You have probably read by now at least something about the Oakland Police Department’s new stategic plan framework (PDF). The Chief’s ambitious goal of making Oakland one of California’s safest cities within five years is obviously exciting, as are the specific emphases on improved police/community relations and departmental support for officers.
Whether it’s doable or not of course remains to be seen. However, the Chief’s record in Long Beach, both in terms of reducing crime and also restoring community trust of the Police Department, makes me optimistic.
New plan, Old concept
Of course, it isn’t like the concept of strategic planning is new to OPD. There have been frequent stabs at creating such plans even just in recent years. There’s this one from 2007 (PDF), for example. And of course there was the ongoing Crime Fighting Strategic Plan (PDF) efforts discussed repeatedly at Council (PDF) meetings during 2008. These discussions were probably most memorably summed up in a presentation to the Public Safety Committee, where Committee members were told that the bottom line is “We can’t arrest our way out of the problem.”
Consistent with that statement, the Crime Fighting Strategic Plan (PDF) documents and presentations generally characterized the Department as practically helpless with respect to crime reduction, taking the general position that the Police Department, no matter what they do, can have at most a limited impact on Oakland’s crime rate.
There are a number of factors that contribute to changes in crime: socioeconomic conditions, community involvement, and the school system are three significant factors. While the Police Department’s impact is important, it is limited.
While there are strategies that provide a toolbox approach to specific types of crimes, there are no “national best practices” for crime reduction. Oakland in comparison to cities of like size has both common and unique crime problems.
Another common thread in the discussions was essentially that crime in Oakland isn’t actually that bad, and that perception is worse than reality. Perhaps in some neighborhoods that’s the case, but of course many people would like to think that all of Oakland’s residents deserve safety.
A noticeably new approach
The new Strategic Plan framework (PDF) and presentation (PDF) unveiled by Chief Batts last week represent a sharp (and welcome!) departure from that attitude. Both the Chief’s letter introducing the framework (PDF) and the introductory charts in the presentation (PDF) (see pages 6-17) make no bones about the fact that the level of crime in Oakland is beyond unacceptable and the Department’s current response to reported crimes is deplorable. Here’s an excerpt from the letter:
As with any plan, it is important to define the current reality or starting point as well as the destination. Unfortunately, the current reality is not very positive. Oakland is not a safe community – in fact it is among the least safe and most violent in the US. Services provided to the Community by the Police Department are nowhere near the standards that should be expected. Many good people in the Community do not trust the Police Department and live in fear of the police as well as of criminals.
How refreshing! What’s that thing they say about problems? You can’t solve one until you acknowledge that it exists or something like that? Yeah. So just the recognition that the status quo is not acceptable represents a huge step forward.
Basics of the new strategic plan framework
The framework lists five strategic goals, along with a set of actions related to achieving each of them. I won’t copy it all out here, since the document (PDF) is basically just a set of short, bulleted lists and if people are interested in reading the whole thing they should just go ahead and download it. It is a very fast read, since, like I said, it’s basically just an outline. The goals that frame the plan are:
- Focus on the underlying causes of violent crime in Oakland – Gangs, Drugs, and Guns
- Improve police services provided based on the Community’s priorities
- Improve the relationship between the Oakland Police Department and the Community
- Develop and implement a “Total Community Policing” model in Oakland
- Expand the capability of the Oakland Police Department to meet its Mission
OPD seeks community input
Perhaps most refreshing of all is the Chief’s serious effort to work with Oakland residents in crafting the plan, which is supposed to be ready in a final version this summer. Over the next two weeks, there will be a series of community meetings to solicit feedback on the framework. People should go!
Here’s the schedule:
- Wednesday, March 3: Montera Middle School, 555 Ascot Drive. 6:30 to 8:00 PM
- Thursday, March 4: East Oakland Senior Center, 9255 Edes Avenue. 6:30 to 8:00 PM
- Wednesday, March 10: Willie Key Recreation Center, 3131 Union Street. 6:30 to 8:00 PM
- Thursday, March 11: Manzanita Recreation Center, 2701 22nd Avenue. 6:30 to 8:00 PM
If you can’t, or for some reason don’t want to, make it to any of the meetings, you can still share your thoughts. The Police Department has put up an online survey to collect feedback from residents. Questions are basically all open-ended, asking residents to share their own ideas for reducing violent crime, improving OPD services, and improving the level of trust between the Department and the community. Additionally, residents interested in participating in implementation working groups are invited to leave their contact information and areas of interest. It’s so refreshing to see the Police Department reaching out to citizens like this.
BTW, the Library wants your input too!
Oh, and one more thing. As long as we’re on the topic of City surveys, the Oakland Public Library is also currently soliciting patron input. As you guys may remember, all OPL branch libraries were reduced from six day per week to five day per week service in August as part of the City Council’s budget decision. The library is now evaluating the new branch schedule and is looking for patron thoughts on Monday vs. Saturday service, morning vs. evening hours, and for patrons with children, the most convenient periods for storytime. Also, there are open ended questions where you can offer general feedback. The survey ends after this weekend, so please, if you are a library user, take a few moments to fill it out. You can find the survey here: http://surveymonkey.com/oplpatronsurvey.