Is Real Cease Fire Coming To Oakland?

Last week, Oakland moved a step closer to having a real Cease Fire program.  The Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee, the Chief of Police and Mayor Quan’s Senior Policy Advisor for Public Safety all acknowledged that Oakland’s past efforts at  Cease Fire had been inadequate and that they understood the difference between past efforts and a real, Cincinnati / Boston / Stockton style Cease Fire program.  All of them publicly committed to implementing a real Cease Fire program by this June.  If they really do this, it could be a game changer.

Make Oakland Better Now! has advocated for a real Cease Fire program in Oakland for nearly three years, and has posted information about the program on multiple occasions, most recently here and here.  The results of real Cease Fire can be stunning:  Ten out of eleven cities whose fully implemented programs have been studied experienced dramatic reductions in the targeted and measured outcomes, whether they measured murders, shootings, drug offenses or recidivism:

   Study                                                           MainOutcome                                 

Boston Operation Ceasefire                     -63% youth homicide

Indianapolis  IVRP                                      -­34% total homicide

Stockton  Operation Peacekeeper         -­42% gun homicide

Lowell PSN                                                       -­44% gun assaults

Cincinnati CIRV                           ­                   -36% GMI homicide

Newark Ceasefire                                           NS reduction in gunshot wound incidents

LA Operation Ceasefire                               Sig. short-term reduct.  in  gun crime

Chicago PSN                                                    – ­37% homicide, ­30% recidivism rate

Nashville DMI                                                  – ­56% reduction in drug offenses

Rockford DMI                                     ­               -22% non­violent offenses

Hawaii HOPE                                                       -­26% recidivism rate

On Tuesday, April 24, Police Chief Howard Jordan and Policy Advisor Reygan Harmon reported to Council’s Public Safety Committee on the department’s Strategic Plan and the Mayor’s 100 Block Initiative.  These presentations and a press conference earlier the same day covered a large swath of issues, some of which have been covered in the press here and here.

But there was an extraordinary occurrence at Public Safety that received very little media coverage:  After Chief Jordan and Ms. Harmon briefly touched on Cease Fire, and after MOBN! and one other public speaker urged the City to adopt real Cease Fire this time, here’s what happened:

  • Chief Jordan made it clear that he was in regular communication with David Kennedy, author of “Don’t Shoot:  One Man, A Street Fellowship, and the End of Violence in Inner-City America,” and was working closely with Stewart Wakeling, who brought a successful Cease Fire Program to Stockton.  He also stated he was working closely with all of the agencies and community organizations that would have to be part of a successful Cease Fire Program and was determined to implement Cease Fire by June.
  • Most of the four committee members sounded as though they had read “Don’t Shoot,” and were adamant that real Cease Fire would need to be implemented.  Indeed, Council Member Nadel expressed surprise that for once, she was in complete agreement with MOBN!  Council Member Reid proposed covering Professor Kennedy’s expenses to come to Oakland (although the committee ultimately decided that was unnecessary since he was already in consultation with Chief Jordan).
  • The committee agreed to send the report to full council at tonight’s meeting with a recommendation that the OPD  “work towards implementing a ‘cease fire’ program that closely mirrors the Kennedy model, including ‘the carrot and the stick.'”

Does all of that get us an effective Cease Fire program?  Of course not.  Much remains to be done.  Oaklanders will need to watch the OPD, and the City as a whole, to make sure  they implement the program, that they sustain it, and that they report back on its effectiveness.  Real Cease Fire should effect a dramatic reduction in violence.  Whether and to what extent the reduction occurs should be monitored and publicly reported on.  Finally, the program must be sustained over time;  Cease Fire is a long term change in organizing principals, not a short-term program.  Oaklanders must make sure we do not join the cities who have implemented a successful Cease Fire program, then declared victory, gone home and had it all fall apart.  We must be in this for the long haul.

David Kennedy directly addressed Oakland and Cease Fire in an interview with Tammerlin Drummond in Sunday’s Oakland Tribune.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

This Post Has 16 Comments

  1. jonah

    Pul-leeze MOBN! Doesn’t any one of you actually live in Oakland? Ceasefire is City Hall’s slogan-of-the-season. Remember in the fall it was “100 Blocks?” As always, when it comes to Oakland’s government, “there is no there there.”

  2. hedera

    @jonah, this is too important to toss off as “just more Oakland.” If we want to see the shooting stop, and I do, we have to push our city council members to make sure this happens. If we ever want to see Oakland become a real city with real business where people work and a real tax base, we have to stop the crime. And yes, I live in Oakland, as do all of the MOBN! members I’m personally acquainted with.

  3. ed gerber

    The recent developments with the Council, Chief and Mayor’s Rep Tamerlin all being on the same page on REal Cease Fire is VERY important and good news. As an Oakalnder I want to push hard and support the implementation of a real Cease fire program. Cynicism and nay saying will just keep us stuck where we are now- nowhere.

  4. Frank Castro

    I am finally encouraged that there is finally real progress toward implementing a proven crime reduction strategy – Ceasefire. MOBN! has been beating the drum for a few years now on real, workable solutions to Oakland’s crime problem and it appears that the OPD and the City Council are finally listening. Let’s keep the pressure on all of our Oakland elected officials to see Ceasefire become a reality.

  5. jonah

    You ought to be able to distinguish between cynicism and an opinion based on inconvenient facts. In the past year or two the Council laid off over 150 cops to save $10 million; it will take many times that amount to get those cops back. There was no leadership, only squabbling, about gang injunctions. Recent OPD Chief Batts got little support from Council. Calls for an audit of police finances have gone nowhere; nobody knows where the money goes. Police and Fire pension costs are unaffordable and the Council has punted on dealing with it. Ceasefire makes sense only within the context of a comprehensive crime plan; Council has ignored many groups’ pleas to create such a plan. There is no one downtown competent to administer and coordinate anti-crime efforts. The legally-mandated process for reviewing effectiveness of Measure Y social programs was ignored, especially the requirement to evaluate the amount of violence reduction achieved; largely-ineffective Measure Y programs will continue as they have for several years. I rest my case. There is much else that could be listed here. Oakland’s government is almost a complete failure regarding public safety and I cannot understand how you think they can do so now. Ceasefire is the flavor of the week. A few weeks ago that flavor, according to the Councilmember from Deep East, was more lighting in crime zones.

  6. brucenye

    Jonah, the following is my opinion, not an official MOBN! position: Nobody — at least, as far as I know, nobody at MOBN! (and yes, our board all lives in Oakland) — is going to suggest that Cease Fire is the solution to all of Oakland’s public safety problems. If you want to make the case that the whole thing is hopeless, city government incompetent and corrupt, and incapable of saving, you’ll have no problem marshaling evidence to support your argument. But the only action that logically follows from that position is putting a for sale sign on your lawn and getting out. That isn’t political action, it’s giving up.

    Yes, Oakland absolutely needs both a comprehensive public safety plan (as MOBN! has stated in past posts) and one accountable person responsible for managing that plan. But the person in charge may soon be a receiver appointed by a federal judge, and whether that person will bring competence in the area of crime reduction is very much an open question.

    In the final analysis, Oakland’s crime problems will only be solved by a combination of coordinated, competent management and a solution to the woefully inadequate size of the police department. Neither of those things can be accomplished overnight, and the latter will probably take years. In the meantime, there is no reason to dismiss incremental steps. In a way, Cease Fire is the “flavor of the month,” but that is the result of efforts by a number of citizens groups and individuals to make it part of the public discussion. Assailing it as the “flavor of them month” doesn’t take away from the track record of cities who have implemented it correctly, and if you have data to show it won’t work here, now would be a good time to share it.

    The next step on Cease Fire, as the post indicates, is to insist that Oakland not only implement real Cease Fire but sustain it. The next step on public safety is to address staffing, and we will be doing that very shortly.

  7. jonah

    No, the only logical solution for those of us who live in East Oakland is not putting the homestead up for sale and moving to the hills or the suburbs.

    My points have to do with the fundamental and underlying problem of corrupt and incompetent governance in Oakland. Until this is changed, all the new legislation in the world can go nowhere. People in East Oakland and other depressed parts of town understand this, even if it’s not evident to the hill-dwellers.

  8. jonah

    Let me try to make this point another way. It’s not easy to see for people of privilege. If you are privileged, the system works for you, or at least you think it works for you. You talk to government, government listens and takes your concerns to heart. “New” policies follow. You can feel good about yourself and your life.

    The reality for the not-privileged is not copacetic. The “new” slogans sound a lot like the old slogans. The violence doesn’t change. The schools don’t get better. The promised jobs don’t appear.

    Enjoy your privilege, but don’t expect all of the rest of us to enjoy your cocktail party.

  9. Mark B.

    Jean Quan better leave the management of Cease Fire to the experts and not let her political correctness get in the way.

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