Category Archives: Public Safety

Chief Guillermo Cespedes Shares Strategy for Department of Violence Prevention

Guillermo Cespedes

Make Oakland Better Now consulted with Chief Guillermo Cespedes concerning his plans for the Department of Violence Prevention (DVP) and how to stem violent crime in Oakland. Cespedes described a Violence Prevention and Intervention Strategy that combines a public health and community-driven approach. This plan, which we fully support, is an important step towards reducing Oakland’s violent crime. Read our summary below:

Community-Driven Results
If Oakland is going to prevent violent crime, it will need many voices, leaders, and resources. The following elements guide the concept of a community-driven model:

  • Communities identify the specific problems and participate in the solutions applied to that problem.
  • Communities are provided capacity building tools to identify problems and implement solutions.
  • All members of the community are considered legitimate stakeholders, including those who have been victims and/or perpetrators of violence.
  • All community-centered strategies focus on behavior, not identity.

Violence as a Public Health Issue
In general terms, Chief Cespedes describes the the public health approach to violent crime as one that views violence as a contagious disease that can be stopped by providing effective “medicine” (concentrated programming) at individual, family, peer, school and community levels. This approach is most effective when the medicine is applied in specific places, with specific populations, during the times that the disease is most acute.

The public health approach is comprised of the following elements:

  • Paying attention to underlying risk factors that create and reinforce violence in specific communities;
  • Interventions at the individual, family, peer group, school and community level;
  • An emphasis on specific populations at primary, secondary, and tertiary levels of risk. (More on this subject below)
  • Evidence-informed interventions that examine specific people, places, months of the year, days of the week, and times of the day.

Focus Populations
Chief Cespedes described the specific geographic areas that have a documented level of violence. These spots can be as small as four square miles. Populations within these areas will receive four types of services simultaneously:

  1. Primary prevention services. These are for community members between the ages of 8 and 17 years of age who live in high-risk areas but are not involved in delinquent behaviors. This approach, which includes youth development services, can be compared to providing the necessary preventive medicine protects against the disease of violence before it starts.
  2. Secondary prevention services. This involves individual and family-based services for community members between the ages of 8 and 17 years of age who are involved in relatively low-level delinquent activities. (Family, in this context, is inclusive of whatever structure is present, rather than the idealized two-parent family.) The goal is to prevent this population from escalating involvement in violence, thus becoming more “contaminated.”
  3. Tertiary level services. This intervention involves individual and family services for justice involved community members between the ages of 8 and 30 years of age.
  4. Relational policing. In addition, the DVP will provide consultation on “relational policing” activities, defined as those actions aimed at establishing a non-transactional relationship between police and community in which the handcuffs are the last, as opposed to the first, resort. (The DVP does not implement relational policing activities, only consultation.)

Changing Community Norms
In addition to the focused interventions directed at different populations, the DVP’s public health and community-driven approach seeks to change community norms through campaigns and macro-level school and community-based interventions.

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Chief Cespedes has guided successful implementation of this Public Health / Community-Driven Approach in Los Angeles* and has provided consultation on the public health model to cities through Central America, the Caribbean, and in North Africa. Addressing the violence in this targeted way, Cespedes notes, is the most effective way of inoculating the entire city against a city-wide violence epidemic.

Oakland has much to do. We are glad to see that homicide and violent crime have gone down over the past five years. But still, in 2019, homicide was up 12% over the year before, and violent crime was up 5% over the year before. There is much to be done. But Chief Cespedes’ plan is a big part of it, and we support him.

*The Los Angeles implementation reduced 9 categories of part one crime including homicides by almost 50%. LA has sustained these reductions as it has completed 10 consecutive years with less than 300 homicides for a city with 4 million residents.

 

 

Meet Guillermo Cespedes, Oakland’s New Chief of Violence Prevention


For several years now, Make Oakland Better Now! has urged elected officials to adopt and implement a comprehensive public safety plan, involving coordinated activities from every city department – from police to parks and recreation and more – playing a role in violent crime prevention.

In 2013 the City’s police consultant, Robert Wasserman, argued for this in a report titled, “Zeroing Out Crime.” Mr. Wasserman wrote, “Every agency must see itself as part of the crime solution and coordinate initiatives.” He urged regular meetings of heads of every department with any responsibility for crime reduction.

While some of Oakland’s elected officials have agreed, they have not been able to coordinate adoption or implementation of such a policy.

A new City leader is taking up the work of making this finally happen, and we are hopeful. In October, three of our board members were pleased to meet with Guillermo Cespedes, the first Chief of Oakland’s new Violence Prevention Department, who assumed that position on September 23. He said at the start of his tenure, “I am honored and very excited to return to Oakland to join professional colleagues, community advocates and elected officials in building a balanced comprehensive violence prevention strategy.” Continue reading

Ten Questions for Darlene Flynn, Oakland’s Director of Race & Equity

DarleneFlynn
In 2016, Oakland formed its Department of Race & Equity, and recruited Darlene Flynn as its Director. Last month, Carrie Crespo-Dixon, one of Make Oakland Better Now!’s board members, sat down with Ms. Flynn to talk about taking on the unprecedented role of leading this department. Continue reading

Attend The City of Oakland’s Special Meeting on Violence Reduction

Measure Z

On Tuesday, April 30, 6:00 p.m. at City Hall, the Oakland City Council, Safety and Services Oversight Commission, Police Commission and Community Policing Advisory Board will hold the annual meeting required by Measure Z, the public safety parcel tax measure passed by the voters in 2014 that funds police staffing and social services directed at reducing violent crime, and that also established the Safety and Services Oversight Commission (“the SSOC”). We encourage all Oaklanders who are able to do so to attend and participate. Continue reading

Stronger Police Commission, New Compliance Director Needed After the Pawlik Shooting


On February 19, Oakland’s court-appointed Monitor and Compliance Director Robert Warshaw issued an addendum to OPD’s Executive Force Review Board’s report on the police killing of Joshua Pawlik. (The full text of the addendum can be found here; other public documents related to this case can be found here.) In this addendum, Mr. Warshaw is highly critical of the Executive Force Review Board’s conclusions, and of Chief Kirkpatrick, leading some in our community to call for Mr. Warshaw to fire Chief Kirkpatrick.

As Compliance Director, Mr. Warshaw has the right to fire the police chief, but we would not only urge that Mr. Warshaw not fire Chief Kirkpatrick. We would also urge the court to appoint a different Compliance Director. Continue reading

Oakland’s Mid-Cycle Budget: Gun Tracing, Illegal Dumping and More

                                                                                                      (Photo:Jeremy Brooks)

On Tuesday, June 19, Oakland’s City Council will be considering the usual mid-cycle adjustment to Oakland’s budget. The administration’s initial proposal is here.  (Its supplemental reports are here and here.) We’ve spent much time evaluating all of the current possibilities, and considering them in light of our priorities:  public safety, public works, transparency and accountability, homelessness reduction and budget responsibility.  Our recommendations to the Mayor, City Administrator and City Council are shared below: Continue reading

A Guide to the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA): The Cost

 

In our previous post, we gave a brief history of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). Here, we’ll look at the costs and what can be done to get the Oakland Police Department out from under oversight.

How much does the NSA cost Oakland?
In 2015, Rashidah Grinage, from the Coalition for Police Accountability, filed a Public Records Act request with the City of Oakland, asking for all data on the cost of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement. Paula Hawthorn, who serves on the board of Make Oakland Better Now! and is a member of the Coalition, analyzed that data, and found that from 2003 until the time of the request,  the total spent had been about $30,000,000. Continue reading