Oakland Police Department to reorganize, consolidate divisions
on July 6, 2011
When Anthony Batts was hired as Chief of Police for the City of Oakland in late 2009, he took over a highly specialized department with 803 employees. Now, after budget reductions, it has 637 employees, and the need for more generalists.
“Our numbers are shrinking so we had to build an organization that could go into the 500 [employee range] if necessary,” he said at a press conference at police headquarters Wednesday.
Batts said the department needs to get “more bang for its buck” as he discussed the its reorganization, which will go into effect Saturday. Specialized units like Youth Services, Missing Persons and Sexual Assault will be folded into the general department and assigned to one of two bureaus: Bureau of Field Operations 1 (which covers North Oakland, part of West Oakland, the hills and downtown) and 2 (which covers East Oakland and part of West Oakland). The department will rehire 22 of the 80 officers laid off in the summer of 2010, and they will be added to the 247 officers currently on patrol.
But Batts said those additional officer still won’t be enough. “We don’t have the capacity to deal with the demand we have in the City of Oakland,” Batts said.
The reorganization is intended to consolidate units to reduce the workload on strained divisions, and make better use of a reduced personel. An overworked homicide department — which handles up to four times as many cases as the state average, Batts said — will be joined by Robbery, Assault and Fugitive divisions to form a Major Crimes Unit that will focus on homicides and violent crime. Batts said the unit will be made up of 22 investigators, up from the eight currently investigating homicides.
More homicide detectives will help free up patrol officers to get back to their shifts, Batts said. Batts said the police department needs to do a better job of handling property crimes like break-ins and auto thefts, so the patrol officers will work with detectives on those cases. “One, we build capacity and two, we build expertise in our officers to teach them how to do investigations long-term,” he said.
Batts said he wants the department’s community policing to evolve. He said part of that is everyone who works in the department doing a better job of engaging with people in the community. He said he takes a few hours every week to walk around the city and talk to residents and business owners, and he expects officers do the same for at least four hours a week. “I go out on a regular basis, and my department chiefs will go out on a regular basis,” he said.
Concerns that a two-bureau system would lead to a focus on East and West Oakland at the expense of other areas were raised at Tuesday’s city council meeting. Councilmember Libby Schaaf (District 4) requested that information about where officers are spending their time be tracked. Batts neglected to mention North Oakland when listing which areas would be a part of each bureau, drawing questions from Councilmember Jane Brunner (District 1) that the area may be forgotten in the reorganization. “I’m just here to remind you that North Oakland is part of your area,” Brunner said, “and as you know the street robberies are pretty high, even when compared to other parts of the city.”
The reorganization won’t fix staffing concerns or add more officers to patrol. The Coplogic online system, which residents are required to use to report non-violent and non-emergency crimes, is still in effect. While Batts and Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan applauded efforts by city residents in reporting crimes, Howard added “We need much more support and assistance from our citizens.”
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