By Councilmember Libby Schaaf

I’m always looking for safety success stories — not just stories about individuals or programs that helped reduce crime for the small group they served, but bold strategies that have transformed entire cities from dangerous to safe.

Since its worst crime year in 1991, the City of Los Angeles has reduced violence crime by 81% and property crime by 68.5%. This dramatic crime reduction occurred while LAPD was implementing reforms to successfully exit a consent decree much like Oakland’s.

Many have credited the urban peace work of The Advancement Project with improving police-community relations, reducing gang-related violence by 30% over the last 5 years, and improving outcomes for youth across LA — including 5,000 more free pre-school seats and 120 new public schools.

After years as a nationally-renowned civil rights litigator, Connie Rice co-founded the Advancement Project to end inequity and transform the large public systems that impact the lives of millions of Californians. The Advancement Project has built a successful community safety model based on a comprehensive public health approach that melds strategic suppression, prevention, intervention and community mobilization. It’s big and bold in scope, and LA’s crime stats show it works!

I’m incredibly honored that Connie Rice and her Director of Urban Peace, Susan Lee, are flying up to Oakland to speak at my next Safe Oakland Speaker Series: a free Oakland community dialogue on safety, featuring leading scholars and practitioners. They will be joined by our State Senator Loni Hancock, who chairs the Senate Public Safety Committee, as well as criminal justice consultant David Muhammad, former Chief Probation Officer for Alameda County and Deputy Commissioner of New York City’s Department of Probation.

Join this critical community conversation on Sunday, June 8, 4 – 6 p.m. at the new Impact Hub Oakland in Uptown, 2323 Broadway.

Los Angeles has transformed itself into a safe city. Let’s hear how they did it and put those successful strategies to work for Oakland!

P.S., Also save Sunday, June 22, 4 – 6 p.m. for my next Safe Oakland event, “Oakland’s Back-to-School Blueprint: How will Oakland schools keep all students safe and prepared to graduate?”

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.
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16 Responses

  1. r2d2ii

    Schaaf has been part of an incompetent city hall establishment culture for over a decade.

    We don’t have any shortage of good ideas for reducing violence. Many excellent, proven ideas, either locally-generated or gotten from other cities have been presented by concerned community groups and individual citizens to the city hall establishment for even longer than Schaaf has been ensconced in city hall.

    The problem is not that there are not good models from elsewhere. The problem is that our elected officials don’t know how to implement good ideas and make them work.

    Schaaf was an architect of Measure Y, a violence-reduction, social services and public safety parcel tax measure. Over ten years Measure Y spent about $150 million with very little, if anything to show for all that money spent. Certainly violence has not been prevented.

    Over the same decade the Federal-Court-mandated Negotiated Settlement Agreement requiring specific Oakland Police Department reforms has been in force. Oakland’s city hall establishment was unable to implement these reforms until the Court took Police Department oversight away from city hall and put it under a Court-appointed official a little less than two years ago. Now reforms are progressing.

    I rest my case.

  2. OaklandNative

    The way the article reads, the point of improving education in Oakland is to improve public safety. So based on the article, I have a couple questions:

    1. Will the focus be on “educating” the students or diverting them from a life of crime?

    2. What about the majority of Oakland students who are not prone to a life of crime? Won’t it be more efficient to push them out of the way so we can focus on the students going towards a life of crime?

  3. OaklandNative

    I’d be interested in hearing more about how the program empowered the students both academically and in the their career/future preparation. Public safety might be just one of the benefits they receive.

  4. rk81

    This looks like Libby Schaaf trying to get some votes as she runs for mayor… talking about “MY next Safe Oakland Speaker Series.”

  5. r2d2ii

    “This looks like Libby Schaaf trying to get some votes as she runs for mayor…”

    It’s called PR. Last year there were also several PR lectures supported by Schaaf on “public safety.”

    Just look at all the things that developed out of those PR events.

    Schaaf, like her mentor Quan, really really wants to be YOUR mayor.

  6. OaklandNative

    When Libby first announced her running for mayor, I was happy. Her first issue was that circus animal thingy. I sighed, but gave her the benefit of the doubt.

    I was hoping as native of Oakland, she would change the conversation about Oakland. However, she has become like the others with the public safety tripe.

    C’mon Libby, you can do better.

  7. Oakie

    I have no hope that Libby is capable of implementing anything in Oakland. She is plain and simply indebted to the city special interests, specifically the public employee unions, and that sacred cow will not be touched under her “leadership.” She explicitly stated that she has no interest in allowing OPD management to have control over officer task assignments. Much too much apparently to ask of our city employees, and take away the OPOA’s power to control where they get assigned on a seniority pecking order basis. Just like the teachers in OUSD, that failing excuse for a school district. Unless employees are assigned as management deems most appropriate, nothing is going to change in the outcomes.

    An unwillingness to give OPD management the control over assignments seems to me to represent such a basic fundamental failure of governance that it precludes anything good coming from those politicians who ensure the status quo.

    And another thing….what I’d like to see is the systemic recovery of fraudulently obtained tax free medical disability retirement payments from the top to the bottom. Talking to you Howard Jordan. While SF had 0.6% of their retirees getting medical disability status, our rate is 75%. Oakland taxpayers deserve not just an ending of this practice but a clawing back of fraudulently obtained monies.

    Libby gonna talk about that?

  8. Len Raphael

    Try to explain to normal residents that OPOA (police officers association) essentially runs OPD in tandem with the Federal overseer.

    Most people will think you’re nuts because “surely, we have heard about this.”

    Then you get what I’ll vastly oversimplify as cop haters and cop lovers. Both of these groups will agree about that power sharing arrangement in OPD.

    Cop lovers think it’s fine because they’ll say the brass is more interesting in kissing up to politicians and higher ranking brass.

    Cop haters shrug their shoulders and say what else is new.

  9. Len Raphael

    ONative, the same politicians constantly beating the war on crime drums doesn’t entertain the way it first did when I’d listen to the anti-crime reborn Mayor Quan. But how convenient for the Mayoral candidates to compete on pandering to the voters fears from years of living in a city on the country’s 10 highest violent and property crime cities.

    No need to compete on how they’d go about re-engineering city departments or god forbid assuring our long term solvency or attracting more tax paying, benefit paying employers here.

  10. Len Raphael

    should have read:

    Try to explain to normal residents that OPOA (police officers association) essentially runs OPD in tandem with the Federal overseer.

    Most people will think you’re nuts because “surely, we would have heard about this.”

    Then you get what I’ll vastly oversimplify as cop haters and cop lovers. Both of these groups will agree about that power sharing arrangement in OPD.

    Cop lovers think it’s fine because they’ll say the brass is more interested in kissing up to politicians and higher ranking brass, than brass is interested in running a functioning police dept.

    Cop haters shrug their shoulders and say what else is new.

  11. Len Raphael

    Re. OPD disability. No mystery about high disability rates. They’ve been high for years.

    As Oakie says, start from the top.

    When the highest ranking officer, Chief Jordan, unexpectedly exits on disability retirement just before the Federal overseer wants to fire him, why shouldn’t rank and file officers think they’re entitled do the same thing.

    Several years ago I asked then Chief Tucker (chief before Batts) why even back then, OPD had a high rate of officers out on disability. His nonsensical explanation was that most officers were out for “soft tissue injuries” but that OPD had assigned staff to monitor all disability claims and had “greatly reduced them.” Soft tissue injuries = injuries you can’t prove or disprove with X rays or CAT scans and often not MRI’s.

    You’d have thought Auditor Ruby might have at least glanced at OPD disability rates in the 8 years she’s been the auditor. Certainly in her power to do so. To the extent State law shields police medical records, Ruby could have requested medical review panel to analyse the overall rates without releasing individual confidential data. But then she hasn’t bothered to audit OPD overtime either. That’s much bigger bucks than disability.

  12. OaklandNative

    Earlier we discussed a park with people having alcohol and drug problems. Ideally, a policeman would protect them as much as anyone else. The ones I’ve known would do so.

    As I’ve always stated, there is a small percentage of criminals in such areas bullying and preying on everyone else.

    I bring that up because I want to say that I am pro-police. People used to want to be police because they wanted to protect and serve their communities. I doubt that good feeling will last long in Oakland.

    A couple of years ago, Jean Quan and Rebecca Kaplan joined Occupy Oakland in confronting the police. Even if they supported Occupy Oakland, as city officials, they should not have done that. That one high profile act did more harm to “public safety” than any other one I’ve seen. It let the Occupiers, as well as every criminal in Oakland, know that the police were not to be respected.

    So now we have a shortage of police and low police morale. People complain about “public safety,” yet where is the friendly neighborhood welcome? Instead, many unruly citizens feel they should challenge the police on any and everything–even if they were doing something wrong (like speeding in a residential neighborhood).

    Even law-abiding citizens are yelling at police. We put so much attention on “oversight” and not on support. Activists threaten them for doing their jobs; they threatening police for not doing their jobs.

    So police morale is low and we have a hard time retaining them. Gee, I wonder why.

    We need to take responsibility for helping to create this situation. We should start with an annual Police Appreciation Week. So Libby, if you want to talk public safety, there’s an idea for you.

  13. Len Raphael

    ONative, it’s too late for police appreciation week on all sides.

    The irony is that the one skill of Bill Bratton that could have made him worth the 250k we paid, was the one the council and Mayor Quan would not let him exercise: meeting with ordinary residents to reach mutual understandings and win mutual respect. He was not allowed to meet anyone except pols and police.

    Someone might ask Connie Rice about that decision because she’s a big fan of Bratton.

  14. r2d2ii

    This discussion has begun to focus on the critical shortcomings of Oakland’s electeds: their profound lack of real experience of the world, their narcissism and their arrogance.

    Competent, mature leaders understand and accept their shortcomings. They succeed where they are not seasoned experts because they obtain the help they need from those truly in the know.

    Oakland electeds, few of whom have any real experience of the world, having served mostly on boards of directors or as city hall staffers, with perhaps a year or two, if at all, at a real job, cannot admit their inexperience and immaturity.

    These sorts of personal failings, typical attributes of mediocrity, bring ongoing problems for us Oakland citizens. Problems remain unsolved, costs uncontrolled, innovations ignored. In the heart of one of the world’s great economic engines, Oakland remains on the starting line.

    Regarding public safety: the obvious way to approach it competently is to appoint a police commissioner, an expert who can spend all his or her time working efficiently on all our related problems. It wasn’t until police reform was given over to an outside expert that Oakland started efficient progress towards completing the NSA mandates. This should be a poignant lesson for Oakland’s voters. We need to get rid of the incumbents and get some grown-ups in city hall.

  15. OaklandNative

    I was disappointed and surprised to see Libby Schaaf, an Oakland native, jump on that humiliating “public safety” bandwagon.

    As far as police chiefs go, I agree with Len that it might be too late to easily have a police chief who connects with the community. The departure of Batts put another nail on that coffin. All the drama behind his leaving took away a lot of the respect for the OPD.

    I am not sure how I feel about Whrent yet. He seems to be firmly in that “oversight” team. which I think formalizes the “police are bullies that must be defeated” attitude that many have.

    While his new assignment sends the message that Oakland is complying with the court order and beating the “police bullies,” it also relies on the attitude that police are bullies that must be defeated. This could have a detrimental effect on the African American communities. It will flame the distrust. This distrust will be a problem when the police need community support to stop crime.

    In order to increase public safety, at least in the African American communities, people must see the police as being on their side. The fact that a court had to order the OPD to be audited and that the OPD “resisted” looks bad and breeds distrust. From what I’ve read about the OPD”s reaction to Wrent’s assignment, they may not be so quick to support his efforts to make the African American communities more welcoming to the OPD.


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