You Tell Us: Time for Oakland and its cops to start talking

Many Oaklanders were relieved when Chief Anthony Batts announced he was not leaving Oakland for San Jose. But most of us also realize that he may not stay through his three-year contract if the city, police department and Oakland Police Officers Association cannot demonstrate that they are working together toward a common goal – keeping Oakland and its citizens safe. Chief Batts has publicly stated he isn’t sure that he and Oakland are a good fit; he recognizes the city’s financial difficulties but questions whether the city is prepared to do what is necessary to make its citizens safe.

Make Oakland Better Now! recently wrote Mayor Jean Quan, the City Council and OPOA, and appeared at City Council February 1, urging the following:

  • Oaklanders need a new approach to negotiations between the city and its officers using a mutually respected third-party mediator and negotiating every possible issue, not just pension contributions.
  • This time, both sides should agree to keep their negotiations, and their personal views about each other, confidential.
  • The city should immediately and unilaterally rehire 30 officers. Although funding may be difficult, the extra cost will be short-term given the current attrition rate of five to 10 officers per month. Mayor Quan’s announcement this past Monday that the city will be rehiring 10 officers is a positive step – Oakland will likely lose this many officers through attrition in just two months.
  • The city should fund police academies on an ongoing, annual basis to ensure that the department does not continue to shrink. Funding for academies cannot be conditioned on the voter’s approval of a future parcel tax initiative.
  • The city should make enhanced policing its highest priority for seeking grants and other outside funding. We are pleased to see that Council President Reid proposed this policy to the council at the February 1 meeting.

For too long, Oakland’s public safety dialog has been framed as a contest between advocates for community policing and crime prevention programs, on the one hand, and supporters of adequate police staffing, on the other. We believe that all three are essential to public safety. If public safety is job one then the city’s highest priority is providing for all the elements that will make Oakland safer, including sufficient police staffing. A new cooperative effort among all the stakeholders, with the aid of a mediator, is the most important first step Oakland can take toward making the city and its citizens safe.

Bruce Nye and Lisa Radigonda are members of Make Oakland Better Now!, a citizen advocacy group dedicated to improving public safety, public works and accountability. They also blog at OakTalk.com.

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You Tell Us is Oakland North’s community Op-Ed page, featuring opinion pieces submitted by readers on Oakland-related topics. Have something to say? Send essays of 500-1,000 words to staff@oaklandnorth.net. We’d love to hear from you!

All essays reflect the opinions of their authors, and not of the Oakland North staff or the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism. Oakland North reserves the right to edit submissions for length, clarity and spelling/grammar. You Tell Us submissions must be written in civil and non-offensive language. We do not publish hate speech, libelous material, unsubstantiated allegations or rumors, or personal attacks on individuals or groups.

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