OPD to Oaklanders: Crime only happens to bad people

This story has been edited since it first went up yesterday. The new version is more favorable to the police. One absolutely shocking statement from police spokesman Officer Roland Holmgren is now gone. You can read the original version here (PDF!).

The disturbing line (emphasis added):

“We understand residents are scared,” Holmgren said. “It’s something we’re working on so they don’t have that fear. For the most part these are not random acts of violence. Our message to the community is if you’re not doing something you’re not supposed to, then you should be fine.

I’d like to hear him tell that to Christopher Rodriguez.

3 thoughts on “OPD to Oaklanders: Crime only happens to bad people

  1. Dogtown Commoner

    I considered blogging about that quote too, when I read it last night. It reminds me of when Chief Tucker basically said that people shouldn’t worry too much about Oakland being the 4th most dangerous city in the country, since the crimes are concentrated in poor parts of the city. Thanks for that reassurance, Chief! If only we all lived in Montclair, we’d have little to fear except thrift stores, cigarette smoke and falling property values. Statistically, Holmgren has a point, but that’s cold comfort to the many innocent victims of violent crime, or to the law-abiding people who hear gunshots outside their windows on a regular basis, even if the shots aren’t directed at them.

    In defense of the Chronicle, they must have cut the Holmgren quotes in order to make room for the Tucker quotes and the Dellums statement. Even though it had the effect of making the new version more favorable to the police, I can see the logic of giving preference to quotes from the Mayor and the Police Chief, instead of the lower-ranked spokesman. In general that’s a sensible practice, since you want to get comment directly from the people with real power, but when the higher-level quotes are platitudes and the lower-level quotes are interesting or controversial, it isn’t the right editorial call. (But you already knew all that…)

  2. V Smoothe Post author

    Looking at the post again, I realize that it reads more like I’m complaining about the Chronicle than about the statement from the spokesman. That wasn’t actually the intention – I had planned on blogging about the quote, and was thrown when I woke up to find it gone.

    Anyway, I can sympathize with the department’s desire to reassure people, and I don’t doubt that a large portion (probably a majority?) of Oakland’s gun crime is drug or gang related – John Alfred Dennis, Abel Martinez-Mejia, and Christopher Rodriguez are not the norm. But if you look beyond homicides and consider violent assaults in the course of muggings and such, anecdotal evidence suggests to me that the average Oaklander has plenty to worry about. I know several people who have been hospitalized after being randomly attacked in Oakland, most of them during daylight and on well-trafficked streets. So while I don’t advocate buying into the “don’t leave your house ever” mentality, I also don’t like seeing the police department denying there’s a problem.

  3. Mychal

    The quote’s not so different from what a police officer told our neighbor last week. She walked out on to her porch just in time to have a bullet go through her front window. Two more shots hit the wall of the house by the time she got back in to her apartment. The officer told her that,”It happens, but not too often.” Well, it happened to a cousin of mine last year.

    Hate to nit-pick over semantics, but what’s too often? Ducking behind furniture and dialing 911 while you try to corral your toddler – not a good scene.

    The response has been a mixed bag. Pat Kernighan took a break from persuading Out Of the Closet to not move in on Lakeshore, having a sergeant with the police force give us his phone number. He seems interested in helping. He also says the principal at nearby Oakland High doesn’t return his calls. Who knew that sort of thing was optional?