In the Oakland Police Department’s latest attempt to deal with shrinking resources and fewer staff, Oakland police officers are now getting some help from the California Highway Patrol (CHP) to enforce traffic laws.
The CHP began deploying officers to patrol Oakland’s high crime areas Thursday, said OPD spokesperson Johnna Watson. She said certain neighborhoods have been identified for CHP patrols, but declined to name specific areas because the assignments could change if criminal activity shifts to different regions. The areas were determined through crime mapping and historical data in the area, she said.
CHP officers will focus on traffic enforcement in these “hotspot” high crime areas, but these patrols can also lead to arrests, Watson said.
The exact funding for this partnership has not yet been determined. Watson declined to comment on the number of CHP officers who will be deployed to Oakland, as she said the information could affect the operation.
Though the CHP is known for traffic enforcement, their officers receive standard law enforcement training, which allows them to take on these local patrols, said CHP spokesperson Sam Morgan. He added that when the CHP joins local agencies for these special partnerships, crime rates drop.
“Calls for service decrease, violent crime goes down, crimes in progress go down since there’s more officers on the streets,” he said. “It provides the community with a greater sense of tranquility.”
The arrangement comes after Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan contacted a CHP commander and asked for the agency’s help with daily patrols. “Despite improvements and continued progress, the reality is that the men and women of this department are stretched thin and our city continues to have vast needs for which I am responsible,” Jordan stated in a press release. “The collaboration and support we have received from the California Highway Patrol is needed and welcome.”
The Stockton Police Department also put in a similar request, according to the press release. Such requests are not uncommon, Morgan said. Other departments that the CHP has assisted in the past include the ones in Vallejo, Richmond and East Palo Alto, in addition to agencies in Southern California.
The request from the Stockton and Oakland departments was forwarded to Governor Jerry Brown, who serves as the authority over the CHP because it is a state agency. Brown quickly approved the request. “The governor agreed that the CHP should do what it can to help Oakland and Stockton because they have the highest rates of violent crime in California and their police departments have reduced the number of available officers,” said Gareth Lacy, spokesperson for the governor’s office.
The CHP works with OPD on a regular basis and has an office in Oakland, Morgan said. In the past, the CHP has helped the police with patrols when there was an increase in serious and violent crime, including gang activity. The most recent assignment lasted from 2007 to 2010. Since then, the CHP has continued to assist the OPD with activities like identifying parolees, recovering stolen vehicles and traffic enforcement, Morgan said.
CHP officers are assigned to a local agency on a volunteer basis, and their hours on patrol are an addition to their normal duties as a CHP officer, Morgan said. In the past, officers who have taken on these additional police details were compensated with overtime pay.
The 2007 to 2010 assignment was funded by a statewide initiative called CalGRIP, short for the California Gang Reduction and Intervention Program. The program was an initiative by former Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger that provided state funds to local agencies that needed assistance with violent crime and gang activity increases, Morgan said. Funding for the program ran out in 2010.
The recent announcement is simply a resumption of what the CHP had done before in Oakland, Morgan said. “It’s part of our role as a highway patrol to assist agencies,” he said. “For us, it’s not an alternative job. It’s part of the duties we’re already trained to do.”