Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Police Chief Anthony Batts appeared together Monday, for the first time since Batts was turned down for the job as San Jose’s chief, to talk about the future of the OPD – a future that Batts may not be part of.
After a week in which Batts criticized Oakland’s leaders for their support of the police department, and community members and city officials questioned Batts’ commitment to Oakland, both the mayor and Batts pointedly avoided questions about whether he would stay on as chief.
Instead, Quan announced her own plan to innervate the budget-ravaged department, including the rehiring of ten of the 80 officers who were laid off last summer.
“It’s a little aggressive,” Quan said. “Don’t kill me if I am a little over in the budget, but I think it’s worth the risk.”
Once the ten are rehired, it will bring the number of OPD officers back to 666, which Quan said should set a baseline the city will not dip below again.
She also announced the promotion of four officers to the rank of sergeant to enhance supervision within the department, and the reorganization of the city’s information technology staff to provide dedicated technicians for OPD. Last week a radio glitch prevented officers in the middle of a high-speed chase from being able to contact dispatch for five minutes. During that time, the officers were unable to call for an ambulance to treat a suspect who was fatally shot by police.
Quan said that the city is trying to listen to the police officers’ needs and promised that, despite what she called a “tough budget year,” there would be other positive things in store for the department in the coming months.
Batts’ has said, decreasing resources, budget cuts, and layoffs are some of his frustrations with the city. Although Batts praised Quan for addressing some of his concerns, his future in Oakland remains uncertain. He declined to answer direct questions about whether he was leaving, but acknowledged the backlash sparked by his criticisms and decision to seek the San Jose job.
“I apologize if I stepped on some toes,” Batts said. “I’ve made some tough statements in the last few days.”
Batts told reporters that he spent this week meeting with various city officials to ensure that his relationships were healthy and intact, and offered reporters his assurances that they were.
After the press conference, Batts spoke with a smaller group and said he expects to have made a decision by the end of the week, and cited several personal factors that might play into his decision, including the desire to be closer to his family, although he declined to say where his family lives. “I am a new grandfather, after all,” he said.
City officials, including Quan and City Council President Larry Reid, who was also at the press conference, expressed their emphatic support for Batts. “Hopefully I don’t have to get down on my knees and plead with him to stay,” Reid said.
At one point, Quan gestured at Chief Batts. “I’m sending him a Valentine,” she said.