Oakland, CA, police chief LeRonne Armstrong on Tuesday praised a new proposal by the mayor to unfreeze dozens of positions and beef up his department’s staffing after a wave of killings and organized robberies across the city.

The chief’s comments came amid a heated debate over the role of police in Oakland, and the number of officers needed to stem a rise in homicides.

A steady run of departures has left the Oakland Police Department with 676 officers — more than 70 fewer than at this time last year. It’s also two fewer officers than is needed for the department to meet a key staffing benchmark that allows it to use certain taxpayer money for violence prevention work, the Mercury News reports.

“I thank Mayor (Libby) Schaaf for her proactive approach to assisting the department in helping us identify potential opportunities for resources with additional academies, hopefully unfreezing positions,” Armstrong said. “That is the smallest staff that we’ve had in several years.”

He also said the department would place a new emphasis on trying to hire officers currently working in other departments, and who want to transfer to Oakland.