On March 6, 2013 the first in a series of meetings titled "Short Term Strategies, Long Term Solutions" was held at City Hall. The meeting was hosted by the Measure Y Oversight Committee and the Community Policing Advisory Board.
See the presentation powerpoint online.
View the presentation online.
See notes on second event.
1. From Greenkozi
I took fairly extensive notes and did some live tweeting (account: @greenkozi). The meeting, for some reason, was not on KTOP, so people were tweeting asking where they could watch from home. The answer was nowhere. The meeting had been pretty widely publicized (on the city website, on twitter, on various councilmember newsletters, etc, so this was a surprise.) It was also surprising that when I got there, at about 5:30, no one was around. It was so deserted that I thought I had messed up the time/date, and when I asked one of the security guards (these guys usually know where all the meetings are being held) which room the Town Hall was in, he said he hadn't heard anything about it, and kept trying to get me to go to the Planning Commission meeting. There were only about ten people in the room when I got there including Jennifer Inez Ward of Oakland Local and Matthai Kuruvila of the San Francisco Chronicle. A couple of reporters from Oakland North came, as well as a reporter for a Chinese newspaper (I didn't get the name)- I'm sure there were others that I didn't know/recognize.
The meeting was billed as being "hosted by" the Measure Y Oversight Committee and the Community Policing Advisory Board (CPAB), but it turned out that the meeting was actually crashing the CPAB meeting. The following CPAB members were in attendance, sitting where City Council normally sits: Marcus Johnson, Director of CPAB and At Large, Vertis Whitaker, District 1, John Garvey, District 2, Barbara Hunter, District 3, Krista Gulbranson, District 4, John Nichols, District 6, Angela Haller, Neighborhood Watch Chair, Frank Castro, Neighborhood Watch, Renia Webb from Oakland Housing Authority (OHA), James Williams, Oakland Unified School District (OUSD) Chief, two appointees of the mayor: Jeffrey Cash and Alex Miller-Cole, and Joe de Vries who is city staff. (Per the agenda that we were given out, the District 5 seat is vacant as well as the OUSD seat.) The Measure Y Oversight Committee members sat below them. I saw Chief Howard Jordan, City Administrator Deanna Santana, and Councilwoman Nancy Kernighan, and it was announced that Assistant Chief Toribio was there.
Before the meeting that most of us had come for started, the CPAB took care of their normal business (I kind of felt bad that we were hijacking their meeting). The only agenda item that we saw was a recertification of the Beat 33/34x NCPC. Two speakers got up to speak in favor of it, and the motion passed. It sounded like there might have been an issue over two competing groups trying to make groups, and some issues with bylaws, but the board seemed happy to certify.
Then Mayor Jean Quan introduced Bob Wasserman, who we had all come to see. There was speculation that Bill Bratton would be there, since he had been at the press conference earlier in the afternoon, but he didn't make an appearance. Quan was, unsurprisingly, very excited about Wasserman.
Wasserman gave a powerpoint presentation and basically read off of the slides (hopefully they'll be online later, though if you take a look at the notes from his talk with the Safe Oakland group, you're going to get the same info, including the link to his slideshow there). The theme/title of the show was "Action Now! Policing Oakland, Creating a safe and secure community." The main strategy at this point, he said (and from now on I'm just going to try to say what the presentation said, so you can assume the views represented are his, NOT mine), is to begin with groups who are thinking about communities and policing, like the CPAB and the audience. This will only work if everyone is involved.
The initiative, a near term crime strategy started on Monday (March 4). This would focus policing to respond to crime, more effectively use Compstat, focus on internal processes and strategies, and support effective use of Ceasefire. Wasserman stressed that Ceasefire will work if the department can interface in real time. He said that Oakland had been confused in the past about the implementation and goals of Ceasefire: not only will it reduce violent crime, but it prevents engagement in crime, which is just as important. He has spoken with community members and identified three main problems that people care about in Oakland: violence, robbery and burglary. These are all being addressed in this near term crime strategy/initiative. According to Wasserman, OPD has been very supportive and open in this process.
The next project is a long term one: a community crime reduction strategy. This will involve an inventory of current activity and assets, collecting ideas from community and government, developing a strategy for "action by all," and providing a strategy for sustaining elements. His main focus here was the "action by all" idea: Wasserman thinks that everyone in Oakland needs to accept responsibility for the situation and take part in fixing it. He said that the best ideas will come from the community, but kept coming back to this idea of buy-in not just being about support but about responsibility. At this point he also made a rather (insert word of your choice here) comment: "I know Oakland really well." I'd like to take this opportunity to invite Mr Wasserman to help us edit oaklandwiki.org-we'd love to take advantage of some of that local knowledge!
The next slide was a series of challenges that will make implementation difficult. It was a long slide. There was a slide about "good things about Oakland" or something to that effect, but he literally skipped it. Here are some of the things on the challenges slide: complex policing environment, a lack of confidence in the department by some parts of the population, an intense dislike of the department by some parts of the population, understaffing, extreme 911 workload, widespread fear of violent crime and a challenged police workforce. In terms of the challenged police force, he acknowledged that they're down officers, so dealing with a high workload, and having to deal with high standard from the NSA. He both minimized and stressed the understaffing, but his bottom line on that was that even if there aren't enough cops, policing has to be done with the cops that there are, and it should be done well. The 911 part was interesting, though poorly put. He essentially said that people were doing it wrong, and specifically "poor people" were doing it wrong: he gave some stats about the overuse of 911, but I didn't catch them. Basically, people are calling for the wrong things and getting super pissed if they don't get a cop, and that's ridiculous. I think he was trying to say that people deserve better resources than a police officer for some of the things they're calling about, which is absolutely true, and I think that New York made a call center because of that, but this is not what he said. What he said was "We cannot have a city where you call 911 and get an officer immediately."
Then came the best part of the night: we didn't get Bratton, but we got Wasserman's impression of Bratton. Apparently Bratton is in Oakland, and maybe for the first time, because Wasserman told us that he thought Oakland was pretty nifty. In an excited (and not at all joking) voice, Wasserman told us that Bratton thought Oakland was "a great city! a real city! with houses, not like Detroit! It even has a lake in the middle of it!" Now that I've extended my invitation to Wasserman to edit the wiki, I'd like to extend my invitation to Mr Bratton to READ the wiki! This unintentional comedic interlude was followed by another moment when Wasserman said that he felt that this consulting gig was the most challenging moment of his career, and that his reputation depends on it. Take from that what you will.
Next came a section on "Big Ideas in Policing." Policing is about problem solving. Wasserman quoted some statistic that was very interesting (but who knows if accurate) that in some study they found that over fifty percent of calls went to addresses that officers went to over 12 times a year. Instead of putting out fires, officers need to solve problems. He talked about the broken window theory, how there needs to be a partnership between police and community, and how some cities don't know what this is (like Oakland), ceasefire, which he said that Oakland doesn't have enough understanding about what it is (I totally agree) which is why it hadn't worked in the past, and that a it's prevention model, Compstat, which is data driven which responds to crime as a problem and not just specific incidents, and then about community policing. He said this is the philosophy of how the department operates, and that the community needs to be involved in every strategy so that they can share the responsibility.
The requirements for action: Consent of the community, which means that "people have to believe." Community needs to be seen as partners, and feel like they are partners. They need to share responsibility for actions (this was repeated) and see the problems in Oakland not just as policing problems but community problems. He said there needed to be a procedure for justice and fairness, I believe in response to police misconduct, and links between policing and community services (this came out of his discussions with government officials).
For the last 3 months he has been working with the department on a best practices report. This included discussions about ceasefire and community involvement. New officers will go through at least one week of community training which has been very effective in Cambridge, Massachusetts, which, it will be noted, is exactly nothing like Oakland, California. In 2 weeks, the department will be reorganizing in a geographic policing structure. Each district will have a captain over it, and they will be in charge of community relations. This will be difficult but mandatory for success- per Wasserman it will be the most important near-term process. There will be an unveiling of the new captains in each area, and he wants that to be a community event- he hopes everyone will come out and meet their captain.
The next part of the best practice report was about the call for service management. This, again, was horribly stated, but I do think it's really important. Someone on twitter said today that Oakland has the most per capita 911 calls and San Francisco has the most 311 calls. I don't even know if Oakland HAS 311 (nor do I know if this statistic is true). So I think Wasserman is right, but saying "You can't get a cop each time you call 911" is not the way to go about saying it. He would like to go to making appointments for certain types of responses, minimizing time that neighborhood cops are out of their area, using light-duty cops to make phone reports (I think this would mean getting away from those annoying and impersonal online reports, but I don't know), and having officers be honest about when they're leaving their beats and if and when they're coming back.
Other things: OPD will be increasing age of hire: Cops will only be hired at 25years and older to increase general maturity. The citizen complaint process will be strengthened.
The city-wide crime reduction plan object is to develop a crime reduction strategy (I wonder if it involves any of the other ones we've heard about lately like the 100 block plan). It will involve a community action plan and actions for every community partner, building on key passions. There will be report backs and drafts for community input including a committee.
Then the speech was over and the first thing Wasserman said at this meeting that was billed as a townhall was "I don't want to answer too many questions." He said this was because the rest of the meetings were townhalls and we could ask there, but to me this was so blatantly anti-community that I didn't really think he or the department was behind a word he had just said. He then joked that he could stay all night because Chief Jordan wouldn't let him leave, but did that mean he could stay all night and lecture some more?
John Garvey of the CPAB kindly suggested that the citizens who wanted to ask questions go first, and the first question was if the person could have a copy of the presentation. The answer was that it would be put online. It actually has been. Noteworthy in speaker comments: several times things were brought up that Wasserman said were not under his purview- the NSA would be addressing that. It seemed to be that he didn't want to deal with anything that might have to do with police violence, but wanted the community to trust the police implicitly. Correction of police misconduct, however, was not his role. Jim Dexter, a frequent speaker at City Council meetings said two very important things (and was not answered, like the majority of "questioners"): 1. the reps of the CPAB and the Measure Y boards ARE the representatives of the community, and their suggestions are routinely ignored. How will this be fixed? 2. There already are police in geographic areas, allegedly, like problem solving officers, but they're not there. For example, his PSO doesn't come to his NCPC meetings, and their NCPC has been asking for 9 years to find out what their PSO is assigned to and where they do it (inside or outside of the beat).
A few members of the Chinatown NCPC came to the meeting (this was the townhall for their district, after all) and told pretty devastating stories of being victims of crimes. One asked what was the procedure when criminals were caught, as it seemed to be that they were quickly released to do the same thing. Another asked how the police could protect people like him. No answer. Scott Olsen, the vet who was seriously wounded during Occupy Oakland asked what message the lack of prosecution of officers after events of misconduct occurred sent to the public, and how it affected trust levels with the community. He got no answer. Another victim of police misconduct asked about improving transparency, especially for cops who were really guilty. Wasserman said that wasn't what he was dealing with, that was part of the NSA.
The Measure Y Oversight Committee members asked some great questions. Nyeisha Dewitt asked about the plan for funding Wasserman's plan. Wasserman didn't know: they're looking into it. Melanie Shelby asked about the elephant in the room: Tom Frazier's appointment as Compliance Director and what that meant for all of these changes. Frazier, she said, will be starting March 12, and is to come up with a plan within 30 days. What happens if Frazier doesn't like what's going on, since he has the final say, including if he fires Jordan? Wasserman's answer was pretty incredible: first he said that he knows Frazier well, including how he thinks. Then he basically said "don't worry about it." The NSA is separate, or at least 60% separate. Shelby pointed out that Ceasefire needs resources, the labor community hadn't been included in these discussions, the compliance director has ultimate authority, and that we needed to evaluate the importance of Measure Y, as it's up for reevaluation. Wasserman answered with something about having a youth forum.
Some questions that came up for me:
*What about evaluation/assessment? Nowhere in the presentation did Wasserman discuss how these programs/changes would be assessed, either during or after their implementation to see if they were working. He didn't discuss benchmarks: how they would be established or evaluated, and if community input would be sought for this.
*How does Wasserman suggest dealing with mistrust/dislike of OPD (brought up in the challenges part of his talk)? There's general mistrust of police in general for a variety of reasons: structural racism, liberatarian views, mistrust of the state, etc. There's general mistrust of Oakland police due to history, outright racism, poor decisions in the past, etc. Some people just don't trust the police because they never come when called, even if it's for a legitimate reason. Then there's specific dislike of the police for any number of these factors. It's going to take a lot more than saying "we all have to work together" to make the community partners. Some people asked him this directly and he didn't answer, but it's a real question.
*In this vein, policing is obviously very important to Wasserman, but "people have to believe" is almost religious: how does he expect to convert?
*When "community input" and "committees" are mentioned, what does this mean? How will community feedback be incorporated? What are they doing with the questions/feedback they get from these meetings?
"Quan, OPD town hall meetings on public safety kick-off Wednesday, March 6": Oakland Local, 3/6/13.
"Thursday Must Read: Oakland Police Consultant Calls for 911 Overhaul; William Bratton Keeps Low Profile," East Bay Express, 3/7/13.
"1st meeting on crime plan for Oakland," SFGate, 3/6/13.
"Bratton says Oakland crime fight is a "winnable situation"," Inside Bay Area, 3/7/13.
"Many Questions for Police Consultant at Oakland Crime Reduction Meeting," Oakland Local, 3/7/13.
To Cut Crime, Oakland to Reduce Size of Police Districts: New York Times, 3/11/13.