Batts says he’ll stay on as Oakland’s top cop
on February 4, 2011
Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts has announced that he intends to stay on as Oakland’s top cop, and joined Mayor Jean Quan for an impromptu press conference this afternoon in West Oakland to affirm his commitment to Oakland and emphasize teamwork among city officials.
“It’s time to roll up our sleeves and get back to work,” said Batts, speaking from the lawn of Martin Luther King Elementary School at the corner of 10th Street and Filbert. He and Quan had briefly halted a canvassing session intended to promote turnout at a West Oakland community meeting planned for Saturday, spending 15 minutes addressing questions from the press.
“I’m very happy that Chief Batts is in place and that we can start working on some programs that we have been waiting on,” said Quan. “I’ve known for a while and I’m very relieved,” that he’s staying, she said.
Batts had recently publicly expressed doubts about whether he would continue on as the Oakland Police Department’s chief. Only a little more than a year into his three-year contract, in late January news leaked that Batts had thrown his hat into the ring in the search for a new police chief in San Jose, becoming one of two finalists for the position. Last week, San Jose city officials announced that they had instead selected the San Jose Police Department’s acting chief, Chris Moore, for the job.
At that time, Batts confirmed that he would not be heading to San Jose, but did not promise that he would remain in Oakland. “I have not made a final decision as to my future with this agency. It still needs to be determined if I am a fit for the City of Oakland’s vision of the future,” Batts said in an OPD press release issued last week, citing youth violence, a recent uptick in violent crime, and a lack of city support and resources as concerns.
His announcement prompted public consternation and discussions about the needs of the police department, as well as concerns that Batts may have undermined Oaklanders’ confidence in him. When asked at today’s press conference whether his decision to apply for the San Jose position may have eroded community rapport here, Batts replied, “I think the community has responded just the opposite. There are some people who have had issues along that line. Overwhelmingly, this community has wrapped its arms around me and I am wrapping my arms around it, too.”
In a press release issued this morning by the OPD, Batts emphasized his relationship with city officials. “I want to thank the Mayor, City Administrator, and other City officials; they have said they understand the needs of the police officers who work diligently for the residents of Oakland, and are willing to work with me to address those needs,” he stated.
At Friday’s impromptu press conference, Quan and Batts addressed one of the police department’s needs: a new radio system. Last week a system glitch prevented officers in the middle of a car chase from contacting dispatch or calling an ambulance for five minutes. On Friday, Batts announced that the police department will soon be installing a new top-of-the-line system that will allow Oakland officers to radio other agencies as well as their own.
Earlier this week, Quan also announced the rehire of 10 of the 80 Oakland police officers who were laid off last July due to budget cuts, bringing the total number of OPD officers up to 666, and pledged not to let it fall below that level again. Batts has previously stated that the department needs at least 925 officers in order to reduce crime rates and police response times to acceptable levels.
On Friday, Quan stated that there have been no changes to Batts’ contract, including no extensions and no pay raise. However, she said, “We did some clarifications and I’m sending him a very nice Valentine.”
West Oakland resident Guadalupe Allen, who was there to help with the canvassing session, watched Batts announce his intention to stay in Oakland. “From what I’ve seen or heard so far, it seems like he might can do a fairly good job,” she said. “Seems like a lot of people are relating to him already, so hopefully that will be on his side.”
Oakland North is an online news service produced by students at the UC Berkeley Graduate School of Journalism and covering Oakland, California. Our goals are to improve local coverage, innovate with digital media, and listen to you–about the issues that concern you and the reporting you’d like to see in your community. Please send news tips to: email@example.com.