oakland Police Department did not respond to a request for comment by publication time on Friday.

The police union blasted the failure as something it warned the city and Mayor Sheng Thao would happen. 

“Two weeks ago the Alameda County Grand Jury warned that Oakland’s 911 system was facing imminent collapse—yesterday it happened,” a police union press release said.

The union’s president, Barry Donelan, said in a statement the failure was due in part to budget cuts that impacted public safety positions.

That narrative was countered by Oakland City Councilmember at Large Rebecca Kaplan.

“According to the Grand Jury report, even after the council voted to fund more 911 dispatcher positions, OPD declined to hire these civilian roles, by telling [the] hiring team not to prioritize them,” she wrote in a tweet.

Jonah Owen Lamb can be reached at