After a week in which five homicides were reported within an 18-hour period, Oakland police touted new crime-fighting programs and several successful arrests in other cases at a press conference Thursday morning at police headquarters.
Oakland Police Department Police Chief Howard Jordan unveiled the Nixle Text Watch program, which allows community members to send anonymous crime tips to the police via phone. “This is one of the many ways you can help reduce crime in Oakland,” Jordan said, looking straight into the news cameras at the back of the room.
The service is intended to reduce residents’ fear of reporting crimes, especially violent crimes, according to an OPD press release. By sending in tips as text messages, community members can appear to be conducting normal phone business, said Travis Scott, vice president of agency relations at San Francisco-based Nixle. Tips can also be called in or submitted on the OPD website so that investigators can review the information, according to the press release.
Community members can text TIP OAKLANDPD and their information to 888777.
Jordan also spoke about the Ceasefire program, which is a multi-pronged effort run by the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office, the OPD, the mayor’s office, religious organizations and community groups. It is expected to debut in two weeks.
The program identifies those who have a history of gun violence—specifically people on probation or parolees —through analysis of arrest reports and OPD intelligence gathering about neighborhood groups, said John Creighton, a deputy district attorney for Alameda County. The people identified by the program are required by the community to attend meetings where they will be encouraged by OPD officers, church leaders and community members to turn their lives around. If they do not attend, they will be in violation of their probation or parole conditions, Creighton said. Ceasefire was previously tried in Oakland in 2009.
Oakland Police Captain Johnny Davis spoke about the five homicides that occurred in Oakland between Monday night and Tuesday morning, confirming that they were not connected. He added that the department has identified and interviewed witnesses in the cases. He asked for the public’s help in making arrests and said there were rewards up to $10,000 per victim for information about the crimes, but did not offer further details about them.
At the same time, Davis praised the OPD’s recent success in solving several cold cases and arresting and charging several robbery and homicide suspects. In the case of Lester Young, who was shot and killed at an East Oakland home on September 21, 2012, Davis said police arrested a suspect who is expected to be charged by Friday. He also said two suspects were charged Wednesday in connection with three robberies at an Oakland hills jewelry store this August.
At the end of the press conference, Jordan fielded questions about independent police monitor Robert Warshaw’s report, released Tuesday, that criticized the OPD’s investigation of officer-involved shootings. The report details nine recent shootings and concluded that in some cases police investigators showed a lack of impartiality, a lack of timely notification to the Internal Affairs department, and a bias that officer-involved shootings were justified unless proven otherwise.
Jordan said he would discuss the results of the report with the monitor next week, but added that the department would continue to work toward full compliance of the terms of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA), a reform-based review directed by Warshaw. The NSA was ordered by a federal district court in the wake of the 2003 “Riders” lawsuit, which accused four OPD officers with planting evidence and making false arrests. The suit led to a court ordering a list of 51 reforms the department would have to implement in order to avoid going into federal receivership. If placed under federal supervision, the OPD would be the first and only police department to have this level of federal oversight.
Jordan pointed out the city’s crime rate as context for the officer-involved shooting report. “We’re the fourth most dangerous city in America,” he said. “What I expect from my officers is to rely on their training … to protect themselves and the City of Oakland.”
Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana were also in attendance at the press conference. Though Quan did not speak during the press conference, she told reporters afterward that the city would work to make the police department compliant with the reforms mandated by Warshaw.