A Make Oakland Better Blog Entry

Tuesday at 5:30 p.m. at City Hall, Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee will vote on whether to forward to Council a proposal to add $250,000 to the City’s public safety consulting contract with Strategic Policy Partnership.  This is the Robert Wasserman, Chief William Bratton proposal that we discussed here.  We strongly encourage Oaklanders to come and support this proposal.

The proposal is starting to run into opposition based on two arguments that either misstate or misunderstand what the proposal is:  The first argument goes something like this:  Oakland has already spent, is already spending or going to spend millions on outside Occupy investigators, on a a Federal Court monitor, on a Compliance Director, why do we have to spend money on this as well?

It is true that Oakland is spending an enormous amount of money on its struggle to comply with the NSA.  However, none of that has to do with the subject of this proposal, which designed to do something Oakland is clearly unable to do for itself:  design and implement short and long-term crime reduction strategies.

Oakland does not have, and never has had a comprehensive public safety plan coordinating multi-agency programmatic and law enforcement approaches to violence and crime prevention.  Some critics have pointed to the 2006 Harnett Report.  That organization made several solid policing recommendations that should have been implemented and were not.

But Harnett did not claim it was providing a comprehensive public safety program. We know that Mr. Wasserman is already taking an inventory on everything agencies and non-profits to in Oakland do to combat crime, and those steps are a key element of the coordinated approach MOBN! has advocated.  Furthermore  OPD command staff admits it does not have the resources to provide a comprehensive plan.  This fact is pretty clear to just about everyone.

There is a tendency in Oakland, as in  many agencies, to contract for reports and then ignore them.  A certain amount of cynicism about what will happen to the plan is healthy,  logical and understandable.  

But Oaklanders will have to be tenacious in demanding that the Wasserman / Bratton recommendations are fully implemented.  The probability that some elements in the City may want to ignore those recommendations is no reason to avoid getting us the help we need. It will be the job of the public to force City government to move them forward.

The second opposing argument goes like this:  Chief Bratton was police commissioner in New York City.  New York City police used “stop and frisk” policing.  Stop and frisk policing is used for racial profiling.  Therefore, Oakland should not contract with Chief Bratton.

This argument is so misleading in so many ways.  There is nothing whatsoever in the proposal to suggest that “stop and frisk” has anything to do with what Wasserman and Bratton are planning to recommend.   Oakland is operating under the NSA and will shortly be operating under a compliance director, so there is going to be plenty of machinery in place to prevent Oakland from turning further away from Constitutional policing.  

Those making this argument fail to mention Chief Bratton’s experiences in Los Angeles, where he navigated the department out of Federal Court supervision, dramatically reduced claims for police misconduct (as well as crime), was widely admired by much of the Civil Rights bar, and where, shortly after he left, the Federal Court lauded the department for setting national and international standards for modern policing.

Furthermore, in his meetings with MOBN! representatives and other community leaders, Wasserman has made it clear that community involvement and community buy-in will be essential to the success of the plan.  Staff’s report reiterates that community involvement is a high priority.  There is simply no reason to think this is an effort to ram any particular police tactic down the community’s throat.

MOBN!’s letter to the committee is here.  We will appear at the meeting to strongly urge adoption of this proposal.

To contact members of the City Council Public Safety Committee in support of this badly needed measure, e-mail the following:

Libby Schaaf:  [email protected]

Noel Gallo (chair):  [email protected]

Dan Kalb:  [email protected]

Lynette Gibson-McElhaney: [email protected]

By MakeOaklandBetterNow

Make Oakland Better Now! is a citizen advocacy group supporting public safety, accountability, transparency and budget reform in the City of Oakland. More information at www.makeoaklandbetternow.org and www.oaktalk.com. Like us on Facebook at www.facebook.com/makeoakbetter or follow us on Twitter @makeoakbetter