Oaklanders who follow City Hall know that four public safety proposals are coming before the City Council tonight at its 5:30 meeting, as Council decides whether to:
- Authorize a temporary contract with the Alameda Sheriff’s Department to borrow ten deputies and a sergeant for two days per week;
- Add twenty police service technicians and one crime lab position;
- Remove conditions for holding a police academy in September, 2013 and begin the processes to hold that academy; and
- Amend the city’s public safety consulting contract with Strategic Policy Partnership to allow Robert Wasserman of that agency, together with other consultants, to put in place a short term crime-fighting strategy and a long-term Citywide crime reduction and Community Safety Plan.
There is much information about these proposals in the media, including Matthew Arntz’s Tribune coverage here, Michael Cabanatuan’s and Matthai Kuruvila’s Chronicle coverage here and here, opinion coverage by Robert Gammon in the East Bay Express, Tammerlin Drummond in the Tribune and Chip Johnson in the Chronicle, and Oaktalk here, here and here. Most recent is MOBN! board member Ed Gerber’s op-ed here.
City Council Members Schaaf and Kernighan have urged their constituents to come to tonight’s meeting and stand up to the Occupy Oakland members and other bullies who are trying to monopolize the discussion and drown out responsible community voices. Council President Kernighan has indicated she intends to assert control over the meeting to allow a full expression of all views.
Make Oakland Better Now! has made it clear that it supports all four proposals. Many of our board members will be there tonight to express that support and urge Council to approve these proposals unanimously. We strongly urge community members to join us and stand up for safety. Fill out a speaker card here for agenda items 20, 21, 22 and 23.
But while we strongly support the three Reid/Schaaf proposals (Sheriff’s MOU, civilian positions, police academy), these are a starting point only. City leaders need to (a) focus with laser-like precision on the steps necessary to rebuild the Oakland Police Department; (b) aggressively insure that the civilianization measures result in putting more cops on the street (unlike the civilian police complaint intake measure adopted in 2011 and still not implemented); (c) look at ways to increase the number of academies to a number that does more than simply keep pace with attrition (see the City’s two projections here and here).
We also support the amendment to the Strategic Policy Partnership contract (erroneously described as a “Bratton contract” by opponents and supporters alike). But we do so with two cautions: First, City leaders cannot look at the Strategic Policy Partnership recommendations as a series of menu items from which they can pick and choose. As today’s Tribune observes, Oakland’s history of implementing consultant’s recommendations is poor. The City has already proved conclusively that it has no ability to reduce the tragic epidemic of violence that is destroying families and victimizing large portions of our community. If Oakland is going to spend $250,000 on a crime reduction plan, it has to implement the plan – all of it.
Second, Oakland’s leaders have to own the public safety problem. When they say public safety is our highest priority, they have to prove by their actions that they mean it, and are prepared to take responsibility for whether Oakland is or is not a safe city. It is extremely troubling when our Mayor tells a blogger / reporter that Oakland cannot reduce violence without Federal help, as she did yesterday in a video interview with Zennie Abraham:
…we’re not going to bring down the murder rate in Oakland unless I can get a federal solution to control the guns and control the ammunition.
When we say that the mayor and the City Council have to own public safety, we mean they have to implement a plan to reduce crime and they, not the feds and not state government, have to be accountable to the people who live here for the outcomes. And we, the people who live here, have to demand that they be accountable.
So Oaklanders, come to Council tonight. But keep coming back, and keep demanding answers.