Mayor, New Police Chief Search for Ways to Cut Crime in Oakland
Reported by Stephanie Martin and Caitlin Esch
The city of Oakland is looking to raise money for crime prevention, while a new interim police chief transitions into power.
Voters began today casting votes by mail for Measure I -- a parcel tax designed to raise money for police, crime fighting technology and other city services. In the meantime, the city's new interim Police Chief Howard Jordan began his first full week on the job after being sworn in last Thursday, following the resignation of Anthony Batts.
On KQED's Forum this morning, Jordan brushed off a question about the city's bureaucracy -- something that former chief Batts said got in the way of getting things done.
"These are things that you would come to expect in a big city," Jordan told Forum Host Michael Krasny.
"And I think it's just a matter of how you deal with them -- you have to prioritize. And I don't see any impending issues to us getting where we need to get to, which is, one: get into compliance with the settlement agreement."
Jordan was referring to a settlement that stems from a 10-year-old police corruption scandal. A judge has threatened to place the police department in federal receivership for its failure to fully comply with court-ordered reforms.
Amid the potential takeover, Mayor Jean Quan said she has a new plan for public safety -- and the pressure is rising, after Oakland's 87th murder of the year.
"These are the blocks where, for the last five years, 90 percent of the murders and the shootings and the violent crimes in this city have taken place," Quan said.
Interim Police Chief Jordan said residents will see a heavier police presence in some parts of East and West Oakland, which some residents welcome.
Twenty-year-old Cartier King lives in East Oakland and told KQED reporter Caitlin Esch on Saturday, "Where I live, I hear people get shot, and stuff like that. And so sometimes, I wonder what we can do to prevent the things that happen."
San Francisco Chronicle reporter Matthai Kuruvila told Forum's Krasny today, that due to fragmented leadership from Oakland city council, there are many different ideas on how to improve public safety, and that Oakland residents respond in a variety of ways.
"You have a lot of diverse opinions in Oakland; it is a very diverse city. You have people come to city council meetings who want gang injunctions and loitering ordinances or curfews. And some people who are just so fed up, they're just like, 'let's just try something.' Let's give our police what they ask for ... and just move on.' And there are other people who are opposed to all of those things, giving police any more power."
But Krasny noted that some are critical of Measure I and its ability to provide the funding needed for police and other services, because spending percentages are not on the ballot, nor are they binding.
Kuruvila told Krasny, "Measure I gives broad categories in which the money has to be spent; whether it could be $1 million on police, or $10 million on police, it's unclear. In a city where people have a certain amount of cynicism and distrust about how their city council spends money, that kind of framework is a huge source of criticism."
In a statement released Monday afternoon by City Council members Rebecca Kaplan, Council President Larry Reid and Patricia Kernighan, the three announced a proposal that would direct $5 million in funds from the ballot measure.
From the press release:
"The proposal would stipulate how the city would spend revenue generated by the parcel tax’s passage. In addition to the $5.1 million for police staffing, it would also include funds for ShotSpotter, an acoustic technology to assist law enforcement in solving gun crimes, as well as funding for youth violence prevention, senior centers, and street repair."
Mayor Quan will present the 100-block safety plan to the Oakland city council in coming weeks.