Defending the indefensible

Did you guys catch former Alameda County Sheriff Charles Plummer’s eyebrow raising MyWord in Friday’s Trib? Yikes!

Plummer hammers the Trib for apparently being too critical in its coverage of Oakland Police Chief Wayne Tucker. While Plummer’s knowledge and authority when it comes to law enforcement may be without question, his expertise about Oakland seems to be…um, lacking. Anyone who follows Oakland’s public safety problems would no doubt find it difficult to stomach such exuberant praise for a man presiding over a department currently burdened with multiple disturbing scandals. Considering violent crime has risen a staggering 53% in the four years under his tenure, I don’t know how to read a line like “Chief Tucker is the best thing that has happened to the Oakland Police Department in many years” without laughing out loud.

Plummer is certainly within his rights to try to defend his friend and former colleague, although referring to hard-working Oakland police officers as “sniveling cowards” really seems like it’s going a bit too far. But there was one line in the piece that I found just completely beyond the pale, and I had to go back over it like six times before I was sure I wasn’t misreading it. Plummer asserts that “the Tribune’s civic duty should be to instill a sense of confidence in the police department and its excellent leaders.” While I have no doubt that most government officials would love nothing more than for the local media to serve solely as a mouthpiece to disseminate their propaganda, I imagine you’d be pretty hard pressed to find one willing to admit as much in public. Well, except the Mayor, I guess. But the suggestion that doing so is not just desirable, but a “civic duty,” well, that’s just insane.

In other news:

  • Two new voices joined the blogoaksphere recently. Click through and welcome Our Oakland and An Oakland Citizen.
  • Oakland City Attorney John Russo issued an opinion (PDF) basically saying that the City can’t deny a film permit to the producers of Gentlemen of Leisure even if we wanted to. Duh.
  • Every time I think Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums can’t possibly get any worse, he turns around and proves me wrong. After windows at Wells Fargo and a bunch of other businesses in City Center got smashed following last Wednesday’s protest, Dellums responded by saying he was going to hire unarmed private security to patrol downtown. Nevermind that downtown’s two Community Benefit Districts have already hired their own private security firm (to begin service in February). Nevermind that the City has a terrible budget crisis and probably shouldn’t just be tossing money around willy-nilly (the Mayor says he’s going to use redevelopment funds to pay for it, but what funds? Didn’t the State take all our unencumbered redevelopment money?). Nevermind that I’m not even clear on where the Mayor gets the authority to just spend money without Council approval. What I want to know is this. If the like 400 police officers downtown on Wednesday night couldn’t prevent businesses from being vandalized, what are a handful of extra unarmed guards supposed to do about it? Ugh.

13 thoughts on “Defending the indefensible

  1. SF2OAK

    Did you also catch the part where he blamed the voters for not passing NN? It was outrageous- he forgot to mention of the scandals that have taken place with regards to public spending of tax dollars, the waste fraud & corruption and ineptitude at city hall and he has the audacity to blame the voters for rejecting NN.

  2. PinoyOaklander

    When I read about his idea with the private securities. I was puzzled, and again thinking to myself “Geez here he goes wasting money, and making the unnecessary plans yet again.” I wonder if he will ever make the right plans, and actually have something good going for him once he leaves his mayor seat. Oh, and I don’t know much about how Oakland’s local government goes, but shouldn’t the Councils vote on decisions like that? Outrageous :(

  3. Scott Lund

    First of all, good to see another post here. I promised myself that once you posted again I would make sure I let you know that your voice has been missed and is needed, so thanks.

    I too am well past done with Dellums. I definitely shouted at my TV when he took yet another shot at Oakland residents for not passing NN. Adding rent-a-cops on the city’s budget can amount to nothing more than security theater. Bleah. Would we actually be better off if Dellums went back to DC and De La Fuente took over? I’m not sure that the added chaos would even be noticeable.

  4. Andy

    Good to read you again!

    Plummer’s comments are crazy, however, his thoughts are not that uncommon. People all over the country complain when the “media” point out the short comings of government.

  5. Max Allstadt

    “Chief Tucker is the best thing that has happened to the Oakland Police Department in many years”?

    Really? The guy looks and sounds like Elmer Fudd, and is only marginally more successful.

  6. Colin

    Nice to see you back, if only briefly.

    I’m amazed you could read all of Plummer’s piece. I didn’t have the stomach. I would hope that if I ever felt compelled to defend a friend in the media I would be able to make a case based on his career, not on ad hominem attacks on the media and those who serve under him.

  7. ItsABoat&Pandas

    “The Tribune is attempting to elevate these sniveling cowards to the status of respectable spokepersons for the Oakland Police Department.”

    “YIKES”, is right. I hope Courtney Ruby didn’t see this. She won’t like that there is intimidation of whistleblowers happening in 2009.

    Also, I hate this kind of statement (below):
    Plummer writes: “He dedicated countless hours of his time to improve the police department, hours in which he would otherwise have enjoyed with his family and friends had he retired.”

    Number One, he chose to take this job and is paid handsomely for it. Number 2, he can retire any time he wants. Nothing and no one is keeping him here but himself and maybe Dellums’ desire to have a Chief he can use to peddle his jargon. Five years in Oakland will make for a hefty second pension for Tucker, following his first retirement from the Sheriff’s department.

    This whole, “he could have stayed retired (paraphrased)” line of thinking is fresh from Professor Dellums’ Advanced Placement class on Communication & Persuasion, titled, “How to make 400,000 people feel bad for you after you make a horrible decision and achieve terrible results.”

    As if we’re all so happy that someone is begrudgingly in a position they’d rather not be in. Such a favor to the citizens.

  8. justin

    I think many of us predicted that Dellums would use the failure of Measure NN as an excuse for any public safety issues going forward. It starts here

  9. len raphael

    Plummer is correct on one central point. Tucker’s job description when he was hired by Brown was to feed documentation to Federal Judge Henderson and keep the judge off of OPD’s back re. the RIder’s settlement compliance. Apparently Dellums kept Tucker for the same reason.

    Tucker achieved that major part of his job description.

    Once the Oakland electorate’s lynch mob reaction to the Rider’s alleged crimes subsided, we were stuck with a paper pusher police commissioner who doesn’t know how to run an inner city police department.

    His compliance efforts with the NSA such as taking experienced cops off the street to staff Internal Affairs, effectively fooled the judge.

    But if 11 cops either weren’t trained in getting warrants, or more likely weren’t supervised properly from the very top down, Tucker failed abysmally to implement the spirit of the NSA.

  10. V Smoothe Post author

    Tucker not only failed to implement the spirit, he has abysmally failed to implement the letter of the NSA. I’ve never understood why people give Tucker credit for his work on the NSA or use it as an excuse to explain his terrible performance, when his implementation of it has been so downright dismal. The last report from the independent monitor (PDF) is just terrible, and all but comes out and says the NSA is going to have to be extended AGAIN in January 2010, because there’s no way we could reach compliance before that point.

  11. len raphael

    The leak (by Tucker?) that Russo briefed the entire city council on the Paulson (head of IA) allegations back in 2005 puts Tucker’s angry comment about the city council in a different light. Assuming Russo told the council at least as much as described in today’s Tribune article about Russo’s investigation of Pauloson in 2005, of course Tucker wb pissed off that the council preemptively threw him to the howling wolves of public opinion and maybe the FBI. There’s just no honor among ____.

    Bringing home Danny W.’s point about a conspiracy of silence in Oakland govt.

    -len raphael

  12. V Smoothe Post author

    I think this issue with the Council being briefed about Poulson is an attempt to shift focus off what the real problem here is. Poulson was investigated and punished for his behavior – the punitive action may not have been sufficient, but that’s a separate issue. What Tucker did that’s clearly unnacceptable is promoting someone with such a record to head of Internal Affairs. The Council was not briefed on that.