Author Archives: oaktalk

Updated: The Department of Violence Prevention Proposal Is Not Ready, So We Are Suspending Our Support

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. Continue reading

Supporting Public Safety in Oakland: A Conversation with Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Public Safety Director Venus Johnson

Make Oakland Better Now! and SPUR are proud to present Supporting Public Safety in Oakland, a special conversation with new Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick and Public Safety Director Venus Johnson March 29 at 6 p.m!

2017 has brought two major additions in the realm of public safety to Oakland: in January, Oakland-native Venus Johnson was named as the city’s new director of public safety, and in February, Anne Kirkpatrick was sworn in as the city’s new chief of police. In a city where turnover at the top of the police department has been high and in a department over which federal monitors, the Mayor, the City Manager and the police commission all have oversight, these new hires are faced with tough jobs. Join them both for an evening of conversation about the current state, and the future, of safety and the OPD.

This event is free and open to the public. Please join us! You can RSVP here and also share our Facebook event.

When:  March 29,  6 – 8 p.m.
Where: SPUR, 1544 Broadway, Oakland Continue reading

Police Commission Enabling Ordinance: Our Comments

The following constitute Make Oakland Better Now!’s comments on the February 6, 2017 iteration of the Police Commission Enabling Ordinance introduced by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo. (Read about Measure LL and Oakland’s new Police Commission on our blog: here, here, and here.)

We also include several comments on features in The Coalition on Police Accountability’s proposed substitute ordinance. There are some areas where we agree with the Coalition’s suggestions, and others where we support adoption of the February 6 draft ordinance.

On March 8, we sent these comments to the Public Safety Committee.  After public discussion and feedback, the Enabling Ordinance will be revised, refined, and returned  to the Public Safety Committee with a recommendation to the full Council for adoption.

Continue reading

Budget Bits Returns: Shaping Oakland’s 2017-2019 Budget

Oakland Budget

Oakland 2017-2019 Budget Preparation Begins

For many years and several budget cycles, Make Oakland Better Now! has provided Oakland residents with tools to help understand the city budget. We’re proud to dive into the numbers again this year, as Oakland’s Mayor, City Administrator, and City Council move toward adoption of the 2017-2019 budget. Continue reading

New Year, New Police Chief

Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick

After 7 months and a nationwide search,  Mayor Libby Schaaf announced that Anne Kirkpatrick will be the new Chief of Oakland Police Department. (Read coverage from the East Bay Times, San Francisco Chronicle, and East Bay Express.)

“I think it’s the greatest opportunity in American policing today,” Kirkpatrick said at a press conference. (Watch full video of the event on KTVU or East Bay Times.) Kirkpatrick plans to start in late February.

Kirkpatrick is the former chief of Ellensberg, Federal Way and Spokane, Washington,  having served as chief for five years or more in each (the average tenure for a chief in a major American city is less than 3 years). She most recently worked for the Chicago Police Department, where she was hired in June to oversee police reform efforts. She will also be OPD’s first female chief, although she downplayed that, observing that the qualities of character needed to make a good chief (e.g., integrity, character, decisiveness, etc) are all gender neutral.

Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick

The recruitment process began last summer and involved dozens of input sessions and surveys. Results showed that the community was looking for a candidate with integrity and a strong record of crime reduction, as well a someone who could “lead cultural change.” (Read the full results of Chief of Police Community Survey.)

Kirkpatrick has already promised to be this kind of leader and said she would listen to Oakland’s needs. During the press conference, she emphasized the importance of moving forward and vowed the OPD would continually improve. OPD would learn from recent scandal, she said, and would not “retreat” from NSA compliance.

“Reform is where we have policies, procedures, and we direct behavior. I am more interested in transformation. That’s the change in thinking, that’s the cultural change.”

Among other things, Chief Kirkpatrick stated that early on, she would be meeting with Robert Warshaw, the Court-appointed monitor, to reach agreement on exactly what will constitute compliance with the remaining tasks. Make Oakland Better Now! believes that after years of the monitor’s invoking compliance requirements that are nowhere to be found in the NSA, effectively moving the goal posts, this kind of negotiation will be critical.

Chief Kirkpatrick will be starting on February 27. At her press conference and before, she stated that she will devote much energy to reaching out to all aspects of the community and learning as much as she can about Oakland. She noted that ever since leaving her first police job in Tennessee, she has been an outsider, she has always been successful, and will strive to get Oaklanders to be so happy with her performance that they urgently want her to stay. And as part of her work to reach out, she will be participating in ridealongs with officers throughout the city.

The news of Chief Kirpatrick’s appointment comes less than 24 hours after Mayor Schaaf announced that starting January 9, Venus D. Johnson will become Director of Public Safety, an important position that will lead the effort to “break cycles of violence in Oakland through effective crime prevention coupled with smart and principled policing.”

It’s been a long wait. The new Director of Public Safety and Police Chief come at a crucial time in Oakland’s fight against violent crime. 2016, versus previous years, saw almost no change in violent crime, with murders down just 4%, homicides and injury shooting down only 5%.

The people of Oakland deserve much better. But we are hopeful. Make Oakland Better Now is ready to work, to do everything we can to support Police Chief Kirkpatrick and Director of Public Safety Johnson, two respected and capable leaders. It’s a new year, and the city’s taken a important first step in making our city safer in 2017.

Police Commission Measure: Exactly What Did the Council Just Do?

20160719_201919
Last month, the City Council passed a resolution putting a police commission measure on this November’s ballot. (Read recent coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Express, and East Bay Times.)

The new commission will differ in a number of important ways from the existing Citizens’ Police Review Board. It will possess subpoena power. The charter provides for mandatory staffing of one investigator for every 100 officers. By a 5-2 vote, it can fire the Police Chief for cause (with “cause” to be defined by enabling legislation). It nominates future chiefs, and the Mayor chooses from the nominated candidates. And it has policy-setting powers to “accept or reject” OPD policies related to use of force, profiling, and First Amendment assemblies. It’s already been called one of the strongest police commissions in the nation.

Like most individuals and organizations involved in this debate, we believe this measure is a terrific step forward, and we will support it. But there’s still much work to be done.

Continue reading

Oakland’s Police Commission: Where We Stand

IMG_3792
Oakland City Council will be considering a ballot measure establishing a police commission, civilian inspector general, and Community Police Review Agency at its meeting on Tuesday, July 19 at 5pm.

We posted about this measure on our blog when it was going to the Public Safety Committee last month. (There’s also been plenty of local news coverage from San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Times, and East Bay Express.)

We’ve reviewed the Police Commission Charter Amendment in full, the most recent revision, and a red-lined revision from the Alameda County Labor Council. Exactly what will go to Council for a vote remains unclear, but here is what we know so far: Continue reading