Understanding OPD’s New $1 Million Gun Tracing Plan

Last week, the Public Safety Committee met to discuss the Oakland Police Department’s $1 million spending plan to reduce gun violence and trafficking over the next two years. (Watch the full discussion here and read the Oakland Tribune’s summary of the plan.)

With this new budget allocation, OPD will hire a police records specialist and two crime analysts, plus fund overtime for a team that will investigate ShotSpotter calls. The department will also invest in new equipment: three gun microscope cameras, a gun laser scanner, and other technology to support gun database entry and automation.

You can see a breakdown of the costs below.

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(Read OPD’s full informational report here: Implementation of a $1M Gun Tracing Allocation in FY 2015-2017 Budget.)

The committee agreed that the new equipment is absolutely necessary and replaces time-consuming analysis and outdated technology. “Picture an 1800s camera, where you have to stand still and not smile. That’s where we’re at,” said Lieutenant Brandon Wehrly, from OPD’s Criminal Investigations Division.

The new scanners and cameras mean better forensics, efficient investigations, and stronger cases against illegal gun owners and traffickers.

But there was some disagreement, and confusion, about the new personnel. Councilmember Desley Brooks, the chair of the public safety committee, questioned the costs. Would these hires turn into an “ongoing obligation” for Oakland? Would there be a clear way to measure their impact?

During the meeting, it was reemphasized that this is a pilot program. The two crime analyst positions are limited to two years and will only be extended after assessment by the City Council. Additionally, if funding for the police records specialist is not renewed, it will be absorbed into OPD filling a vacant position.

There was also some dispute over the overtime funding for the ShotSpotter team.  Councilmember Abel Guillén asked why not hire more officers or staff instead of paying out $360,000 in overtime?

“Hiring more cops is great,” councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, a strong advocate for the plan, told Oakland North, “but because this is a two-year pilot program, it takes two years to hire a cop.

“The specific concern…was that overtime costs more than hiring new cops. But it actually doesn’t, because for each new cop you have not only the salary but medical, dental, vision, retirement, uniform, equipment, cars.”

The importance of turning ShotSpotter data into action is clear. In 2015, ShotSpotter has been activated just under 2,900 times—sometimes about 30 incidents a day. OPD’s Assistant Police Chief Paul Figueroa said that while this gunfire doesn’t always result in injuries, getting officers out in the community, to “knock on doors,” is an important way of building trust.

In the end councilmember Kaplan, who took credit for pushing City Council to approve the $1 million budget, said the plan is about better gun control and reducing gun violence at the source.

“Every time there’s a murder people ask, ‘Did he hate this guy?’ or ‘Where did he know him from?’ or ‘How did this happen?’ But every shooting happened because there was a gun…and the widespread, easy proliferation of illegal guns in our community is a serious public safety threat.”

Tonight, the City Council will review the informational report and weigh in.

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One response to “Understanding OPD’s New $1 Million Gun Tracing Plan

  1. Although this could be a useful program, how it is being dealt with is entirely too much in keeping with Oakland’s dismal business-as-usual.

    This means that yet an other effort with some potential is being adopted as an orphan, in an uncoordinated ad hoc approach to public safety policy. If this kind of program were a part of a comprehensive public safety plan, then it could have real promise. As it is, if this program is adopted and funded, it is very likely to wither with critical positions remaining unfilled, monies unspent and functionality prevented for an extended period if not indefinitely.

    To get out of this reactive and historically unproductive business-as-usual, Oakland needs a comprehensive public safety plan and a competent civilian management team in the form of a police commission or commissioner.

    There are also much larger issues than this program which Oakland needs to deal with: real community policing and traffic policing. Real community policing is the key to long-term crime prevention and reduction. Also we really don’t know how much death and injury and property damage occurs in Oakland as a result of our not having a police traffic division.

    While Oakland remains in its long-established reactive, adopt-an-orphan public safety policy mode, it’s very unlikely that our crime problems are going to get better.

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