Strategic Policy Partners’ Final Report Is Here – Now What?

Part 1

The long-awaited  Strategic Policy Partners’ report “Addressing Crime In Oakland – Zeroing Out Crime – A Strategy For Total Community Action” has finally been released While our overall reaction to the report is one of disappointment, we think there may be some positive takeaways. In this and the two posts that follow, we will summarize the report, discuss our concerns, and suggest next steps for the city.

How We Got Here

In January of last year, the newly sworn City Council faced one of the most important issues of the year: whether to authorize $250,000 for a contract with Strategic Policy Partners, LLC to provide consulting services to the city of Oakland. regarding public safety. MOBN! discussed the proposal here, here and here.

SPP’s president, Robert Wasserman, promised to provide some “quick win” recommendations, followed by a long-term crime reduction plan for the city of Oakland. MOBN! strongly supported the contract.We believed the city needed a comprehensive public safety plan, and according to former police chief Howard Jordan, the department lacked the resources to create one. In the face of loud and boisterous opposition, Council agreed with MOBN! and other public safety advocates and authorized the contract.

Mr. Wasserman and others on his team—including former and current New York police Commissioner William Bratton—met on many occasions with community groups, and issued two “quick win” reports. The first, proposing a meaningful Comstat program and five policing districts, was essentially no different than the Harnett recommendations from eight years ago, and was, in fact, drafted by Mr. Harnett. The second report contained “best practices” recommendations which, in many cases, the Oakland Police Department had already implemented.

We deferred judgment on SPP’s work until the promised crime prevention strategy was released. Delivery of this final report was promised by SPP some months ago; it was promised by interim Chief Whent for December 10—and, as we understand it—was delivered to the city by Mr. Wasserman in late November or early December last year. It was finally put up on the city’s website on December 30, taken down the next day and put up again on January 3. We will begin this set of blog posts with a summary of the recommendations.

The SPP recommendations are more like a set of tactical suggestions than the overall strategic plan we had hoped for. The suggestions, with our comments to some in brackets, are as follows:

  • Expand the cease-fire initiative [We agree, but in future posts, we’ll be talking about prioritization]

  • Make every police officer a community policing officer [We agree, and so did former Chief Batts when he came to Oakland during the Dellums administration. But how do we implement that? Did SPP engage help or input from the OPOA?]

  • Measure community perceptions and feelings about safety and the impact of policing [If this means start polling the community about their engagement, involvement and feelings about police, then we agree. We also believe police should be polled regularly on their feelings about the community and their jobs]

  • Implement restorative justice measures [We believe that restorative justice may well have a role to play in an overall public safety strategy, but SPP does not tell us what that role is. Did SPP talk to the district attorney about this? To police? To anyone else who would be involved in a restorative justice program?]

  • Increase police staffing levels to two sworn officers per 1000 in population, or 800 [Why 800? And how would OPD reach that number? We will discuss this in our next post]

  • When the NSA ends, have the OPD seek accreditation from the Commission on Accreditation of Law Enforcement Agencies. Use the legitimacy training modules developed by Tom Tyler and Tracy Meares [What will these mean to safety in Oakland?]

  • Improve OPD communication, using social media, public service messages, police briefings with other departments and regular City Council presentations; [What does this mean specifically, beyond the current use of Nixle, facebook, list serves, etc.?];

  • Renew Measure Y [Crime in Oakland has risen dramatically in the ten-year life of Measure Y. It may well be important to continue funding for additional police officers and violence prevention programs. But we do not understand how SPP can advocate renewal of this measure with no evaluation of what has and has not worked]

  • Appoint a Director Of Community Improvement, City Coordinating Committee and Crisis Intervention Teams [MOBN! believes that Oakland needs a director, or a deputy city administrator, or a deputy Mayor, or other highly ranked officials with overall responsibility for coordinating the City’s public safety efforts. MOBN! also believes there is merit to establishing a crisis response team to address shootings and other violent activities. But both these ideas need much more fleshing out, and we have our doubts whether Oakland needs yet another citizens’ advisory committee]

  • Consider implementing the Boston Stopwatch program to increase safety and reduce disorder before and after students are traveling school

  • Take a variety of steps to address blight, vandalism, illegal dumping and other quality-of-life issues, including seeking input from George Kelling, author of the “Broken Windows” theory [Another consultant?  ]

and, finally,

  • To increase order during demonstrations, require internal monitors “as part of the permitting process,” press the courts “to pass sentences that include community service and payment for damages,” and have the business community “sue offenders for the cost of lost business and repair physical damage.” [It is hard to understand how police or anyone else could have “required internal monitors,” as part of the “permitting process” during the Occupy demonstrations. Occupy took pride in having no leadership, and certainly did not feel bound by any permitting requirements.  Also, we wonder if SPP spoke with the district attorney and the business community about these proposals].

In our next posts, we will talk about SPP’s staffing recommendations, the question of community involvement, SPP’s “inventory” of violence prevention programs, the need for prioritization of effort, and, finally, some positive takeaways.

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 4 Comments

  1. Ed Gerber

    The Wasserman report is woefully lacking in specifics evaluating our current programs and on how to accomplish the many good policies its espouses.

  2. Charles

    About Measure Y: “It may well be important to continue funding for additional police officers and violence prevention programs.”

    There is no connection at all between paying a parcel tax and the number of officers. Staffing went down (!) for years after voters agreed to Measure Y. Nothing says that voter refusal to extend Measure Y will mean any fewer officers. City Hall allocates the funds it collects from a variety of sources to its priorities, not to services promised for a parcel tax.

    We need a year of a new mayor before agreeing to pay more money. In 2014, the word is No New Measure Y!

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