Just about a month ago, we supported a proposal by City Council member Lynette Gibson McElhaney and Council President Larry Reid to establish a Department of Violence Prevention.
After several hearings and further research, we have changed our position. This proposal goes to City Council on Tuesday, May 16. A brief summary of our current position, and our suggestions for further action, are set out below.
We certainly agree with council members Gibson McElhaney and Reid that violence in Oakland is a critical problem and needs to be addressed with more urgency than we are seeing.
We continue to hear announcements from those in City government that community violence has decreased, and that Oakland is no longer one of the ten most violent cities in the Unites States. While these are technically true, the key fact is this: Oakland continues to be one of the most violent large cities in California and the United States.
We also agree with council member Gibson McElhaney and Reid that administration of and accountability for Oakland’s violence prevention programs need to be elevated, more transparent, and more openly accountable.
On the other hand, operations of some of Oakland’s programs – particularly those which are keys to Operation Ceasefire – cannot be disrupted without having a seriously adverse impact on violence. The change in status, and the administration, organization and management of these programs, should not be adjusted on the fly, as the proposal suggests.
In it’s December 2013 report, “Zeroing Out Crime,” Strategic Policy Institute advised the city: “Every agency must see itself as part of the crime solution and coordinate initiatives.” We still believe this. And we believe there should be a collaborative effort between Council, the Administration, Oakland Unite, OPD and Ceasefire to work with one of the nation’s leading experts on violence reduction program leadership and administration to design a system to elevate and increase the effective management and operation of all of our violence reduction programs.
Once this happens, we hope to appear before council in support of change. But the strategy for elevating programs and increasing their effectiveness is not in the current proposal.