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You Tell Us: Keep Chief Anthony Batts

on January 19, 2011

Police Chief Anthony Batts came to Oakland with the promise that he would have the resources to do the job.  Instead of beefing up the department, it has been cannibalized.  We have gone from 803 cops to 656 with more losses predicted because of attrition. The city has no plans to recruit new cops. Now it looks like Batts may want to leave.

The community is saddened by this news.  The mayor expresses disappointment, but also says this may be a blessing because she could then appoint her own person.  This issue, no matter whom you support, is very divisive, so I want to look at it with less vitriol and greater emphasis on what is really at stake.

The chief applied for the San Jose position in October. It could have been that the chief was merely throwing his hat into the ring to gauge his professional appeal. Once the newly elected mayor named Dan Siegel, a major cop critic, as a chief adviser, Batts may have looked at the decision and the resource problems and decided that he would consider leaving if offered the job.  That is when he made it known that he is considering greener pastures.

Or, could it be that he really does not want to leave. His sudden announcement may be a ploy to register his great displeasure with a variety of decisions including layoffs, inadequate community support, and primarily to focus attention on understaffing.  If this is his intention, he has played this masterfully.

The stakes for Oakland are very high.  We lost 500 Clorox employees to Pleasanton and while the company publicly talks about better resource deployment, we all know that the crime problems at 13th and Broadway and throughout the city had to play a role in the decision.  The Association of Bay Area Governments and the Metropolitan Transportation Commission are threatening to leave the city and take thousands of employees to other locales.  A crime dilemma won’t help those of us trying to persuade them to stay.  Ten thousand residents were attracted to the city with the 10K plan, spawning new restaurants, entertainment venues, and jobs.  These people thought Oakland would get better.  What happens if they start believing otherwise?

Much of the current attention is focused on Batts because he has been seen as a man with a real commitment to solving Oakland’s problems. His possible loss is a real blow to our collective hopes for improvement of the city.  Nevertheless, we must face reality, whether he stays or leaves, without major changes, we will have the ongoing problems of unrelenting crime, an understaffed police department, low moral, and a city that has no real plans to make things better.

I admire and respect Chief Batts.  I hope the city finds a way to keep him here. With the proper tools and resources, he is capable of leading us out of this nightmare of unrelenting crime.  On the other hand, even if we are successful at getting him to stay, if we don’t get him resources and clear community support, we will continue to be mired in the problems that have afflicted this city for decades.

Mayor Quan may see the opportunity to appoint her own chief as a blessing.  But I predict that anyone who tries to police Oakland with 656 cops will fail.  The problem is too big for one person.  The community must rally behind a strong leader.  We already have one, let’s support him and do our best to keep him here.

Gregory McConnell is President and CEO of the Jobs and Housing Coalition, and represents major businesses in Oakland.


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 We’d love to hear from you!

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  1. Tim Anderson on January 19, 2011 at 2:08 pm

    Agreed. I really respect Chief Batts An educated and talented leader is exactly what OPD needs. The Chief should know that while City Hall may not support him, most people in Oakland do… certainly most of us who live in areas that feel more immediately the affects of crime.

    • Ken on January 19, 2011 at 4:04 pm


      Let’s hope that Batts stays and gets the needed resources to properly police this place. We can all help him by calling/writing our city council and mayor to be responsive.

  2. livegreen on January 19, 2011 at 7:38 pm

    Greg, thank you for your post.

    Of the increasing murders in Oakland in December and so far in January, I know details of but three. Those three are young, african american boys or men, who were either not involved in crime or trying to escape that life.

    One was an ex-gang member who was coming home from class and was shot by his gang for leaving it. Another just happened to live in a middle class neighborhood near a drug house and was out on his families porch with friends when they were sprayed with bullets (according to his caucasian neighbors who watched him grow up).

    The third, and perhaps best known, Chris Jones, a 12th Grade student at East Oakland School of the Arts, had been accepted at Cal State East Bay. He was the last victim in 2010, on New Year’s Eve, when he and his sister were putting his 5-month old niece in the car (and his mom reports he covered her up when the bullets started flying):

    These are not only criminals getting whacked. Many are young inner city boys and men (and yes, occasionally women) who are trying to do the right thing.

    They are the ones getting killed while Chief Batts and OPD Officers (more & more who are from Oakland) are trying to do something about it.

    But who do the Mayor & City Council choose to listen to? The ones who are organized by liberal interest groups to come to City Hall and yell “racism” at an African American Chief (and white, black, latino, & asian Cops).

    And who does the Mayor listen to? A lawyer for the Nortenos.

    And who does the City Council listen to and decide they need to personally review the Gang Injunction? Demonstrators supporting the Nortenos and calling Chief Batts policies racist. (Personally, I doubt Chief Batts is a racist, but apparently the Mayor and City Council aren’t so sure.)

    Who are the Nortenos and other gangs killing? Minorities, mostly Latinos and African Americans. Has anybody tallied the gangs for targeting mostly minorities? Has Dan Siegel and son looked at those #’s? (Notice the nepotism).

    Thank god the Gangs are racist because otherwise I’d be in the same firing line as many innocent african americans, latinos and asians. My condolences to the families of the victims.

    Greg, thank you again for your column.

  3. TheSkylineHighSenior on January 20, 2011 at 6:14 pm

    Livegreen and Mr. McConnell are exactly on point.
    Chief Anthony Batts seems to have done more for public safety (in a leadership position) in his year here than Quan (as a mayor) and the city council have even done all these years.

  4. […] unclear if Police Cheif Anthony Batts will stay in Oakland. Last week, Gregory McConnel wrote an Op-Ed for Oakland North encouraging Batts to stay – what do you think the new police cheif should […]

  5. Gregory McConnell on February 4, 2011 at 9:36 am

    Chief Batts has announced that after discussions with the Mayor, City Council Members and community people, he is staying in Oakland. I am very pleased by this announcement.

    Thank you to all who helped make this happen. Now let’s get serious about Safety First!

  6. MassAppeal on February 14, 2011 at 9:09 am

    check this out…very interesting…

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