Analysis: Oakland Police Department’s New Strategic Plan

OPD's New Strategic Plan

Oaklanders who attended the Make Oakland Better Now! Ceasefire Summit heard some mention of the Oakland Police Department’s new “Strategic Plan.”  This plan, posted on OPD’s website with no fanfare on December 31, replaces the previous strategic plan, issued by former Police Chief Anthony Batts in 2010—and not heard of again after Chief Batts left the department in 2011.

We’ve spent some time studying the plan, and we see a lot of progress and positive goals. Specifically:

• The new plan recognizes the importance of the Bratton and Wasserman reports of 2013 (District-Based Investigations in Oakland, Best Practices Review, and Addressing Crime in Oakland: Zeroing Out Crime) and incorporates many of their recommendations.

• The plan includes metrics, sets measurable objectives and timelines, and tells us who to hold responsible. In several instances, the plan sets alternate stretch goals in case more “resources” are made available (more on this in a second). As a key example, here are the goals for reducing crime without additional resources:

OPD Goal 1: Reduce Crime - No Additional Resources

And here are the goals with the additional resources:

OPD Goal 2: Reduce Crime - Additional ResourcesObviously, these alternatives are more of an argument than a strategy. Nonetheless, it tells us this: With what OPD has, they intend to reduce homicide, robbery and aggravated assault by 30% by the end of 2018.  With additional resources, they will reduce them by 40% in the same timeframe.

Let’s think about that: The department says with existing resources, it will reduce murders by 25, robbery victimization by 948, and aggravated assaults by 817.  With additional resources, the department is talking a reduction of murders by 33, of robberies by 1,264, and aggravated assaults by 1,090.

It’s worth noting that while two weeks doesn’t constitute a trend, the first two weeks of 2016 have been very positive. (Note OPD’s report does not include the recent BART shooting, which was within BART police’s jurisdiction.)

So what additional resources is the department talking about? Certainly it includes more sworn police. It also includes civilianization of a number of positions now held by officers (a change Make Oakland Better Now! has long favored), so those officers can serve as police rather than as public information officers, facility managers, fleet managers and information systems supervisors.

OPD also does something we’ve never seen before: It states what it would do specifically with more police. With one sergeant and six additional officers, it would create a fugitive apprehension team that would arrest individuals “identified as suspects in crimes but are not arrested due to the limited resources of OPD.” It would increase homicide investigators from 12 to 16 and increase robbery investigators by 35.

• OPD’s goal is to reduce property crime by 30% over 36 months. As the plan notes, “at present, OPD does very little to collect or process evidence from property crimes.” Indeed, anyone who’s had their car broken into or had their phone stolen knows OPD lacks the resources—almost altogether—to investigate or solve property crimes.

OPD proposes to reverse this with 50 police evidence technicians, 35 criminalists, 10 police officers and an expanded crime lab. And it proposes a metric of a 30% reduction of property crimes over 36 months.

• It’s worth mentioning that the plan devotes eight pages to “Strengthen[ing] Community Trust and Relationships,” and includes an element we have long supported:

The primary performance measure for strengthening community trust and relationships are community surveys. The most recent (2013-14) community survey conducted by OPD found that, of 2,426 respondents, 23 percent were very satisfied or satisfied with the level of dedication to community policing and 44 percent were dissatisfied or very dissatisfied. In the same survey, 66 percent of 2,335 respondents indicated they trusted OPD and 34 percent indicated that they did not. Eighty-five percent of 1,200 respondents indicated that they were treated in a fair and impartial manner by Oakland Police officers and 15 percent indicated that they were not. Finally, 67 percent of 1,072 respondents indicated that the Oakland Police officer (with whom they interacted) explained the officer’s actions and the law, while 33 percent indicated that the officer did not. A new survey will be conducted in 2016.

Make Oakland Better Now! supports community surveys such as this, and urges the department to do four things:

  1. Conduct such surveys annually, asking the same questions to ensure that the department and the public can make comparisons.
  2. Have an independent, professional source design the survey, so the public will trust the results, see the numbers represent the entire community, and know there is no bias.
  3. Widely publicize the results of the survey, including a breakdown by demographic and neighborhood. In other words, it’s critical that we all know not just the overall results of what Oaklanders think of their police, but what every neighborhood and racial/ethnic group thinks of them.
  4. Hold at least one well-publicized, survey-focused community meeting in each OPD Area every year to further educate and learn from citizens.

Make Oakland Better Now! would like to see more on the subject of public accountability for meeting the goals in the plan. Every quarter, OPD presents crime reports to the City Council’s Public Safety Committee. We believe these reports should include progress in implementing the Strategic Plan, crime trends and how they align with the target metrics in the plan. If the Department is on track or not, the Committee, and the public, should receive regular reports on what is working and what is not.

There is much more in the plan worth attention. Ultimately, we believe the strategic plan should be a living breathing, changing document, subject to public review and revision every year. We applaud OPD for this plan, but urge them to keep the process going. We urge them to integrate, fund, and implement the annual community survey and citizen feedback cycle into this Strategic Plan.

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 5 Comments

  1. WaltFrench

    A couple of comments…

    First, why “but” in “We applaud OPD for this plan, but urge them to keep the process going”? Looks like “keep up the good work” should follow an “and.”

    Second, presumably OPD is not claiming all these goals will come simply by eliminating “waste, fraud and abuse” that politicians love to claim at election time. It’d be good for MOBN! to call out what functions will be de-prioritized.

    Finally, I hope the 2016 survey goes a bit more granular in understanding why a large fraction of residents are dissatisfied with policing. Just as it’s good that Oakland isn’t papering over its past troubles, I hope we can get a better sense of getting the citizens & our government on the same page.

  2. JW Yager

    I agree with Mr. French that OPD needs to be congratulated on progress rather than a “Yes, but…” from MOBN. And the annual surveys themselves need to have benchmarks set in place, e.g. what is the benchmark for the percent of citizens who are satisfied or dissatisfied with OPD, etc.? We all know that there will never be a time when ALL citizens are completely satisfied with the performance of the police department. So let’s preemptively set benchmark percentage goals for each of the questions in the annual survey in place of implying that there is an infinite horizon of perfection. Then we and OPD will know when a goal or goals have been met as we look over the years of annual results.

    An important role for community organizations not mentioned in this context is to hold “Teach-Ins” for the community.. The focus of these events is to seriously discuss best ways to communicate (and, yes, respect) police officers. Clear non-confrontational, respectful and open communication is a two-way street. This is a concept that seems to have been lost some time ago in many Oakland neighborhoods. It’s time to revitalize this basic concept. Significant community effort is needed too to achieve the best outcomes from this plan. .

  3. Bruce Nye

    Actually, there is a metric for the community polling. if you look at page 40 of the plan, you’ll see the goal is to increase community satisfaction by 15% in 36 months.

  4. Hobart Johnson

    “The goal is to increase community satisfaction by 15% in 36 months.”

    Wow! A “metric” for improved policing outcomes based on polling!

    One wonders which is the dominant force in this perspective: cynicism or innumeracy.

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