Tag Archives: Oakland Police Department

Oakland’s Police Commission: Where We Stand

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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

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Public Safety Committee Considers New Police Commission


Last week was very hard for Oakland: Police Chief Sean Whent resigned and was immediately replaced by an Interim Chief Benson Fairow, formerly Deputy Chief of BART Police, and a deeply disturbing scandal — involving a possible cover-up — detailed abuse and misconduct by OPD officers.

And it is in this environment that the Public Safety Committee will meet on Tuesday, June 14 at 4:00 p.m. to debate a new charter amendment establishing a strong police commission and other mechanisms of police oversight. The meeting is at Oakland City Hall, Sgt. Mark Dunakin Hearing Room, First Floor.

The details of the proposal under consideration, introduced by Council Members Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo, are available here and here.

While an alternate measure (read here and here) by Council Members Annie Campbell-Washington, Abel Guillén and Larry Reid is also on the agenda, both Campbell-Washington and Guillén announced on Facebook Sunday afternoon that they would withdraw the proposal.

Make Oakland Better Now! has spent a great deal of time researching this issue. Our analysis is in a rather lengthy and detailed letter to the Public Safety Committee, and we will be presenting our recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting. But here are some of the key points: Continue reading

The Mayor’s Safe Oakland Series Explores “Fair and Just Policing”

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Mayor Libby Schaff’s Safe Oakland series has explored tough topics such as community policing and trust-building, and the presentations often address how the city and police department are collaborating with policymakers, academics, and community activists to improve public safety.

The most recent event in the series, “Fair and Just Policing” with Yale Law professor Tracey Meares, continued this important dialogue. Meares, who served on President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, shared insights from recent studies on criminal justice and looked at the intersection between social psychology and law. Continue reading

Answering Your Questions About Ceasefire (Part One)

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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.

Analysis: Oakland Police Department’s New Strategic Plan

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Oaklanders who attended the Make Oakland Better Now! Ceasefire Summit heard some mention of the Oakland Police Department’s new “Strategic Plan.”  This plan, posted on OPD’s website with no fanfare on December 31, replaces the previous strategic plan, issued by former Police Chief Anthony Batts in 2010—and not heard of again after Chief Batts left the department in 2011.

We’ve spent some time studying the plan, and we see a lot of progress and positive goals.  Continue reading

Understanding OPD’s New $1 Million Gun Tracing Plan

Last week, the Public Safety Committee met to discuss the Oakland Police Department’s $1 million spending plan to reduce gun violence and trafficking over the next two years. (Watch the full discussion here and read the Oakland Tribune’s summary of the plan.)

With this new budget allocation, OPD will hire a police records specialist and two crime analysts, plus fund overtime for a team that will investigate ShotSpotter calls. The department will also invest in new equipment: three gun microscope cameras, a gun laser scanner, and other technology to support gun database entry and automation.

You can see a breakdown of the costs below.

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(Read OPD’s full informational report here: Implementation of a $1M Gun Tracing Allocation in FY 2015-2017 Budget.)

The committee agreed that the new equipment is absolutely necessary and replaces time-consuming analysis and outdated technology. “Picture an 1800s camera, where you have to stand still and not smile. That’s where we’re at,” said Lieutenant Brandon Wehrly, from OPD’s Criminal Investigations Division.

The new scanners and cameras mean better forensics, efficient investigations, and stronger cases against illegal gun owners and traffickers.

But there was some disagreement, and confusion, about the new personnel. Councilmember Desley Brooks, the chair of the public safety committee, questioned the costs. Would these hires turn into an “ongoing obligation” for Oakland? Would there be a clear way to measure their impact?

During the meeting, it was reemphasized that this is a pilot program. The two crime analyst positions are limited to two years and will only be extended after assessment by the City Council. Additionally, if funding for the police records specialist is not renewed, it will be absorbed into OPD filling a vacant position.

There was also some dispute over the overtime funding for the ShotSpotter team.  Councilmember Abel Guillén asked why not hire more officers or staff instead of paying out $360,000 in overtime?

“Hiring more cops is great,” councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, a strong advocate for the plan, told Oakland North, “but because this is a two-year pilot program, it takes two years to hire a cop.

“The specific concern…was that overtime costs more than hiring new cops. But it actually doesn’t, because for each new cop you have not only the salary but medical, dental, vision, retirement, uniform, equipment, cars.”

The importance of turning ShotSpotter data into action is clear. In 2015, ShotSpotter has been activated just under 2,900 times—sometimes about 30 incidents a day. OPD’s Assistant Police Chief Paul Figueroa said that while this gunfire doesn’t always result in injuries, getting officers out in the community, to “knock on doors,” is an important way of building trust.

In the end councilmember Kaplan, who took credit for pushing City Council to approve the $1 million budget, said the plan is about better gun control and reducing gun violence at the source.

“Every time there’s a murder people ask, ‘Did he hate this guy?’ or ‘Where did he know him from?’ or ‘How did this happen?’ But every shooting happened because there was a gun…and the widespread, easy proliferation of illegal guns in our community is a serious public safety threat.”

Tonight, the City Council will review the informational report and weigh in.

Mayor’s State of the City Address: What the Mayor Said About Safety, And What We Think

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As many Oaklanders have heard, Mayor Libby Schaaf gave her first State of the City Address last week at City Hall. You can watch the full video and a read a complete transcript on the city’s website, and find recaps in the San Francisco Chronicle, Oakland Tribune and Oakland North.

Oaklanders are fiercely divided on issues such gentrification, affordable housing,
development, crime and safety. We argue over the future of our city, we disagree. But as the Mayor emphasized, twice in her speech, “We must turn toward each other, not on each other.”

Mayor Schaaf returned to four basic priorities for Oakland that she first outlined during her campaign and at her inauguration: holistic community safety, equitable jobs and housing, sustainable infrastructure, and responsive, trustworthy government.

In this post, we’ll focus on holistic community safety, summarize the Mayor’s positions, and present some thoughts of our own.

Holistic Community Safety

The mayor began by expressing optimism about violent crime trends, citing numbers purportedly showing “Oakland is getting safer.”

For the third consecutive year, we have double digit reductions in non-fatal shootings — down 14% compared to this time last year. Residential burglaries and home-invasion robberies are significantly down, 15 and 54%, respectively. We’ve had a similar number of robberies as last year, which continues to be 27% below the previous 3 years average.

She then acknowledged that murders were up by 15% from last year and at the time of her speech there had been 71 homicides so far in 2015.  “I can’t celebrate improvements while overall levels of fear and harm in this city remain so unacceptably high. And behind every number and trend line lies a heartbreaking story of loss.”

That brought us to what was going to change:

  • The Mayor announced that 35 new officers were graduating from academy on October 30, that 50 more were in training, and that we were “on-track to meet my promise of 800 officers by 2017.”
  • She stated Oakland would use “recently awarded federal grants to hire walking officers for our commercial corridors, expand our 21st century policing reforms, and combat the horrific sexual exploitation of minors in Oakland.”
  • She promised that Oakland would strengthen Cease Fire, would expand it to reduce robberies, and would more than double case managers and increase street outreach workers.
  • She applauded Oakland Police Chief Whent for recognizing that “policing is about being guardians of the community not warriors within it,” and promised that OPD would “reduce arrests by 26% and use-of-force by 15%, while continuing to bring down crime.”
  • She stressed the importance of the Black Lives Matter movement and the police department’s Procedural Justice Training, giving a shout out to Rev. Damita Davis-Howard from Oakland Community Organizations and PICO’s Pastor Ben McBride for their guidance.
  • Finally, the Mayor promised: “By the end of the year we’ll release Oakland’s first Comprehensive Community Safety Plan, crafted by a diverse array of experts. It will create better collaboration and collective accountability for a holistic set of goals—ranging from increasing high school graduation rates to improving reentry support to making Oakland a restorative justice city.”

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