Oakland's battered and bruised community policing strategy may be
on the mend - if its police can carry out new initiatives.
Over the last few years, community policing has suffered heavily as budget cuts, OPD reorganization and the Negotiated Settlement Agreement have taken the forefront in Oakland. Last week, city officials unveiled new crime strategy initiatives that could give a boost to the Oakland's community policing efforts.
One component would bring civilians into the OPD fold. Oakland police are looking to recruit by June at least 20 civilians to operate as "police technicians" to do intake administrative work that includes taking police reports for non-emergency service requests.
This new program will free up police officers currently working desk jobs and it will also relieve some of the service call pressure that OPD is swamped with daily, officials say.
As part of its new crime strategy rollout, Oakland police also are bringing aboard former Los Angeles and New York police chief William J. Bratton, whose main focus will be helping OPD utilize ComStat - a crime data mapping system..
Oakland officials also unveiled two other neighborhood policing initiatives designed to strengthen ties to city communities.
As part of its new strategy, OPD will return police captains to operating in five service areas. Currently, the city is divided into two areas. Those police captains are expected to work closely with neighborhood groups and build better relations with communities.
This year, Oakland has been slammed by a sharp rise in crime, particularly in the area of homicides. In 2012, 135 people were killed in the city. Mayor Jean Quan said in an interview with Oakland Local that she believes the neighborhood programs will have an impact on crime.
"We understand people's frustration. And I'm hoping that everyone will embrace these new measures," she said. "[City officials] have been working hard to deal with the increase in crime and I think bringing William Bratton aboard and developing these new [neighborhood initiatives] are important, critical steps in our fight against crime."
Frank Castro, of Make Oakland Better Now, said his community group is "cautiously optimistic" about the new neighborhood programs.
"Absolutely anything that can take sworn officer off of desk duty and into the street we strongly support," he said. (sic)
Castro said that for the last two years, the city has dealt with a series of crime prevention strategies that didn't work.
"We've seen fail leadership both from City Councilmembers as well as the mayor's office in putting together a crime strategy."
Krista Gulbransen, a member of the Community Policing Advisory Board, said that she personally had tentative hope that the new strategy will be helpful in combating crime.
"Any effective crime reduction plan must include developing a strong relationship with the community," she said.
Gulbransen said Oakland residents have become jaded with the different crime fighting strategies unveiled by city officials.
"You can say you're going to do it, but you really have to be committed to keeping up the drive," she said. "People aren't going to believe in the strategy if they think the city isn't going to stay with it in the long term."
With the hiring of Bratton, the police department is adding to its stack of consultants and lawyers that have rotated through Oakland in the last year. From Occupy Oakland to federal receivership, OPD has regularly brought in outside third parties to sort through complaints and compliance efforts.
Final details and money connect to the new strategy will need to be approved by City Council.