Answering Your Questions About Ceasefire (Part One)


More than 100 Oaklanders attended Make Oakland Better Now!’s Ceasefire Summit back in January. We had a great group of insider panelists, including Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent, Ceasefire Director of Strategy Reygan Harmon, Reverend Damita Davis-Howard, Oakland Human Services Director Sara Bedford, and more.

There was just one downside: We had tons of questions from the audience, and not nearly enough time to answer them all. So after the event, we shared the rest of the questions with our panelists. This week, over the course of three blog posts, we’ll publish all the responses. (Thanks for waiting!)

Today, we’ll focus on the questions directed to the Ceasefire team. Reygan Harmon, OPD Chief Sean Whent and Captain Ersie Joyner jointly agreed on each answer.

 How is your work gender responsive? There seems to be an under-emphasis on girls and women.—Maria Dominguez, PUEBLO
Ceasefire focuses on the individuals shown by data to be most likely to be drivers of gun violence. While there are some women who are involved in violence in some ways, this is fairly rare, and the driving forces are almost always male.

When is Ceasefire planning on targeting North and West Oakland gangs?BBBON (Block by Block Organizing Network)
Ceasefire is not a geographic strategy. It prioritizes the most active violent groups and gangs wherever they are located. For several years, this has been predominantly East Oakland. In the past six months, Ceasefire began focusing as well on the Ghost Town gang in West Oakland. If a North Oakland group or gang became sufficiently active, Ceasefire would focus on that group or gang.

Are county, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors attending call-ins? How many call-ins in 2015?Oakland Rotary Club
Ceasefire is a partnership, whose strength derives from involving OPD, the community, service providers and other state and local public safety partners, including the State and Federal prosecutors, probation and parole. Representatives from all of these agencies participate in the call-ins. In 2015 there were 4 call-ins. The goal for 2015 is 5 call-ins.

How can Oakland have a say in whether a parolee is released into the city?R.G.
We do not. By law, parolees are released into the County where convicted. Many have family in Oakland who can take them in here. While there is a difficult bureaucratic process for changing the location of release, it is not available to us as a practical matter.

Guns are used in homicides. Why doesn’t Ceasefire help OPD trace and analyze where every gun comes from and how to reduce the flow?G.D.
This question goes beyond Ceasefire. With a recent increased budget allocation, OPD has an enhanced program for gun tracing, involving more analysts, more staff in the crime lab and officers collecting casings from every gunfire incident reported by Shotspotter. In addition, Forensic Logic, OPD’s data analysis partner, is developing an enhanced program that will streamline our capacity to enter all firearm-related data into the tracking system.

How did you calculate 83 homicides? I read somewhere there were 89 in 2015.Anonymous
There were 83 murders, 93 homicides. A homicide is any killing of a human by another human, including justifiable homicides. A murder is a criminal homicide.

Explain in more detail “intelligence-based enforcement,” please.Maxwell Park National Crime Prevention Council
This is “people policing” as opposed to “geographic policing.” In other words, officers will have frequent contact with the most active violent groups and gangs wherever they may be located, rather than focusing on particular geographic areas.

When there are spikes, do you contact clients on both sides? How fast?Oakland Rotary Club
Yes. We will contact victims and friends of victims the same day or the day after, and will reach out with the message that there must be no retaliation. This effort has had a major impact on significantly reducing retaliatory shootings. We also have weekly shooting reviews, after which we promptly redirect OPD resources based on the most recent shootings.

How many of the call-ins result in the attendee refusing services resulting in enforcement, and what does that look like?Anonymous
About 2/3 of the individuals who participate in call-ins sign up for services. Nobody faces enforcement action for refusing services, only for continuing to engage in violence.

What role does Ceasefire play in improving the perceived legitimacy of the police, and is it working?Anonymous
A goal of OPD is to improve police/community relations. We believe that increased focusing on people involved in crime results in more community legitimacy. The improvement probably will occur incrementally, and ultimately needs to be studied, but anecdotally, it seems to be happening.

Of the 83 people murdered last year, what percentage were on Ceasefire’s radar?Anonymous
Answer: The vast majority was involved in groups or gangs tracked by Ceasefire. But because some bystanders were also murder victims, it is hard to answer as to everyone.

How many (or do any) of these men have children? What are the strategies if someone is a father?Anonymous
Yes, many do, and since most of the men are quite young, the children are very young. We have not yet done much work in this area, but we are applying for a grant to provide training for officers on dealing with children of incarcerated individuals.

Does Ceasefire do panels like this with other groups besides MOBN? Like in East/West Oakland with predominantly communities of color?Anonymous
Will you have more summits? Will they be in areas where the crime is happening — East and West Oakland?Anonymous
The Ceasefire team members were guests at a presentation of a community organization. It was presented at the same church used for Call-ins, which has been used as a location because of its neutrality. We are certainly open to making additional presentations at other locations if other groups wish to invite us.

Some of the bad guys don’t want out of the criminal life. Ceasefire call-ins are supposed to be about both service offers and law enforcement threats. Is law enforcement being threatened? Is it being followed up on with joint law enforcement and joint prosecutions?Anonymous
We are not familiar with “threats” to law enforcement connected with Ceasefire. And yes, there is a good partnership with the District Attorney and US Attorney, who assess each case where violent activity continues, determine whether there is a likelihood a successful conviction, and prosecute those cases where a successful outcome is likely.

Is there a natural limit to violence prevention? Boston 25%, Cincinnati 30%, etc.? What should we expect for Oakland’s total reduction?Anonymous
There probably is a limit, but we can’t say what it is and we are not close to it. Under its strategic plan, OPD’s goal is to reduce murders, robberies and aggravated assaults by 30% over the 36 months starting January, 2016.

Tomorrow, we’ll post the answers to questions directed to Oakland’s Human Services Department.

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.

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