Ten Strategies to Make Oakland Better: (2) Ask The People Who Live and Work Here

Ten Strategies to Make Oakland Better

But first, a reminder: Join MOBN!, MGO, nine mayoral candidates and more than 200 of your fellow Oaklanders at the mayoral candidate public safety debate on Thursday, April 3, 2014, 6:30 p.m. at Temple Sinai. See the original announcement here. Owing to some technical problems at Eventbrite, some Oaklanders have received the message that they can’t RSVP without selecting membership in either MOBN! or MGO. Some have received the message that the event is “sold out.” Our publicist has fixed both these problems; the debate is open to all Oaklanders, not just MOBN! and MGO members, and while enthusiasm is mounting, the debate is certainly not “sold out” ( the synagogue holds 750 people). And RSVP’s are appreciated, but not essential. So RSVP if you can, but either way, please join us.

And Now, Strategy Two:

Ask The People Who Live And Work Here

Make Oakland Better Now! was established to advocate for public safety, public works, government transparency, accountability and budget Reform. Often, however, we are recognized simply as advocates for increasing the size of the Police Department. While we stand by our position that Oakland desperately needs 925 sworn officers, much more is needed to make Oakland the city its residents want and deserve. This is the second installment in our ten part series on steps Oakland can and should take to make this a better, safer and more sustainable city. For our second strategy, we advocate well-designed, regular polling of Oakland’s citizens, sworn and civilian employees.

In early 2010, then Police Chief Anthony Batts hired a consultant to design and conduct two public opinion surveys. One was directed to members of the community and one to Police Department employees. Results of both were made available to the public and remain partially available here (this is the 2010 draft OPD Strategic Plan – see pages 6, 7, 14, 15, 25, 34 and 35).

Not surprisingly, the surveys found much that needed to be fixed. Less than half of those surveyed believed the OPD was effective at controlling violent crime, gang violence, drug crime, gun violence and burglaries. 31% held a very unfavorable or somewhat unfavorable view of the department. 50% or fewer credited the department as good or excellent when it came to follow up, response time, problem solving, service quality and fairness.

Employees of the department held similarly negative views. As Chief Batts summarized the findings,

Most Department employees felt that they were not valued or respected, and that the Department did not care about them. Most also felt their work units were not adequately staffed, and did not feel career development was good.

Perhaps most importantly, only about onethird of the Department’s employees felt that OPD was doing a good job. Less than half felt OPD had a good reputation, and just over half were satisfied with their jobs.

These findings nearly 4 years ago should have been cause for major alarm. They should have resulted in a major turnaround plan, directed from the top. And the execution on that turnaround plan should have been followed by additional survey work measuring whether the plan had worked.

Instead, Chief Batts left. The city has seen incremental changes, but no comprehensive measures. And a recent poll sponsored by MOBN! and other community groups found that 81% of Oakland residents agreed with the following statement: “The strained relationship between police officers and many Oakland residents gets in the way of fighting crime and protecting our neighborhoods.”

Last fall, the OPD designed its own polls of officers and the public. The results of the officer poll were not released to either the officers or the public, and when it finally was released in response to Public Records Requests by the East Bay Express and Make Oakland Better Now!, the reason for the silence became obvious. As the Express reported:

65 percent of OPD’s sworn officers reported not feeling valued by the department for the work they do. In addition, 55 percent of officers said they do not “feel valued by the citizens” of Oakland. And most Oakland cops have little faith in their own commanders. One survey question asked, “Do you believe commanders/managers treat members/employees fairly in the organization?” 64 percent of Oakland’s cops responded “no.”

More than half of the city’s police officers also do not believe “that hard work and good work performance helps one get ahead,” within OPD, and some officers say that the agency has become the “laughing stock” of law enforcement agencies. . . . A whopping 84 percent of cops said they do not feel valued by the rest of Oakland city government.

Meanwhile, the City has remained silent about the online citizens’ survey it initiated last September. MOBN! has submitted a public records request for the responses and compilations, and we will report those when we receive them.

Oakland deserves better than this. Oakland deserves annual, scientifically valid surveys of a genuinely representative number of its residents and its public safety employees to look at and evaluate OPD performance and police/community relations.

These public opinion surveys and employee surveys should not be limited to the Police Department. We join in the recent recommendation of Oakland’s Budget Advisory Committee that there should be annual surveys testing the public’s views about the importance of every city service. Beyond the BAC recommendation, we believe residents’ opinions should also be heard on how well the city is doing in delivering those services. And city employees should likewise be surveyed concerning their views on how services could be best and most efficiently provided. Of course, the results of all of these surveys should be easily and readily accessible to the public.

It is easy to find enlightened and well-run cities who use citizen’s surveys: Concord, California (although Concord has apparently only done this once); Walnut Creek, California; Baltimore, Maryland (an annual survey as part of the budget process); and Phoenix, Arizona (a biennial citizen attitude survey) are just a few examples.

So that is our second strategy for making Oakland better: regular surveys of Oakland residents and employees and regular follow-up on the results of those surveys.


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. “So that is our second strategy for making Oakland better: regular surveys of Oakland residents and employees and regular follow-up on the results of those surveys.”

    I suggest a third strategy:

    It is “do surveys of the surveys, and then form a committee to survey the people who took the surveys, about how they feel about surveys.”

    OR – people could just support groups and people who already are working to make Oakland better. I have spent around 2000 hours, at street level, here in Sobrante Park, Brookfield, all the way out to around 35th ave, and I have friends in West Oakland. Since I live here, I just walk around and talk to people about what WE want.

    I do not know what people say up in Montclair, but our main concern down here where WE live, is better JOBS, better SCHOOLS, and government policies that build up FAMILIES (not tear them apart.)

    My church on 66th Ave. says same thing.

    The idea of building a community up from the grassroots goes back to Panther days, and I talked to Bobby Seale a few weeks ago on his cell phone, and while I can’t speak for him, I would suggest that he would agree with me on this stuff. This concept, and it works, BTW – goes back to the first and second Harlem Renaissances, as well.

    If ANY of you, just came down here and walked around, like I do – you would see what we actually want. Surveys on this kind of stuff, well – they are highly skewed because not everyone affected, has access to a computer, or to the internet. We are too busy trying to survive down here. What you will get with the surveys, is basically what I call “Hill People” ideas for fixing Oakland. Those ideas, invariably are a mishmash of “increased law enforcement,” and “increased wasteful government social programs.”

    The “increased LE” factions, are generally people of wealth, who are concerned about protecting their assets of all kinds. The “increased social program” factions, are often people who have a stake in what is called “poverty farming.” They are sometimes from down here, and basically “farm” the pain and violence, via the creation of NGO’s that then kind of try to milk the system.

    The NGO I am now forming, is supported by the people, and will be supported by thousands of small grassroots donations. We won’t take money from the very people who have continued to fail us. And we will work to increased labor, rights, and family power, here where I live.


  2. Michele

    No doubt stating the obvious: customer satisfaction and staff performance and outlook are basic business management parameters. Why Oakland’s government isn’t interested in these is because none of our elected officials has any real management skills or experience. Or much real work experience of any useful kind–where you actually have to get something accomplished in order to keep your doors open.

    Oakland status quo politics is not based on performance, and especially not on concrete measurements of performance, but on promises and empty recitations of the “hard work” performed in voting for what is too often a half-baked policy.

    MOBN should not mistake the forest for the trees. The forest is the naive, unproductive, essentially empty “we work hard; we love Oakland” city hall culture. Why pick on poor management techniques when the problem is a complete lack of interest in management among the “managers?”

    1. Agreed. They have no financial or political incentives, to actually “win.”

      Let me explain what I think is the exact dynamic:

      1) If violence goes “down,” City Hall will kind of randomly pick some program it is doing, and say “we need more money for this highly effective program.” They are doing that right now with “Operation Ceasefire” which actually does not even operate in most of the East Oakland areas where violent crime is down. They just did a huge event that I would describe as a “Roman Pageant” at my own church, and I will be talking to Bishop about that, next time I see him. It was a self-congratulatory thing, in essence.

      I think that there is no benefit to our church, and people, by continuing to “engage with” a broken and corrupt system. I think “local support” just continues to “grow the broken system.” This is also contrary to what every single parishioner I have ever spoken to says (“we need jobs and stronger families.”)

      Just my two cents.

      2) If violence goes up, City Hall will say, “we need more cops and more programs like Operation Ceasefire.”


      No matter what, here are the logical outcomes:

      1) More money is spent.

      2) More politicians get elected.

      3) A huge “fix oakland” political and economic machine, continues to grow.

      4) More people die.

      5) Nothing changes.

      Insanity is defined as “trying the same thing, expecting different results.”

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