Oakland needs a comprehensive crime reduction plan which includes a crime gun reduction strategy. The sound of gun-shots and their devastating aftermath is becoming far too common in our great City.  A one year old baby shot to death along with his father while laying in bed; an eight year old girl shot to death when answering the door at a friend’s house; an off-duty paramedic shot as he was returning home after a visit with his father — this senseless gun violence has a strangle-hold on our community.

Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent stated, “Ceasefire is my number one crime strategy to reduce violent crime in our city. “ This program identifies the most violent criminal offenders and provides options and services to them if they stop the violence.  But Cease Fire alone will not, and cannot, address the availability of illegal guns which are the primary weapon used in a significant number of violent crimes perpetrated in Oakland.

Gun violence will decrease when OPD moves beyond simply responding to 911 calls and Shotspotter notifications.  According to the International Association of Chief’s of Police (IACP) while a swift response to incidents of gun violence is critical, it is not enough to be reactive. Given the potential of intelligence- led and data-driven policing and the move towards “predictive policing,” agencies must perform a strategic review of their current operations and develop a multifaceted plan to address the gun violence problems specific to their communities.

There are far too many guns on the streets of Oakland.  If we want to get a handle on violent crime the Oakland Police Department needs to develop a comprehensive crime gun reduction strategy.  Special Agent Mark Kraft, Project Safe Neighborhoods Program Manager, Bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms, said ““It is important for every community to determine the origin of its crime guns. If law enforcement does not uncover the source of a crime gun, the community they serve is destined to repeat the cycle of violence, as more guns from the same source will repeatedly be used to victimize the public.””

During the last two years, I have suggested three programs to the City Administrator and/or Police Chief, and had another program approved by the Council which would help OPD identify the sources of its crime guns.  All of these programs have been successful in other jurisdictions.  Oakland could benefit by adopting any, or all, of these as part of a crime gun reduction strategy:

  • Debrief All Gun Offenders – All suspects arrested with firearms during the commision of a crime, who are offered a plea agreement, would be required to undergo a thorough debriefing regarding the firearm prior to entering the plea agreement.  Information captured by debriefing suspects can support predictive policing actions and enable local law enforcement to interdict crime guns and prevent the associated violence.
  • Establish a Firearms Offender Registry – Similar to a sex offender registry, firearms offender registries are computerized listings of persons previously convicted of a felony firearms violation or a misdemeanor crime that involved a violent or threatening act with a firearm.
  • Consent to Search — parents of high-risk youth would give the police permission to search their homes for guns that their children might have. The guns found would be confiscated, with no follow-up prosecution.

Finally, in February of this year I introduced legislation, which was adopted by the Council, urging the City Administrator to request that the Chief of Police send letters to prospective gun purchasers informing them of their responsibilities as a gun owner; and that failure to honor their responsibilities would result in prosecution.  Oakland has been operating under the false impression that because there are no gun stores in Oakland, guns aren’’t coming into our city.

Currently OPD has no idea how many legal and/or illegal guns are coming into our City.

Although OPD could request information from the California Department of Justice on the legal guns coming into the city; they do not.  Despite the low cost to implement this program and its potential benefits, neither the City Administrator or Chief of Police have made any effort to implement the program.

There are too many guns on the streets of Oakland.  If we want to see a decrease in violent crime OPD must have better intellegence on the driver of the majority of our violent crimes, guns.  The continued failure of OPD to adopt a comprehensive crime reduction plan which includes a crime gun reduction strategy puts us all in peril.

Desley Brooks
Oakland City Council Member, District 6
City Hall
1 Frank Ogawa Plaza, 2nd Floor
Oakland, CA  94612
(510) 238-7006 (office)
(510) 986-2650 (facsimile)

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland. See our guidelines.

28 Responses

  1. Mikey

    Desley Brooks is, to put it as simply as possible, a great big liar. First, she has a long history of being anti-Oakland Police Department. She plays to that sector of her electorate which hates cops. She, like the rest of Oakland’s electeds, knows absolutely nothing about policing and have undercut OPD wherever possible for very many years. Second, murder is not increasing in Oakland–it has been a multiple of the national homicide rate for as long as Brooks has been in office. Third, Brooks’ priority is not Ceasefire. Community groups which have been pushing for years for Ceasefire have found their pleas falling on Brooks’ deaf ears. Current Ceasefire efforts in Oakland are doomed to failure, as were previous efforts, because the Council and Mayor don’t allocate adequate resources to the program or provide proper management and coordination. Ceasefire is dead in Oakland now and for the foreseeable future. What has Brooks actually “done” about crime in Oakland: illegally fostered her elitist culinary academy and gotten the city to spend millions on bigger lightbulbs. Yep, Brooks believes that fancy cooking and bigger lightbulbs are the answers to crime. Ceasefire not so much.

  2. Max Allstadt

    I’m a gun owner, a firm believer in the second amendment, and a believer in the right of citizens to own firearms for self defense.

    Desley Brook’s proposals for new gun policies are the first ones that I have seen from an Oakland politician that I can completely support.

    Brooks wants to target criminals and illegal guns. Other politicians want to impose additional restrictions on law abiding gun owners.

    David Kennedy, who is the foremost proponent of ceasefire and who has written extensively on illegal guns, has written editorials that tend to agree with Desley Brooks’ approach: When trying to stop illegal guns, go after illegal guns, not legal ones.

  3. R2D2II

    Mr. Gunslinger and CC Brooks are both more than a little confused. Sure, Mr. Gunslinger can keep strapped 24/7 so long as he remains at home. Go out on the street, sorry but OPD will put you away and take your blaster. And it ain’t the Second Amendment. It’s the rights of privacy and self-defense that are relevant. The recent, reactionary Supreme Court thingy on the Second Amendment is purely the product of the great legal minds of the Scaly One, Tom-Tom et al. Brooks “thinks” that Oaktown can effectively go after illegal guns with only half a police force, a complete lack of investigational and data-management resources, a force that is in near-total disarray with revolving-door leadership and so on. Brooks’ proposal is just another of her completely-off-the-wall fantasies. There are far simpler and more straightforward ways to reduced violence in Oakland but our fair city’s twisted government and perverse electorate will never go there.

  4. Greg

    “There are far simpler and more straightforward ways to reduced violence in Oakland”

    Such as… ?

  5. Oakie

    Ms Brooks is quite simply the epitome of what is wrong with Oakland. Her exercise in doing what is irrelevant to our violence problem (of course her proposal will have exactly zero affect on the multitude of criminals packing heat while inflicting meaningless hoops for law abiding citizens to go through) is breathtaking.

    Good job voters of Oakland for reelecting her time and time again!

  6. Len Raphael

    One of the commentators above makes valid point that OPD is not capable of taking on additional duties such as gun ownership tracking when for a host of reasons OPD is not capable of adequately performing basic police work.

    This proposal is yet another local elected official’s grandstanding that will go nowhere.

    But compared to AB 180 proposed by our state representatives and supported by at least half the council, Brooks proposal looks pragmatic.

    AB 180 which became law today unless Brown veto’d it, gives Oakland broad powers to make its own gun control laws. It doesn’t give Oakland any funding to do that. And doesn’t give Oakland any money to defend itself against NRA lawsuits.


  7. R2D2II

    “There are far simpler and more straightforward ways to reduced violence in Oakland”

    Such as… ?

    Jesus, does this really need to be spelled out?

    Such as: adequate police staffing and resources and a police commissioner to take oversight of OPD away from the Council and Mayor.

  8. livegreen

    Oakland doesn’t even have enough Officers to respond to 911 calls on a timely basis (one of the slowest response times in the country), and has 1/2 to 1/3 of the force per capita compared to many other cities that have implemented Ceasefire. It has 1 part time investigator for 10,000 burglaries. It solves under 25% of its murders.

    OPD is way understaffed. The City Council and Mayor only plan on rehiring 100 of the officers they laid off, leaving us over 100 short of where we were before the recession. Instead of prioritizing additional officers, they gave raises to all other city workers (including themselves), which will raise costs for city operations leaving less money for future hires. They also prioritized dumping and other services over protecting peoples lives.

    Typical of our politicians Ms. Brooks proposes a public safety plan but doesn’t budget or fund it. The City Council voted to fund Chief Batts last Strategic Plan but, once again, didn’t fund its complete implementation.

    Oakland City Council & the Mayor’s Mantra:
    “Saying one thing, budgeting another.”

  9. Benzo44

    I like the proposal especially the firearms offender registry. How long will ot take to get this done?

  10. michelle t

    Dear livegreen.

    Even the city council or the Mayor cannot squeeze blood out of a stone.

    Libby, council person Dist. 4, once wrote that she only have 2 full time staff persons to help her to make laws.

    I know that Mayor Jean Quan took a 25% pay cut 1-2 years ago. The Mayor’s office has been reduced approximatetly ( don’t quote me precisely on this one) 60% .

    I know that city staff took 10 – 20 percent pay cut. My librarian neighbor claims to have had a 30% pay cut since the recession.

    In the budget literature it was disclosed, despite all the cuts, the total employee expenditure remains the same due to rising health care cost. That’s structural.

    Livegreen, you can’t have it both ways. Unless you are ready to reduce OPD benefits and salary, which you are not, by your numerous writings. Asking other employees to sacrifice more will not work. We live in a democracy. They get one vote per person, assuming Oakland resident.

    I personally would like to pay less, like all consumers of services. The budget will be what the budget will be. Everyone gets a little piece of the pie.
    The opinionated group will probably get a little more. after all they spend a lot of time advocating which is also labor on their part. Overall I think this year’s budget is OK, nothing outrageous. There’s murky area, hopefully someone with free time can examine into it as a public service. ( of course, we still have the pension problem like all city.)

  11. michelle t

    What we need to do as resident of Oakland is to make known cases of employee incompetence or laziness to Santana. We don’t need to decrease salary, we need to give warnings or trainings to all those who is not performing up to standard, meaning no PAPER PUSHERS for professional salary, and quantitative measurement for non-exempt workers.

    Incompetent and corrupted employees need to be fired or reprimanded or trained. It starts at the top, from city council persons down to the interns.

    Whenever city employee refuses to give their supervisor’s or their name, complain to the higher ups, get organized.

    I know that some merchants are organizing about the graffiti problem, because District attorney’s office refuse to prosecute even after the merchants made citizen’s arrests.

  12. Eric K Arnold

    Ms. Brooks is right on target (pun not intended) by focusing on illegal firearms and seeking ways to get them off the streets. She is 100% correct when she says OPD must be proactive, not reactive — which means smarter policing and using more data. (Yes, i know that sounds familiar.) Current OPD policies must be improved on, and Ms. Brooks is on the right track here. Her proposal to allow consent to search for high-risk youth isn’t as sexy as Noel Gallo’s recent attempt at reviving the youth curfew, but it’s a lot more sensible and less problematic from both a logistical and civil liberties standpoint.

    Ms. Brooks has clearly done her homework around this issue and identified not only the problem, but possible solutions. It’s completely irrelevant to criticize her for off-topic actions, and unfair to hold her more accountable than the rest of the Council or the Mayor — who have not come up with comprehensive crime plans, much less budgets, on their own — on this issue. The specific criticism that she doesn’t provide a budget is both unfounded and somewhat naive, since no undertaking of that sort would be possible without buy-in from OPD and the City Administrator.

    One hopes that other Councilmembers will put aside their political infighting and need for grandstanding and realize that Brooks is right–even if they don’t like the fact that she came up with the idea (or more likely, the idea of giving her credit for it). A comprehensive crime plan should be city government’s top priority. We need progressive, proactive solutions, not regressive, knee-jerk zero tolerance policies which cannot possibly be effective and may wind up doing more harm than good in the long run. It’s time for Oakland to take a deep breath and stop letting petty jealousies and resentments get in the way of truly workable solutions.

    We must also be practical and realistic; it’s simply not economically feasible for OPD to hire 100 additional officers, but even if they did, policy change would have to be implemented to get more of those officers on the streets and out from under desks than under current policy. OPD’s internal culture shift is long overdue, and the department is in dire need of a truly progressive and innovative approach to crime prevention which can place it ahead of similar cities with similar problems.

  13. Len Raphael

    Politicians pontificating on crime. Most residents, rich poor and in between simply tune it out because they know it’s b/s.

    Upper middle and middle income residents have been the reliable voters for self styled progressive Oakland politicians for three decades. Those residents were insulated from the violence and Hobbesian struggle to survive of too much of East and West Oakland. But there is a tipping point for Oakland middle and upper middle income residents on crime. Took years but it came when the City’s fiscal mistakes stripped the nicer parts of town of even minimal security. Then it took about a year for the criminals to figure it out.

    Watching the rapid spread of private patrols in the middle and upper middle income parts of town, is to see that when crime in your backyard gets really really bad and endless politician promises and hand wringing and hiring Bill Bratton doesn’t make a difference, residents who can, will act to very directly reduce crime.

    Now if same residents would spend just a small fraction of that energy on demanding that the politicians take effective action to reduce crime in the rest of town. That would be something that would benefit all of us.

    info on private patrols http://oaklandwiki.org/Private_Security_in_Oakland

  14. R2D2II

    Sr. Arnold:

    Whether or not one focuses locally on problems of illegal firearms and seeking ways to get them off the streets is irrelevant because the only effective route is by means of a national program. Local does not work and cannot. Do some research.

    When a pol has a longstanding record of avoiding the truth and acting the poseur, these facts are directly relevant to any proposal coming from said pol.

    “It’s time for Oakland to take a deep breath and stop letting petty jealousies and resentments get in the way of truly workable solutions.” No kiddin’. The problem is that this is deeply ingrained in the culture of Oakland’s city hall. Brooks and her entire cohort need to be replaced before the pettiness and general incompetence can be eliminated.

    “It’s simply not economically feasible for OPD to hire 100 additional officers.” That’s what your pals in the Council and the Mayor say. You do well in their company. There are other ways to look at what’s “feasible” economically, but that requires creative thinking which is not yours or the Council’s or the Mayor’s forte.

  15. Eric K Arnold

    Mr. R2D2II, maligning Ms. Brooks won’t reduce gun violence in Oakland. How does her proposal to focus on illegal firearms “avoid the truth”? Aren’t illegal guns directly related most of the violent crime?

    It’s easy to be disgruntled with the state of the City Council, and their inability to effect actual solutions to Oakland’s problems. But simply replacing the Council with other politicians, wouldn’t guarantee that truth would no longer be avoided, and posing would cease. At this point, we need to seriously look at any plan which could conceivably work, instead of taking umbrage because a Council member is actually doing what they’re supposed to do.

    You can talk about the culture of City Hall all you want, but that’s only part of the equation: the culture of OPD is long-overdue for change as well.

    OPD does not have a comprehensive crime plan which includes targeting illegal firearms. Using Shotspotter to identify where gunshots have been fired is not a preventative measure. These are empirical facts. Anyone could have pointed this out, but you want to downplay this because it came from a politician you don’t like.

    And as for economic feasibility of hiring 100 more officers, let’s consider that OPD just got a federal grant to hire 10 more officers — at a cost of $4.5 million. Therefore, 100 additional officers would cost $45 million, or an extra 10 percent of the proposed 2014-2015 FY budget. Currently, police and fire services account for almost 65 percent of Oakland’s budget. Bringing that number to 75 percent is simply not sustainable, as it would mean underfunding other city services, such as street repair and library services.

    As Bob Gammon of the Express pointed out back in April (http://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/quans-budget-is-unsustainable/Content?oid=3530191), the proposed 2014-2015 budget would “direct about 80 percent of the city’s projected new tax revenues in the next two years to police and fire.”

    Gammon also noted, “Oakland’s unsustainably high costs are due primarily to sweetheart contracts awarded to the police union over the past twenty years, particularly during the late 1990s and the early part of the last decade.”

    So, those are the realities of the situation. That being the case, knee-jerk nihilism is not going to solve anything. You mention “creative thinking,” but provide no creative solutions, as Ms. Brooks does. Her plan, if implemented, would reduce violent crime by cutting it off at the source, and wouldnt require hiring additional officers, just more creative thinking by OPD. What’s so wrong with that?

  16. R2D2II

    Sr. Arnold:

    Brooks’ avoids the truth in saying that the city of Oakland can do something about illegal firearms in this city. As I tried very hard to make clear to you, there is research on this and you might do some reading.

    The municipal government of Oakland is a failed institution in terms of planning, making policy and managing critical tasks. I think this is more than evident. You are welcome to disagree, but fantasies about our government’s competence are not useful. If you think about it for a moment, OPD is part-and-parcel of city hall culture and OPD’s failures of reform are consequences of an overall failed institution.

    OPD isn’t a separate entity–it’s part of what’s called the executive branch of Oakland government. This branch is headed by the Mayor and her appointees. It’s the executive’s responsibility to insure that there is a plan in place. Former Chief Tony Batts started work on such a plan but he was squeezed out by Quan et al who prefer to be vision- and plan-free.

    Yep, Oakland cops are expensive. There are a number of real options available to significantly increase police numbers. For example a good-sized public safety parcel tax or other income stream. Problems include: no leadership in government and far too little public confidence given the experience in the past decade to reduce violence, meet the conditions of the NSA reforms and to implement Measure Y usefully. Still, there’s no barrier to financing given a functional government. Other finance proposals would include an effective two-tier salary system for Oakland cops and the possibility that a well-designed municipal bankruptcy might allow the requisite financial restructuring. Yes, creative finance options are an enormous challenge given our failed institutions and corrupt political structure. I am not, like some others, entirely in love with our current political gang.

    I wouldn’t, if I were you, use words that I don’t understand. I am anything but a nihilist. Again, take a look at a book.

  17. Eric K Arnold

    Batts wasn’t squeezed out, he abruptly quit. And, OPD does often act like a separate entity. They often don’t make documents available to the Mayor or Chief Administrator, which puts them in an awkward position sometimes, for example when Quan announced the “100 Blocks” program, based in erroneous OPD data — which was in and of itself a revised version of the Hotspot Enforcement strategy under Batts.

    Merely saying that Oakland cops are expensive, then suggesting that taxpayers find a way to burden additional costs, isn’t a very wise option. I, for one, am wary of giving a department which already consumes the lion’s share of the city budget more money, until they address their accountability and misconduct problems and we can see significant culture shifts within the department. OPD’s dysfunction limits their effectiveness–what’s the murder clearance rate, 25%?–and adopting smarter strategies, i.e. the data-driven model proposed by both Batts and Brooks which can impact crime prevention positively without also driving up costs or causing other departments to be underfunded, seems like the best way to go here.

    You wanna know what’s also expensive? Payouts from misconduct lawsuits. if that could be cut in half, from $10 million to $5 million — you could hire more officers or even invest that money into neighborhood and community services.

    But getting back to the illegal gun issue, its entirely pessimistic to say, there’s nothing that can be done, so let’s not do anything. Which is, essentially, what you’re saying.

  18. livegreen

    The link to the budget is OPD doesn’t have enough officers to implement such a plan. As R2D211 says, it’s a national problem. All the illegal guns you take out of the hands of “owners” will be replenished from Nevada. & last I read neither OPD, Brooks, or other Oakland pols have control over either I-80 or Nevada.

    Brooks might consent to search high risk youth now, but doesn’t that sound a lot like stop & frisk? How does she deal with consent? & the second high risk youth & their non-profit supporters yell at City Council, the chances are high she’ll do an about face.

    Michelle, you make an assumption that you are wrong about: I think OPD Officers, like their civilian counterparts, should also take a pay cut.

    Taxpayers ALSO took big income losses (did you even hear about the housing crisis?). Yet you expect taxpayers who suffered to pay more?

    Oakland taxpayers earn about 1/2 as much as SF taxpayers. There is no possible way to pay the similar salaries. This is not anti-worker in any way. I appreciate the hard work of both City Workers and Police Officers. It’s just simple mathematics.

    What matters most is peoples lives, not paying them at or close to what San Francisco workers make. You have the reverse list of priorities which are, frankly twisted.

  19. Len Raphael

    R2 makes a valid point that OPD and City Hall have a dysfunctional co-dependency that I would say goes back three or four decades. Neither of them have great “cultures.”

    Normal cities have civilian governments that adequately fund and properly manage the overall direction of their police departments.

    At some point, maybe in the just after the first black mayor left office, Oakland elected officials took a bizarre turn where they threw money at OPD and Fire fighters’ compensation but were ok with abuses, inefficiencies, and shrinking the size of OPD and closing fire stations. For years those tactics enable City Hall to protect voters in the affluent areas and keep tenured cops and firefighters well fed.

    Since City Hall never bothered to worry about funding their retirement promises, they had money to fund their civilian supporters who ran non-profit social programs of various kinds.

    Our “progressive” pols gave a rat’s ass about dealing with police abuse.

    Over the last four years where crime moved up to the hills and affluent flats, the whole sick deal starting falling apart because affluent voters are not beaten down like residents of East and West Oakland.

    Eric’s point about not throwing more money at OPD until it’s cleaned up in so many ways is shared by many like myself who want to see OPD doubled only when that is done.

    At the same time, like R2 we want to see retirement benefits retroactively cut and much bigger cuts in compensation for new hires instead of cutting any important services.

    (correction: the 4.5 Million was for 10 cops for 3 years, or 1.5Mill per year. So that would be 10 x 1.5Mill = 15Mill/year for 100 cops. Though I would say the true cost is about 33% higher than that)

    If the city pols wait much longer to greatly improve public security, the more affluent and semi-affluent residents will go the next step past the private patrols to hiring armed private patrols. At that point officials can say goodbye to getting the 2/3 approval of more parcel taxes to pay for cops or retirement obligations.

  20. Eric K Arnold

    Len Raphael for City Council, anyone?

    Len is right that the ghosts of failed policies are haunting the current batch of elected officials. He’s also right that throwing money at OPD can’t be the answer until the department gets a makeover.

    an extra 15m per year for 100 cops is still a figure that’s unsustainable. And it doesnt make a lot of sense to try to get it through a parcel tax, since hills residents aren’t going to want to pay higher taxes for better enforcement in the flatlands; they’d be better off just hiring private security, which is what they’re doing now.

    I understand that the easy availability of guns in neighboring states is an issue, but for OPD not even to have a strategy around taking illegal guns off the streets, other than the buy-backs, is the equivalent of letting Rome burn. Maybe they can’t get all the guns off the streets, but they could make a dent with better policy.

    There’s a big difference between stop and frisk, which is a zero tolerance policy which subverts probable cause and results in harassment of people who haven’t done anything, and what Brooks is proposing, which is a consent decree and could be attached to probation or plea agreements. (which would require coordination between OPD and probation, as well as some sort of independent monitor to ensure fair enforcement.) Sure, you’d have to provide some kind of incentive to a “high-risk” offender, but that’s still better than a one-size-fits-all youth curfew, from a civil liberties perspective. And OPD could seek federal grants for such a program, rather than the Urban Warfare training and surveillance programs its currently getting fed $$ for.

    The point is that continued inaction around illegal guns cannot possibly improve the current situation.

  21. Len Raphael

    Eric, your proposal that plea bargains and probations contain consents to search for firearms seems reasonable, but isn’t that already the law for people on probation? (I don’t know)

    I don’t see that in CM Brooks proposals. She’s all about “debriefing” and a “registry” and getting parental ok for searching high risk youth. The latter sounds like asking for an ACLU lawsuit.

    Agreed we gotta get illegal guns off the street.

    I’m no fan of Bratton, but he’s right that OPD should be capable of doing constitutionally proper searches without profiling if trained, supervised, and monitored properly.

    Question is how.

  22. R2D2II

    Batts was squeezed out because Quan and the Council did not give him the support he needed. I think that’s the very definition of squeezing someone out. The fact remains that effective leadership in the executive branch long ago should have brought OPD up to snuff ethically.

    I worked for years with community groups pushing for ethical reform of OPD. In our experience the failure for reform to go forward rested squarely with the Council and Mayor both of which failed to implement reforms which were written into law and funded.

    Much more expensive than payouts from misconduct lawsuits which I think have averaged a few million dollars each year over the past decade, are the direct and indirect costs of all the shooting and killing. A hundred murders a year each year at a minimum of $100K in policing costs not to mention the social costs of failure of traumatized youngsters to succeed in school, failure of economic development, failure of community. At $100K each that’s $10 million. Some estimates of the total social costs of a homicide go to $1 million per. That would total $100 million in Oakland including the costs of ongoing community/economic failure.

    There are very many real, useful, proven things that can be done to reduce violence in Oakland. Effective Ceasefire programs are one such thing, but Oakland’s executive branch has never been able to get this together. Effective family interventions where children are at risk for becoming both victims and perpetrators of crime stand in stark contrast to Measure Y social programs which have not been shown to reduce violence. An early family intervention was instituted effectively in the 1970s in Baltimore; the U.S. military has had a very effective program for early family intervention since 1989. Such early family intervention programs have a payback of $7 for every $1 invested. It’s impossible to show that any Measure Y program (social programs are funded annually at $6 million) has produced any financial benefit to Oakland.

    Chicago is a city with the highest number of gun laws and also an ongoing high gun violence rate. There is no demonstrably-effective local gun control regime in the U.S. For the third time I will repeat that effective gun control needs to be accomplished at the federal level and it will take a long time. Local gun laws are not a short- or medium-term answer for Oakland. Period.

    I must conclude that the low quality of journalism in Oakland–the lack of research and of critical thinking is a major reason why so little light is shed upon the poor performance of government in this city. Oakland’s citizens need useful information, not apologetics for the powers that be.

  23. Eric K Arnold


    The payouts for misconduct lawsuits annually have been averaging $8-$11 million for the past three years. That’s particularly egregious when you consider the increasing sense of urgency around the NSA, leading up to the appointing of the Federal Monitor. The Occupy Oakland response in particular, as noted by judge Henderson, was a huge step backwards.

    I was a reporter on the ground during the Oct. 26 protests, to give just one example. I saw the failure of OPD to comply with its own crowd-control policies first-hand: rough, brutal treatment of peaceful protesters, tear gas and projectiles fired directly into crowds with no prior order to disperse (a clear violation of policy), etc. The ACLU and National Lawyers Guild, as well as other reporters, witnessed this as well.

    That being the case, i’m not sure how one could conclude that OPD’s failure to abide by its own policies is the fault of anyone other than OPD. The independent monitor’s report reached essentially the same conclusion.

    In the case of chief Batts, he clearly did not have support within his own department for the reforms he was tasked with implementing. Neither did his predecessor..The current Mayor, on the other hand, was slandered by rank-and-file members of the police for pushing for reforms.

    Again, these are well-documented facts which suggest that OPD is incapable of policing itself. The reforms you mention were mandated by the NSA, such as the crowd-control policy, which came about in 2003–several mayoral administrations ago–following the Port of Oakland incident where police fired rubber bullets into a crowd of peaceful protestors, actions which were repeated during Occupy.

    Since neither the mayor nor the Council is in charge of directing OPD’s Riot Squad (aka Tango Team) during field operations, i’m not sure how one arrives at the conclusion that it is their fault that OPD seems unable to play by its own rules.

    It is true that the City Administrator and the City Attorney’s office have sought, at various times, to cover up for OPD and/or enact policies that would have limited liability, such as changing the crowd-control policy without approval of the Federal Monitor, to make misconduct legal, and obfuscating the CPRB. it’s also true that the current mayor had faith in her hand-picked successor, chief Jordan, who proved as ineffective at enacting reform as his predecessors.

    However, i’m not sure how either the Mayor or the Council can legislate the change in OPD’s internal culture which is long overdue, given the dynamic of the department itself and its ironclad resistance to change — which nearly resulted in a federal takeover of the department, an eventuality avoided only by the appointing of Thomas Frazier as the “police czar.”

    You mention Operation Ceasefire, but fail to mention that that program’s effectiveness has been undermined by OPD during the push for gang injunctions, and also more recently, during a sweep which Ceasefire volunteers were used as guinea pigs for a bunch of arrests which were miscategorized by OPD during a press conference as consisting of the most violent criminals. In actuality, not only were the number of arrests noted erroneously, but the offenses turned out to be much less serious than OPD initially stated.

    So, are the Mayor and the Council responsible for OPD’s misstating of facts and lying to the press? As noted before, OPD also provided inaccurate information around the “100 Blocks” campaign, and basically hung the mayor out to dry when the stats provided to her by them were called into question. These patterns reflect a corrupt, dishonest, and recalcitrant culture within OPD itself which is beyond the scope of anyone in city government to change.

    As far as Measure Y is concerned, most will agree with you that it has yielded inconsistent and hard to measure results. However, the reasons for that have a lot to do with how the program was structured, as well as the concessions which were made to enact it, in the first place. 60% of Measure Y’s budget off-top goes to fire and police. Sixty percent. So none of the MY programs are playing with a full deck, so to speak.

    Also, it was set up as a violence prevention program, not a violence reduction program. Which is to say that tracking metrics which could conceivably have measured crime reduction were not built into it. As it currently stands, MY is impossibly broad, and impossibly bloated administration-wise, and is simply not engineered or structured in a way as to produce comprehensive and coordinated statistical information across all the programs funded by it.

    That’s a fail at the policy level, but one which is often mischaracterized as resulting from the ineffectiveness of specific programs funded by it. Within programs which receive MY funding, such as RJOY, there has been some measurable success, but only through integration and coordination with other institutions (i.e. OUSD). To suggest that any of these programs should have been able to achieve measurable success on their own, as stand-alone programs without a comprehensive strategy integrated across other platforms and programs is completely altruistic, naive, and unrealistic.

    I do agree that Council should have been more outspoken in attempting to reform OPD. however, when Councilpeople, such as Ms. Brooks (as in her current proposal), have attempted this, they get roundly dissed as “cop-haters” by the tough-on-crime contingent, who can’t seem to comprehend the extent of OPD’s internal dysfunction.

    In conclusion, i dont think the lack of objective, watchdog-style journalism is the problem at all (with the notable exception of Chip Johnson, who has taken being a police cheerleader to a new low). Nearly every local outlet has reported on the failures of city government and the police at length. Maybe you weren’t paying attention, or maybe it was a case of willful ignorance, since (as i have noted) the facts have sometimes been at odds with your suppositions.

  24. R2D2II

    Speaking of willful ignorance, you will note that I said that the typical payout over the past decade for police misconduct has amounted to a few million per year. That’s not essentially different from $10 million per year for the past three years. I think the overall figure over ten years is about $60 million. My point, which in your case I must make exceedingly simple and clear, is that this expenditure might have been avoided had city hall paid attention to the OPD reform process. A reformed OPD might well have saved Oakland some tens of millions. Those tens of millions might have been spent on building an adequately-sized, fully-ethical, community-based police department.

    When a city department (OPD) fails to follow the law, or administrative rules, then it is the responsibility of the civilian executive to insure that this problem is corrected. It all comes down to the Mayor and the Council who are, and have been, sound asleep on the job. In our governmental system the ultimate policing of the police is up to the civilian authority. Somehow you don’t understand this very fundamental civics lesson. Obama is the commander of the U.S. military. Get it?

    No the Mayor and Council do not legislate change in OPD internal culture. Mayors do not legislate although they can propose laws. Councils legislate. Leadership is the means by which responsible parties affect destructive internal cultures within departments. Another basic lesson in civics, a class which you seem to have slept through, if you took it at all.

    Yes the Mayor and Council are responsible for OPD misstatements of all kinds. Unfortunately the Mayor and Council in Oakland are themselves grand creators of misstatements. Reread my original comments about CM Brooks.

    You must also have flunked your statistics course; my guess is that you didn’t take one. The only meaningful measure of violence prevention is a demonstrable reduction in violence numbers. For example I would like to assert that my typing this response will prevent you from committing suicide by drinking too many cosmos at your favorite bar this evening. Get it? Such an assertion cannot be shown. We cannot meaningfully assert that a certain amount of violence has been prevented because something which does not occur does not produce any tangible evidence.

    I will gladly accept that I am altruistic, but not that I am naive or unrealistic. In fact what I am trying to say to you is “get real” baby.

    I am a native of Oakland who has lived in other cities in very different parts of this country. I have long been a community activist. I have never experienced a city government so incompetent and out-of-touch as Oakland’s, nor a city of comparable size with media as incompetent and out-of-touch. I am, like Ben Franklin, convinced that the Fourth Estate is a vital part of democracy; I am also convinced that the Fourth Estate is a chief ingredient in Oakland’s civic and community failures.

  25. Eric K Arnold

    I’m not sure how insulting me furthers your point. Maybe it makes you feel better about yourself. But it also makes you come off as boorish and unprepared to actually have a civil debate using known facts to make points.

    In the last three years, misconduct payouts have amounted to more than $30 million — so that’s half of your $60m figure right there. That obviously speaks to a disturbing trend, of misconduct rising rather than ramping down as would have been expected if OPD was actually enacting the reforms mandated under the NSA.

    Also, technically, the police department, like all city departments, is under the jurisdiction of the City Administrator, who is not an elected official. The mayor and Council actually have very limited authority to police the police, as you suggest, not just theoretically, but in practice, as we have seen. In the case of the raid on the Occupy camp, for example, that decision was made by the chief of Police and the City Administrator while the mayor was out of town, ironically trying to find more federal funding to hire more officers.

    And, theoretically, the City Attorney should represent the citizens of Oakland in cases involving the police. In actuality, the city attorney is the lawyer for the police and seek to limit liability. In cases of patterns of egregious misconduct covering periods of years, if not decades, the potential for conflict-of-interest usually results in outside, independent entities being tasked with mandating reforms and overseeing their implementation, as was the case with the NSA.

    While i agree with you that it would have been nice had the mayor and council stepped up and tried to do more to reform OPD, politically, that’s just not very realistic.

    “Yes the Mayor and Council are responsible for OPD misstatements of all kinds.” I had to quote you here because this is just… delusional. I have been at Council meetings where Ms. Brooks was the only one to call into question the numbers presented by OPD and the City Attorney, so it can’t be said that every single Councilmember has been asleep at the wheel as you put it.

    The larger point, however, is that the police need to be accountable for presenting truthful statements, and for the validity of the stats they provide. We have tasked OPD with not only affecting arrests, but compiling statistics around that. Are you suggesting the Mayor and Council should spend their time fact-checking every single document issued by OPD? Again, not very realistic. it would be far simpler if OPD just provided accurate information in the first place, which is what they’re supposed to do.

    I’m not going to argue with you as to the incompetence of Oakland’s city government and elected officials. My point, which i’ve been making all along, is that they are not alone in their incompetence–and that OPD is accountable for their lack of accountability. Unfortunately, the extent to which police can be legally held accountable is limited by the Copley decision–which is a statewide issue, not a local one.

  26. Len Raphael

    In between the mutual put downs, there was more points of agreement between R2 and Eric than it seemed initially.

    I used to blame the local media for failing to do investigative journalism and avoiding anything that involves math, but the collapse of substantive local news reporting is a result of many market forces and not the owners of the Trib or the Chron or Chip Johnson. Regardless of the cause, we gotta live with it and figure out how to keep voters informed.

    In a way it’s history, but to avoid repeating it, would be helpful if we figured what cause OPD to fall apart in many aspects of constitutional/ethtical policing.

    I’m more in R2’s camp on that subject. The police association, OPOA, runs OPD because there was a power vacuum left by the Mayors, City Administrators, and Councils Majorities over three or four decades to fail to make sure there was a strong competent command structure in place at OPD implementing lawful effective policing. The bad attitudes and abusive behaviors within OPD only became “cultural” because they were countenanced by the brass.

    I don’t know if the elected officials were physically afraid of cops, corrupted by donations and donations from their PAC, or wev. Some large part of the problem was that a majority of elected officials refused to understand the need for effective policing because they truly believed social programs were more important in both the short as well as the long term to reduce and prevent crime. When you put people with that believe in overall charge of a police dept you get what I call the equivalent of putting vegans in charge of a cattle ranch: they won’t get their hands dirty learning how OPD operated enough to fix what was wrong.

    Seemed to me that Bobby Seale would not have made that mistake if we had gone that alternative universe. I suggested that to an ex-Panther activist recently and he laughed. Told me the Panthers would have effed up running OPD big time.

    Where do we go from here.

    If you are convinced it’s the OPD culture then you either try to force most of the existing cops out en masse or you send them to re-grooving camps for two years. In fact many of the older cops are retiring or transferring out.

    Judging from the enthusiasm of a majority of Council and the Mayor to hire Bratton as our savior-advisor, and now add gun control tasks to an ineffectual OPD, we’d be better off with a complete Fed receivership of OPD for several years.

  27. R2D2II

    Very useful analysis by Len of the source of problems with OPD.

    I don’t think, however, that forcing “most” cops out is any sort of alternative. Despite the wishes of several of our electeds, Oakland cannot afford fewer cops than we have now. I will never forget a public meeting I attended a few years ago in Deep East with my CM Desley Brooks at which she said she had no problem with laying off cops en masse.

    Somehow such electeds have no trouble putting out-of-mind our 40-year history of a homicide rate several times the national rate. The social and economic costs which fall on our poorest citizens are enormous. In an environment which is essentially that of war, it’s no wonder that youngsters are too traumatized to succeed in school and in society as a whole. I’ve worked with these kids–they can be helped given appropriate interventions, but the fundamental focus needs to be on seriously limiting the violence. The violence, far more than poverty or other socio-economic forces, is the reason parts of our city fail and flail and the whole of Oakland suffers as a result.

    The facts are that Oakland has lots of good cops–essentially good people devoted to public service. Some really outstanding cops. What we have is a police department which is very low on morale, flexibility and the ability to change because of far-too-little useful support and understanding among electeds. In turn we have a small but determined population of cop-haters who seem to be very effective politically and again a local press which is not doing the educational work that needs to be done.

  28. livegreen

    I’m in agreement with much of what Brooks states in her plan. What I’m questioning is the ability of OPD to fund it when they’re so short staffed especially on the Patrol Division and Investigations.

    This has been stated by Batts (even before the 80 Officers were cut), by Bratton and by previous consultants.

    It is born out by comparing the # of Officers in Oakland vs. other cities that have implemented Ceasefire. And it is born out by one of the slowest response times to 911 calls in the nation, the highest rate of robberies in the country, and lack of investigators for every department, and some of the lowest #’s of closing investigations for everything from murder to rape to robbery.

    All the evidence points to a police force that does not have the #’s to do their jobs. Yes, OPD also has problems with constitutional policing, and has solved most of the NSA’s requirements. But just because two things (or more) have to happen doesn’t mean only 1 thing should be done at a time.

    The proof is the high crime rate and the victims that result. If you only care about fixing OPD’s internal & management problems, then you simply don’t care about helping victims & preventing more. That’s what you’ve stated.

    & if a Councilperson wants more to be done then you need to pay for it & fund it. Ms. Brooks has repeatedly said & voted for cuts to OPD at the same time. Totally hypocritical.


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