Many Oaklanders breathed a sigh of relief when Chief Batts announced he was not going to San Jose. But most of us understand he won’t be long for Oakland unless everyone involved in providing public safety to the City is pulling in the same direction. Chief Batts has publicly stated he isn’t sure that he and Oakland are a good fit; he recognizes the city’s financial difficulties, but questions whether the City is prepared to do what it takes to make all of our citizens safe.
Make Oakland Better Now! believes there are some steps Oakland can and must take to get us on track. MOBN! has written Mayor Quan, the City Council and the OPOA, urging as follows:
- We need a new approach to negotiations between the city and its officers, using a mutually respected third-party mediator, and a negotiation of every possible issue, not just pension contributions.
- This time, both sides should agree to keep their negotiations, and their personal views about each other, confidential.
- The City should immediately and unilaterally rehire thirty officers. The funding will be difficult, but the extra cost will be short-term, given the current attrition rate of five to ten officers per month. Assuming attrition of 30 officers over six months, the net cost of adding 30 officers could be less than $1 million.
- The City should fund police academies on an ongoing, annual basis, to ensure that the Department does not continue to shrink.
- The city should make enhanced policing its highest priority for seeking grants and other outside funding. We are pleased to see that Council President Reid is proposing just this at the February 1 council meeting.
For too long, Oakland’s public safety dialog has been framed as a contest between advocates for community policing and crime prevention programs on the one hand and and supporters of adequate police staffing on the other. We believe that all three are essential to public safety. If public safety is job one, then the City’s highest priority is providing for all the elements that will make Oakland safer, including sufficient police staffing. A new cooperative effort among all the stakeholders with the aid of a mediator, is the most important first step Oakland can take toward making us safer.