In 2012, Make Oakland Better Now! and several other community groups got involved in the process of creating a property tax and parking tax measure to replace Measure Y, which funded violence prevention program and was about to expire. We sought a measure that would fund community policing officers and social services geared toward violence reduction, particularly the then recently re-started Operation Ceasefire program. We helped fund and participate in policy research. We organized community focus groups and other activities to craft a measure that would reduce violent crime and win support. And we actively pursued cooperation with City Council members on drafting the right measure.
The City Council placed Measure Z on the 2014 ballot, and while requiring two thirds voter approval, it passed with 77.49% of the votes. Beginning in 2015, the measure has resulted in funding in excess of $24 million per year.
And violent crime has gone down. While so far, this year has been troubling, from January 2014 through December 2018, murders were reduced by 13%, firearm assaults by 34%, and violent crime overall by 8%. More needs to be improved, and the community should be having an ongoing discussion about this.
An essential item in Measure Z was a provision, for which we strongly advocated, requiring increased transparency and accountability. Specifically, the measure includes the following language:
Joint Meetings of the [Safety and Services Oversight] Commission and City Council:
The City Council, the Commission and other public safety-related boards and commissions shall conduct an annual joint special public informational meeting devoted to the subject of public safety. At each such meeting, the public, Commission and City Council will hear reports from representatives of all departments and the Chief of Police concerning progress of all of the City’s efforts to reduce violent crime.
In the first four years since the law became effective, the City has ignored this provision and failed to comply. After unsuccessfully urging several members of the City Administrator’s office and elected officials to schedule the required meeting, we finally began appearing before the Safety and Services Oversight Commission, which in response began taking steps to get the event scheduled.
We have been advised by members of the City Administrator’s office that the first meeting is planned for the evening of April 30, in City Council Chambers at City Hall, although no public announcements have yet been made.
We believe that public knowledge about activities by all agencies involved in violence reduction is essential to improving public confidence in those agencies and increasing likelihood of success. Furthermore, we believe it is important that in the area of public safety, as in all government activities, the City should set goals, make those goals widely known, and regularly convey to the public whether it is successful or not in achieving them.
For this reason, on Monday, April 15, we wrote the Mayor, Chief of Police, City Council President, City Administrator, Assistant to the Administrator assigned to the Safety and Services Oversight Commission, the SSOC chair and the City Council Public Safety Committee Chair with our strong recommendations concerning participation at the meeting, issues to be addressed, community outreach to increase attendance and involvement, and planning for the future annual meetings. You can read our letter here.
As we pointed out to the city officials in our letter, we believe that both to comply with Measure Z and make the meeting as effective as possible, the following persons, commissions, committees and others should actively participate in the meeting: the Chief of Police; members of Police command staff; the Mayor; the Safety and Services Public Safety Oversight Commission; the Police Commission; the City Council Public Safety Committee; City Council President; key staff from the Police Inspector General’s office; Oakland Unite Executive Director; leaders of the Safety Impact Table of the Youth Ventures Joint Powers Authority; Executive Director of the Department of Race and Equity; key staff from the Community Police Review Agency; current interim leadership staffing for Operation Ceasefire; and other key participants in reducing crime and improving public safety.
We also suggested a number of key subjects that would be crucial for the meeting.
First, concerning the Oakland Police Department:
- The Oakland Police Department’s goals for reducing violent crime in Oakland, strategies for doing so, timing and plans to make information about those strategies and their impact available to the public.
- Steps the OPD is taking and will take in the future to increase clearance, reduce residual arrests, end implicit and explicit officer bias, and publicly show the impact of its steps.
- The OPD Inspector General’s office’s audit of the Executive Force Review Board as to past years’ reporting of uses of force, public reporting concerning that audit, and improved posting of Inspector General reports on line, current and up to date.
- Steps that will be taken to improve the functioning of the Operation Ceasefire program following changes in its leadership.
Then, as to the work and collaboration of different City departments, community leaders, and nonprofits involved in public safety:
- The City’s current community policing strategies and policies, and the information available to determine the extent to which they are working successfully.
- The activities, projects and strategies of the Youth Ventures Joint Powers Authority and Safety Impact Table related to violence reduction, and programs for providing knowledge to the public about the activities, projects and strategies that have succeeded
- The City’s efforts to undertake a community poll to evaluate police / community relations, the results, and future plans for polling and responding to the results in the future.
- Status of hiring a Director of the City’s Department of Violence Reduction.
- City plans to fully staff the Police Commission and Citizens’ Police Review Agency, and timing of these plans.
- Strategies of the Oakland Police Department, Mayor and City Administrator to end Federal Court oversight over the police department, including timing and making related information readily and publicly available.
It is alarming to us that fewer than fifteen days from the event, it does not appear on the City Council’s meeting schedule (there is a posted special meeting, but no agenda or other information), or on the announcements on the SSOC’s web page, and that as far as we know, there have been no public announcements or attempts to reach out to the community. We have advised officials of our belief that this meeting should be the subject of as much publicity as possible, beginning immediately. This should range from press releases, to council member newsletters, to local outreach throughout Oakland.
We will be posting everything we learn about the scheduling of this event on here on Oaktalk, on our Facebook page, and in e-mails. We urge Oaklanders to save the date (the evening of April 30) and plan to attend. We will report further as we learn more about the City’s plans.