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 our first post, here, we summarized some of the report’s recommendations. In this and the next , we will discuss our concerns and suggest next steps for the city.
Violence prevention programs:
When he met with community groups, Mr. Wasserman repeatedly stated that part of his mission was to inventory all city, county and state violence prevention programs providing services to Oakland’s citizens. We supported this because while we believe programs play an important part in violence prevention, we also believe the city needs to be much more careful to ensure that its violence prevention dollars are being spent wisely. To us, inventorying the programs means identifying them, determining how much is being spent on them, assessing their effectiveness as public safety tools and whether they were effective parts of the City’s public safety efforts.
Instead, in its thirty-five page report, SPP devotes seven and one half pages listing just about every kind of service provided by any agency to any resident of Oakland. These range from senior companion programsto efforts to increase library card usageto fire department academy programs. SPP does not claim to have reviewed the effectiveness of any of these programs in reducing violence. Instead, it recommends that “the city… coordinate all of these initiatives in a meaningful way,” and observes that “each can increase its contribution if agency personnel think creatively, focusing on ways the initiatives can further contribute to preventing the movement of young people toward crime and violence.”
So far, this is a combination of observation and aspiration, not a policy recommendation. As we will discuss in a future post, the city needs to distinguish between programs that prevent violence and those that do not, determine which programs are the highest priority, and assign funding accordingly. And as we will also discuss in the future, the city needs to coordinate the spending of all its prevention, intervention and enforcement dollars so that everyone involved in reducing crime and violence in Oakland together.
Police Staffing Recommendations:
Over the past 11 months Mr. Wasserman was repeatedly asked what his staffing recommendation was for the Oakland Police Department. Each time he assured community members that he would be making such a recommendation, but that this recommendation would await SPP’s final report.
Well, the final report is here, and what it says:
The current strength of the Oakland Department reflects a ratio of approximately 1.55/thousand residents. As a comparison:
City Officers per thousand
San Jose 1.30
Los Angeles 2.57
San Francisco 2.75
When determining optimal staffing levels, consideration should be made for factors such as:
• Police officers per thousand of population
• Responding to citizen calls for service within specific time frames
• Requirements for addressing levels of crime
• Patrol requirements for coverage in a designated geographic area
• Special situations requiring police attention such as major sporting events, public events, demonstrations, business district patrols
• Call for service reduction initiatives
• Personnel attrition
Using a strict ratio per thousand formula is not an appropriate measurement for Oakland because of the level of violent crime and nature of disorder in sections of the community overly simplistic analysis of law enforcement.
Solving the financial reality of the city or the nation is not included in the scope of this report; rather we seek to encourage a replenishment of staff with a priority on the sworn compliment based on a ratio of 2.0 Officers per thousand residents.
Two officers per thousand in a population of 400,000 is a total of 800 sworn officers. Unfortunately, SPP does not tell us why that is the correct figure or what difference 800 officers would make to the community.
From the beginning to the end of 2013, OPD sworn staffing experienced a net increase of only 14, from 610 to 624. At this rate, it should take 5 ½ years to get to 700 officers and until the middle of 2025 to reach 800. SPP provides no guidance as to how to overcome this seemingly intractable attrition problem. (It should be noted that the city Council recently approved an additional small academy class, which may speed up the process slightly. But we have seen nothing about how it intends to improve the appalling attrition rate.)
Other Problems, And What Now?
The report emphasizes the importance of an involved community. At the same time, it does not address the natural inertia that prevents most community members from being involved nor does it suggest how to overcome that inertia. It does not discuss prioritization of limited resources. It has almost no discussion of the importance of the faith-based community. We cannot tell whether there was any input from key players: the district attorney, OPOA and others.
However, like it or not, what we have. The city administration is already saying that is not a “plan,” but rather a reportwhich is the first step in developing a plan. In our final blog installment in this series, we will look at what the city can draw from in developing a real citywide crime and violence reduction plan. We will also look at another recent plan developed by SPP for the city of Baltimore and its Police Commissioner Anthony Batts. We think the reports taken together may provide enough source material for Oakland to develop the comprehensive public safety plan it really needs.