Oakland Local

Bay Area

Many Questions for Police Consultant at Oakland Crime Reduction Meeting


Oakland residents expressed concerns that various efforts to reform Oakland's Police Department are not coordinated or well communicated to the public.

In a town hall meeting that showcased pointed questions from residents, Oakland officials on Wednesday launched a new series of forums designed to engage the community in public safety efforts.

The town hall gathering was folded into the regular Community Policing Advisory Board meeting and it featured special police consultant Robert Wasserman answering questions from residents and board members about how the city can make a dent in its crime problems. The Measure Y Oversight Committee was also on hand, along with Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana.

Wasserman has been hired to primarily develop a crime reduction strategy for Oakland and a big component of that plan is finding ways to engage Oaklanders in the fight against crime. Wasserman is working in tangent with another consultant, William Bratton, who is developing another police reform component.

In a presentation before taking questions, Wasserman, said it is imperative that OPD and the community work hand in hand in developing a long term range strategy.

"Every resident must get a sense that they have a role to play and they do have a role," he said. "People have to believe in the plan."

Oaklanders who attended the meeting told detailed stories about how they were affected by crime in the city.

"I am upset and frustrated," said Gary Budin who lives near Piedmont Avenue. "I'm frustrated about my wife and daughter being thrown to the ground and robbed outside our living space, calling 911 and told that this is a minor incident. A woman living in our complex was thrown to the ground and had her faced kicked 50 feet from where my wife and daughter were assaulted...I'm tired of having my car broken into and I don't even call the police for that. It's a given that if your car is broken into you don't even waste the time and call the police."

Many residents said they were cautiously optimistic that the city can begin to really engage the community.

"I think the town halls are a good way for folks to share their thoughts and feelings, but it doesn't have to be a bashing of the police," said Ken Chambers, a pastor with the Westside Missionary Baptist Church. "We are where we are and we've got to make these meetings productive."

Members of the Measure Y Oversight Committee and the Community Policing Advisory Board raised questions about funding for new public safety plans. In addition, board members asked Wasserman about the potential clash with the work being done by the newly appointed federal compliance director, Thomas C. Frazier.

"I think there has always been community buy in (on developing a crime reduction strategy), but I think there has been some confusing in terms of the conversation," said Melanie Shelby who sits on the Measure Y Oversight Committee. "So you're hearing one thing in relation to what Mr. Wasserman and his team are doing, but then you're hearing something different in relation to what Mr. Frazier's team is doing. No one seems to be able to answer the million dollar question of how you integrate the two."

At least four additional town hall meetings will be held across the city. Wasserman said there is ongoing discussion about holding a forum for Oakland youth.

Source: Oakland Local []

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