The story with CompStat and Oakland

So, Chip Johnson’s column today is sort-of about general problems with the police department and sort-of about CompStat. I’ve noticed that the word CompStat is getting thrown around more and more often in discussions about OPD, and while I’m thrilled about that because I think we desperately need to do it here, I also think that it sometimes seems people aren’t exactly clear on what it is.

So, CompStat, basically, is a program developed in New York in the mid-1990s by then NYPD Chief William Bratton . He has since brought the program to his new post in Los Angeles, and many of his former deputies have implemented it in the departments they now head. CompStat-like systems, or at the very least the program’s driving principles, have been adopted by tons of agencies large and small throughout the country.

CompStat, at its core, is about using technology to assess real-time crime data and continually redeploying resources in response. At the October 14th Public Safety Committee meeting, the Police Department presented an update of their strategic plan, and much of the discussion centered around implementation of CompStat in Oakland, which the department identified as their top strategic priority, which an implementation goal of July 2009.

So what do you need to do CompStat? First, you need software. CompStat itself is not software – it’s a process that uses real-time data and pattern identification provided by software to shift resources to where they can be most effective, help departments address crime in a somewhat pre-emptive fashion, measure progress, and create greater accountability. Right now, our first challenge is to get the software we need to do that. Every department uses something different – LAPD, for example, built their crime data system themselves. We’re not going to be doing that, because we really don’t have anywhere near the resources in the City that such an effort would require. So instead, we’re buying (or, hoping to buy) a system from Bishop Rock.

Oakland’s IT department has been, and as far as I know, still is (all this information was presented at the October 14th meeting, it’s possible things have changed in the meantime), working with Bishop Rock to develop a program for Oakland. Because data collection and entry, as well as information needs, are different in every city, Bishop Rock has to customize their software for any agency interested in purchasing it. So right now we’re working with them on development and testing (at no cost to us), and specifically trying to work out some issues with data integration and data validation. The IT department has created a timeline for Bishop Rock with defined deadlines for meeting our needs, and hopefully, that’s going to work out. If it doesn’t, then we’re kind of back to square one. That would mean looking for other companies to work with. They have, as a back-up in case Bishop Rock doesn’t work out, begun looking into whether its possible to purchase and use LA’s system.

Anyway, getting the software is just the first hurdle. CompStat isn’t magic. It’s technology, and just like with all other technology, its utility is dependent on how you use it. It doesn’t matter how much expensive photo-editing software my Mom has on her computer if all she’s going to do is crop and resize her images for printing. Similarly, it doesn’t matter what expensive crime data software OPD has if they don’t have anyone to analyze that data. Implementing CompStat will require more crime analysis staff, and when and if the discussion ever reaches this point, it’s really important that we find a way to fund these positions. One investigation into the use of CompStat in three different cities (PDF) found that all three failed to fully realize the potential benefits of the CompStat system because they didn’t properly fund the accompanying analysts it needs to work:

Given the ostensible importance of strategic crime analysis to these Compstat programs, it is noteworthy that departments failed to give their CAUs enough staff, training, and support. As a result, the CAUs could only provide police decision makers with limited, and fairly rudimentary crime analysis. This is not to demean the CAUs contributions, which are quite impressive, especially given the many challenges involved merely to process data to a state that the software could analyze. It does, however, indicate that the accouterments of new information technology and data analysis were introduced into the organizations without preparing their members to make the most effective use of them.

It’s great that we’re doing CompStat. And having decent crime tracking software is in and of itself a huge step forward. At a Public Safety Committee meeting a couple of months ago, a Police Department representative told the Committee that he had no idea what had been happening with respect to certain types of crime in the month or so since the data in the report was compiled, because their crime data software had been down for weeks. Obviously unacceptable. But it’s really important, if we want to program to have a real impact on crime in Oakland, that we make sure not to just adopt a skeletal version of the program and pat ourselves on the back for copying a best practice. We need to make sure its fully implemented, properly implemented, and – this is the part I’m most worried about in a time of budget crisis – fully staffed. The Council has to fund the staff, and we hope the Police Department can properly handle the rest. But the Council also needs to start exercising more vigorously their oversight role, and make sure, when we finally do it, that we do it right.

37 thoughts on “The story with CompStat and Oakland

  1. Mike Spencer

    I am cynical. Pols want to call for programs like “Compstat” to make it seem like they are cutting edge and “on top of things.” I have said this before: Any cop with a year under his or her belt knows the hot spots around town. In the hills and lower hills, auto burglary and some property crimes. In the flats, 80-percent of the violence and open-air drug dealing. Watch commanders know exactly where stuff is occurring, and I don’t think we need to spend millions where common sense should be able to do the job.

  2. Willie Mays

    They rotate officers from one patrol area to another on a yearly basis. No time to learn the corners if you never get out of your car and then are shipped off to another beat…

  3. Max Allstadt

    If what Willie say’s is accurate, we’re going to have a hard time rounding up Stats to Comp…

    The relationship between the police and the people can’t get fixed if we can’t get to know our cops. Without a trusting, daily relationship, the stop-snitchin mentality wins.

    In a neighborhood where people don’t want to report crime, wouldn’t the stats be shit? If your stats are shit, you’re basically implementing a CompShit program, no?

    Can someone please tell me why we don’t have beat walking cops anymore? And why we don’t have patrols that work the same district for year after year?

  4. Luke B-M

    I agree with Max completely. Granted, each beat has a Problem Solving Officer and Neighborhood Service Coordinator, but without regular beat officers you can only do so much. The NSCs are good for community interface, but they aren’t collecting crime stats. I agree, if we don’t have regular beat cops, our stats suffer

    @ Mike. Yes it’s common knowledge that most of the violence happens in the flats, but that tells us absolutely nothing. The flats of East Oakland comprise most of The Town, CompStat will show specific hotspots within that. Identifying and moving in on drug turfs is great, but murders usually don’t have as much to do with drugs as folks would like to believe.

    From growing up in East Oakland and losing friends, I’ve observed that most killings are taking place for petty shows of disrespect. I’ve had friends shot over things like stepping on shoes and talking to the wrong girl. Compstat may aid us in IDing murders tied to drug turfs, but if most of them are random and trifling- Compstat won’t help us. Again, that is why having a community rapport will always trump technology. I, like V, am not confident the program will be fully funded, so it will just be a front that will distort the real problem- our system and our officers.

  5. Robert

    Mike – Anecdotal facts such as you describe are a poor way to allocate resources. While somebody’s belief that ‘I know where the crime is occurring’ is correct sometimes, it is also often wrong. It does little to give meaningful information about whether a problem in one beat is really worse than a problem are in another beat. CompStat is intended to provide solid numbers to allocate resources effectively.

    Willie – I don’t know if what you say is generally true. I know for a fact that some patrol officers have stayed in the same area of town for most of their careers. This may have something to do with seniority, since I think that the union insists that preference on assignments be given to officers with more seniority.

    Max – CompStat actually helps get around some of the issues you mention of patrol officers not being able to get to know their beats. By providing an electronic database, the crime history of a neighborhood is no longer dependent on having the same officer involved for a long period ot time. It doesn’t solve the issue of folks not reporting crime, and I think you are right that having the same officer on the beat would help with that. And it is obviously dependent on what goes into the databse, but see comment about about anecdotal data. Lack of real data tends to lead to profiling and/or predjudice.

    Luke – most of the murders in Oakland appear to be committed by folks who are involved in some sort of criminal activity, or are gang members. And while the murder may not be committed in the process of another crime, they are the same folks involved. And that is why the focus is always on reducing many aspects of crime, not just murders.

  6. Mike Spencer

    I am ignorant then (surprise). I had assumed a certain, forged beat relationship where human intelligence would be just as good if not better than any Compstat program. So which is the case: Officers randomly go call-to-call on a different beat, part of the City, or there is some form of community policing? My God, these are perennial, daily issues and so what people are telling me is that this stuff is still being worked out????? Why is Oakland and OPD so glacially slow at leadership and planning? Vision, anyone? I would just say that if there are beat officers, they would know exactly the areas that take up their time and resources.

  7. Coolhand Luke

    WIth all due respect Robert, my friends were not involved in “other” criminal activity. And with all due respect to your data sources, the “those who are killed are already criminals” line of thinking sounds way to similar to the “those who die have it coming” rational adopted by too many already. It’s easy to think in those terms, but too often it doesn’t hold water. Isn’t one of the main reasons for getting CompStat to collect the data you’re already purporting to having?

    Not to mention that gang labeling in Oakland is too often a ridiculous catch all to implicate folks our whack ass police department can’t charge with anything. I’ve worked in South Central LA where gang related offenses are real. In Oakland a lot of these “gangs” are no more than little kids cliquing up to feel important.

  8. len raphael

    overall sounds lke we agree that better statistics collection is needed and t hat we’re all skeptical of our current opd management and staffing capable of getting it implemented properly and fed accurate data, not to mention making good decisions based on the data. for now i’d prefer to see more staffing on investigation and cops on the beat, with the police stat collection equivalent of “Quickbooks” instead of “SAP” for now. ie. there’s gotta be a “compstat lite” out there, which doesn’t give as detailed info, but doesn’t cost the huge bucks to implement, doesn’t need as many people to feed and care for it.

    CL. i needed a different point of view on the young male homicide victims. unless you live in the high homicide areas all one hears/reads are bereaved parents saying their kid was a good kid but there’s an assumption or maybe it’s just profiling that the victims were at least peripherally in the drug trade. that assumption isn’t just in my biased mind, i’ve been told that by a trib reporter a few years ago, and friends who do live in high crime areas. anecdotal to be sure.

    -len raphael

  9. Robert

    Luke – I did not say that the victims were criminals, I said that most of the murderers were involved in other criminal activity. Since I don’t know who your friends are who were victims, I am perfectly willing to go along with you that they were innocent bystanders. We are all too familiar with the stories of the innocent bystanders being caught in the line of fire in Oakland. Although as len points out, the default response of friends and family is always that the victim was a good boy, and was not involved in anything.

    At least in my mind, “little kids cliquing up” change to gangs when they start carrying guns.

    len, I agree with you that there should be a cheaper solution. The software is only a part of the program, and I don’t think that it really the most important part. The most important part is changing the mindset of the police force to try something different. When I hear that Oakland is talking of customizing the software I think that it is almost a receipe for disaster. Configuration makes sense – such as creation of unique to Oakland names for fields in the databse, but customization means rewriting the underlying code, with extensive concerns about the validation of the software.

  10. Coolhand Luke

    @Len The thing about living in high crime areas is that crime is always around you. But just because a family member or your friends are involved in some dirt, it doesn’t mean that you are. Too often we view someone’s proximity to crime as a measure of their involvement. That’s not fair or accurate. If that were true, then you could consider entire communities to be criminal.

  11. ConcernedOakFF

    CHL – To be fair, I have worked in this city for more than a decade. I have seen way too many murders as a part of my job. Please take what I say as not a criticism, but as the reality that I see.

    Most people that are killed in Oakland are associated with the drug trade or the drug and gang lifestyle. The people that generally hang out with those in that lifestyle, are themselves, often involved at least at some level.

    Everyone has the option to disassociate themselves from activities that are hazardous to one’s health and well being. Too often the easy way is just to benefit from your friends wealth and lifestyle without holding them accountable.

    That does not mean that there are not innocent people killed (have seen plenty of that too) or that the people that are killed somehow “deserve it”.

    There are clear cut areas in the city that crime rages. People know where these areas are. The city as a whole is relatively safe. Oakland is not a city of random violence like LA, Detroit, Washington DC or other crime “hot spots”. People get killed near drug corners. You know the most common ones (78th and Mac, 90th and Bancroft, 33rd and Market, Meade Street etc)

    Much of the current crime, as least the violent part that I come into contact with, is due to young people involved in gangs, older people living a criminal lifestyle, or paroled felons.

  12. Coolhand Luke

    @ Robert. Oh okay I see, my bad. Your initial statement didn’t specify which side of the crime you were talkin about, but yeah I feel you. My previous response to Len stands tho. And it is true that some folks who get killed were involved in something illegal or didn’t have the most glamorous lives, but that still doesn’t warrant death.

    I know white kids in the hills who sell drugs and they aren’t being killed. Often it isn’t that involvement that gets some one killed its where you live. But yeah, even if someone was a hard case I can’t imagine watching the news and seeing anyone’s mother say “Well he was a menace to society, it was only a matter of time.” That will be the day

  13. Max Allstadt

    Thanks for the Video, V.

    If you happen across one where Jordan tells us whether fixed beat assignments might work, instead of just saying that his subordinates like the system the way it is because it makes them happy, I’d love to see it.

  14. Coolhand Luke

    @ Concerned. Disassociation is possible, but it’s far from simple. Regardless of the decisions you make, you are raised in a certain area and that is what it is. I definitely disassociated and went to school and college and all the rest, but it doesn’t mean I didn’t run into problems. I went to Oakland Public Schools, graduated from UCLA, wasn’t involved in the drug trade or anything, but I still had to leave Oakland by the end of high school due to an increasingly violent situation that I was involved in. I disassociated a lot, but certain things found me anyway.

    I agree that often those caught up are not guiltless, but to me it’s difficult to measure guilt within such a weighted system. Yeah I have friends that have been involved in some things, but do I cut them off as a result? Not necessarily because they are important to me, and their actions were probably a response to something. Oakland is not black and white. THere is a lot of gray area to get lost in.

    I respect those who juke and dodge their way through to the utmost, but I don’t fault those who couldn’t because it’s not easy.

  15. V Smoothe Post author

    Well, it’s not just an issue of liking the system or not liking the system, the draw is a right granted to patrol officers under our agreement with the Union. So you couldn’t change that without renegotiating the contract, which I don’t think is up for a few more years.

  16. V Smoothe Post author

    Mike -

    If this were ten years ago, I’d say cutting edge might be an appropriate term for CompStat, but at this point it’s more in the realm of standard practice. The key factor in efficacy appears to be how thoroughly the system is adopted.

    But we aren’t buying a fancy computer system to tell us there’s auto thefts in the hills. The idea is to track very specific data and do it in real time. It isn’t an issue of long-term hotspots or general high-crime areas, it’s an issue of where, very specifically, is crime occurring right now. This method allows departments to use resources in an anticipatory and deterrent, rather than reactive fashion. This technique has been used successfully to reduce crime at departments throughout the country, and it’s something that OPD currently does not and cannot do.

    Obviously there are many factors in play when it comes to crime rates, but it’s worth noting that the three largest US police departments have all shifted to using the CompStat model have all seen accompanying dramatic crime reductions. Last year, New York recorded the fewest number of homicides since 1963, the first year where accurate records are available. Chicago had the fewest murders since 1965. Los Angeles had its lowest homicide total since 1970 (Unfortunately I can’t find a non-firewalled article to link to. Apologies.) Summer homicides in LA this year were at their lowest level since 1967. Those kind of numbers are hard to ignore.

    But if anyone wants to learn a little more about how much OPD does know about what/where crimes occur, I suggest watching a Public Safety Committee meeting when they’re receiving the 30 day crime and arrest statistics report. You’ll be amazed.

  17. V Smoothe Post author

    Len –

    The point of my post was that there isn’t a CompStat-lite, and that’s what I’m worried about the City adopting. You either do it whole hog or you do it half-assed. Evidence from other cities suggests that fully adopting the model is an incredibly effective way to combat crime, and that doing it only partially means you don’t realize the benefits of the program.

    Robert –

    Customization might sound scary, but it’s actually necessary and normal, and that’s not just an Oakland thing. Every City or agency has unique needs, from data collection to reporting and output and everything in between – you can’t just buy off the shelf software. No other municipality would do it otherwise.

  18. len raphael

    CL, my limited my experience is w kids living in high crime areas, the kids i did know had to have lives away from those areas when they were young, and then move out of those areas as soon as they got out of high school to avoid getting pulled into the whirlpool around them. it wasn’t a matter of character or family integrity.

    -len raphael

  19. len raphael

    v, is there a request for a proposal out for the software install or was black rock volunteering minor tweaks to get first shot at a contract?

    what did opd etc. work up as budget for outlays initial and ongoing to do the full monte vs compstat lite?

    never underestimate the ability of oakland’s bureaucracy to take good software and hardware and fail to utilize it.

    -len raphael

    (the link to the compstat in diferent cities pdf is doa.)

  20. Robert

    V, I am hoping that our difference of opinion on customization is just different understanding of customization and configuration of software.

    I think what you are referring to as CompStat-Lite is different from what I (and len?) were suggesting. What you appear to be concerned about is buying the software, and then not giving it the institutional support the CompStat program will need to succeed. What I was asking is whether a cheaper sofware package existed, so that Oakland could then provide all the support that the CompStat program requires to succeed, such as running detailed reports so that the commanders can have the information they need, and having a process for reallocation of resources to high crime areas. After all, Oakland is 1/10 or less the population of other cities that have implemented CompStat, and so should need a less powerful database package. I think that we all agree that if it is to be successful, the CompStat program, and the underlying database software, need to be adequately supported.

  21. Navigator

    We already know where the crime is. Oakland is a city of about 57square miles and most of that area is not high crime. Oakland’s high crime areas are relatively compact and probably amount to less than a quarter of the total land area of the city. The “flatlands” of Oakland are a relatively small area. If we take “flatland” literally, then we are talking about everything south of Foothill Blvd. Many people erroneously consider everything south of 580 as the “flatlands.” However, even below 580 we have nice stable residential neighborhoods like Maxwell Park, Millsmont, Lower Dimond, Ivy Hill, Haddon Hill etc.

    The Oakland Police Department knows exactly where most violent crime occurs in Oakland. This is no mystery. These are the same areas which have been plagued by violence for over thirty years. The avenues near Eastmont, Elmhurst, and Melrose, are prime high violence areas of east Oakland. In central Oakland we have the 22nd Ave. corridor. In west Oakland we have the Prescot neighborhood, Dogtown, etc.

    All in all, these are not large geographical areas to patrol. The Oakland Police Department should be doing a much better job, even with a small police force, considering the relatively small high crime area.

  22. Charles Pine

    “Nice stable residential neighborhoods like Maxwell Park” … not! MP residents have just endured a horrible streak of daytime forcible burglaries, much like the Montclair wave but not covered in the press. Homicides do not correlate much with the robberies, burglaries, vehicle smash-ins etc. that keep Oakland the fourth or fifth most crime-ridden city in the country. (See the FBI stats at )

  23. Max Allstadt

    Ugh. In other crime news today, some jackass shot a security guard in the foot over at Koreana Plaza. Koreana, by the way is the closest supermarket to most of West Oakland. Three blocks from my palatial West Oakland estate.

    Now the guard managed to grab the money and an accomplice and hold on to them despite the hole in his foot. I’m glad about that. What am I not glad about? Yet again, the only thing that can push West Oakland to the top of my local Google News feed is crime. It’s not just the Mainstream Media folks. The sidestream has gone “bleeds it leads” too.

    This story is getting 45 hits at the moment. Kaplan’s election got 5. Nadel’s re-election, along with all the other incumbents got way less than 45.

    Perhaps part of the problem here is that the Bay Area News Group put out multiple stories on multiple outlets, all written by the same person. Efficient, sure? Journalism? My ass. Many of the Bay Area News Group’s reporters who cover Oakland don’t even live here. Perhaps their story is the also the one which fed the AP story on this foot-shooting, which again has multiplied it’s hits.

    V – when are you gonna do a big expose on the death of local news, wherein we learn how MediaNews eviscerated our local papers, along with interesting tidbits of information such as the fact that Kelly Rayburn lives in SF?

  24. Mike Spencer

    This could be applied to Police but it might be expanded to other City departments. Leave issues. How much malingering do we have? Are we paying for 800 officers and on any given day, just for example, getting 650 officers? What is normal for a City? I have no idea. If we have excessive absenteeism what can be done? I recall reading something about it a year ago but perhaps an audit or investigation is in order. It’s probably very difficult to track. How many are out on workers’ comp at any given time?

  25. V Smoothe Post author

    Len -

    I have not seen a budget for implementing a CompStat program in Oakland. The Council had hoped to fund it with the passage of Measure NN, which, as we all know, failed to even get close to the 2/3 margin needed for passage. I don’t know the cost of the software, but I’m pretty sure the staffing request was for 4 crime analysts.

    I fixed the link, thanks for pointing it out.

  26. V Smoothe Post author

    Robert –

    Okay, I’ll try to explain what I’m talking about re:customization versus configuration, and you let me know if we’re on the same page. So, from the way we do things at my work, I tend to think of configuration as something you can do on the front-end. For example, last year, at my work, we introduced a social networking platform for our community. After we worked with a vendor to create a platform that met our needs, it was then left up to me to create the data fields that people had to fill out and stuff like that. So I was able to do much of the work needed to ready the platform on my own. But there were also aspects of the platform that we found problematic during beta testing that we had to go back to our vendor to adjust on the back-end, like changing the way the search function worked. This required rewriting of code to yield the type of results we wanted. I would consider that customization.

    My understanding is that this is part of the work Bishop Rock is doing for us, and that it would similarly have to be done for any agency using the software. Here’s one example. OPD makes regular reports to the Council on a variety of subjects – monthly crime and arrest statistics, staffing, stuff like that. What we want out of our new data system is the ability to generate this data with a single mouse click, instead of having to compile the information needed for any given report from like 30 different queries that someone has to then go put together. Doing that, as I understand, does require tailor-written code, but again, any vendor would have to do the same thing for any agency using the software.

    What I don’t quite understand about your and Len’s comments about “CompStat-lite” is why you guys are assuming that we’re buying software that does more than we need it to in the first place. Where does that idea come from?

  27. Navigator


    The Oakland Police Department is a boondoggle. This ineffective self-serving police force consumes a huge portion of the city budget with horrible results. This force of mercenaries from Pleasanton, Castro Valley, Alameda, San Ramon etc., is run for the benefit and convenience of its membership, not for the betterment of the city of Oakland. Also, I’ll stand by the point that I was trying to make, which was that Oakland’s VIOLENT crime is clustered in small geographic areas of the city. Burglaries are not included in the FBI violent crime rate. And, I was referring to the stability of homeownership and families in the areas below 580 which I mentioned. I happen to like Maxwell Park, Haddon Hill, Ivy Hill and other areas with English Tudors and other nice residential architecture. You’ll never catch me bashing Oakland. We need to leave that tor our San Francisco friends across the Bay.

    Studies are a dime a dozen. I can show you a study which puts San Francisco number one in homicides after adjustments for demographics for three years in a row.

    Also, what happened to Orlando Florida which was number six in violent crimes just behind Oakland, with 190.5 violent crimes.? Did the home of Mickey Mouse and the largest tourist destination in the Country, payoff someone to get their rankings off the list?

    Also, how large was Oakland’s Police Force when crime went way down in some of the early years of the Jerry Brown administration? I remember one year Oakland had 66 homicides with fewer cops than we have today. Oakland is just transferring its tax revenues to Pleasanton, San Ramon, Castro Valley, Alameda, etc.. Once the Police Department learns that it is here to serve the citizens of Oakland, and starts putting police officers on walking beats and on the streets during high crime hours, then we might have an effective crime reducing force. Until this happens, we have an institutions which acts as an overtime accumulation, and convenience scheduling enterprise for the benefit of their membership.

  28. ConcernedOakFF

    Navigator –

    I am not sure why you label the Officers that live outside the city as “mercenaries”. That is so incredibly off base as to be laughable.

    Many OPD Officers I know where born and raised here, but choose to live outside the city and commute in. What is wrong with that? Would you like to be shopping with your family and see a guy you arrested the day before? Would you like to be worried that the people you got in a scuffle with found out where you lived and came to your house? THIS is often the reason that MOST police officers live outside the city they serve, be it SF, Alameda or San Leandro.

  29. Navigator


    Over 94% of Oakland Police Officers live outside the city. This is far higher than any other Department in the Bay Area. By comparison, San Francisco has a higher rate of officers living in the city despite very high housing costs.

    You do have a point with the shopping argument. There are so few places to shop in Oakland, that indeed, it is possible for someone to run into someone that they arrested the day before in this city of over 400,000. However, to me, that’s a very poor cop out. The cops are more likely to run into someone they arrested, shopping in Alameda or San Leandro, rather than in Oakland.

    The point is, that those high police incomes are being spent at malls and shopping centers outside of Oakland. Also, there is no sense of pride, or stake of ownership in the general well being of the city. There are plenty of middle class areas where cops could live in Oakland, like Temescal, Glenview, Adams Point, Laurel, Redwood Heights, Maxwell Park etc..

    Having said that, this is a secondary issue. The real issue is for the Police Union to allow the Oakland Police Department to work for the betterment of the city of Oakland and not for the convenience of its membership. The Oakland Police Department is an archaic Department which refuses to implement community policing and walking beat officers in commercial districts. It’s a police department which once had only 39 officers patrolling a city of 400,000 residents at any given time while sixteen cops were at the Airport sitting on their hands. What a farce and a boondoggle being perpetrated on the good citizens and taxpayers of Oakland.

  30. ConcernedOakFF

    Not only is it possible, but it is inevitable that they run into the people that they arrest. They want to be able to leave that part of the job at work, and then go home to their families. It is really the only way to stay sane in a high pressure job like that. You need days off. What is wrong with that? If I was a Cop, I would never live in the town I worked in, no matter how much I cared about it.

    How would you feel, working all night, then spending all day doing errands around the same areas you arrested people, saw acts of prostitution, founds drugs etc. You HAVE to have some distance, for the sake of sanity. Now, not everybody needs this as much as some, but every cop you talk to WILL express this view.

    Also, how do you know that there is no sense of pride or a stake in ownership in the city? Why would they want to work here? It is certainly not for the great work schedule, or the great morale, or the incredible upward mobility. There are plenty of other departments which pay more for a lot less work than Oakland, believe me.

    I really think you have a true and complete lack of knowledge about the operating procedures of the OPD. It is not the fault of the Union that they had 39 officers covering 45+ beats. It is not the fault of the Union that they do not have enough officers to have walking beats. It is not the fault of the union that they do not implement community policing. It is 100% the fault of the Command Structure of the OPD and even more importantly the City Government which has caved to every wacko lawsuit and refused to fund public safety, and then as costs skyrocketed and crime did as well, finally pour funds down the parched throats of the Department to little result.

    It is not the fault of the Union that the city entered into a CONTRACT with the Airport that requires minimum staffing of Officers (that are funded not by the city, but by the OIA).

    It’s the fault of the city that lets every complaint turn into an internal investigation, regardless of merit, taking away valuable investigators.

    I could continue for quite a bit longer….

    Finally, it is the job, function and sole purpose of any labor union to fight for what is best for it’s membership. The membership IS the union. If you are overall anti-union, I can at least somewhat understand your disgust for the OPOA, but if you support the rights of labor at all, you should be able to understand what they are trying to do.

  31. len raphael

    cops not living in oakland is more a symptom than a cause of our policing,crime, and governance failures here.

    after we figure out a way to manage and staff opd properly, and that includes information systems that work, we can try incentives for cops to live here. housing subsidies won’t be enough. you’d have to give school vouchers also because many cops tend to have kids and other than a handful of very pricey areas of oakland (a subset of the ones nav mentioned) the elementary school, middle school, high school path is a mine field of poorly trained/selected teachers, mediocre admins, lack of supplies, no funding for programs etc. that parents and kids have to manuever to get a decent education. that alone is sufficient reason for a cop w kids to leave outside of oakland.

    -len raphael

  32. Max Allstadt

    Damn, FF, I feel schooled. Thanks.

    I still think that at 70k to start, police could live in JLS, Adams Point or Temescal… That’ll make it a lot less likely for them to run into a drug dealer when they’re at the farmers market with their kids on their off day…

  33. Navigator


    If we continue with the logic that “cops don’t live where they work because they don’t want to run into someone they arrested,” then we can assume that Oakland is inundated with cops from Alameda, San Leandro, Orinda, Berkeley, and San Francisco. I feel safer already.

    Also, it’s not just cops who don’t live in Oakland. What’s the excuse from the Oakland Fire Department? All these high paying jobs being siphoned off to people who live in the surrounding suburbs. We are talking about 823 OPD jobs along with how many Firefighters. I’m guessing maybe four to five hundred. These two departments account for over half of Oakland’s budget. What if Oakland had an extra 1200 residents making between 80,000 and 120,000 dollars per year?

  34. ConcernedOakFF

    Navigator –

    Apparently your mind is made up about the police department, and no matter what the reasons are I tell you that Cops don’t want to live here , your ideas arrive to whatever you already believe to be facts. it is this exact negative attitude that generally pervades Oaklander’s perceptions about the Police Department that most hinder their ability to create a better city.

    Do you actually KNOW any Cops? If you do, whether they are OPD or not, ask them how they feel about living in the city they work in, especially one that is smaller like Oakland. In SF, you can literally get away and never have to go where you work. Not so much in Oakland.

    You did not answer my Union response. Why are you blaming the OPOA with the ills that plague this Agency?

    Additionally, people should be free to live where they want. Many members of the OFD choose to live in Oakland. Many do not. Everyone has their reasons. It does not make you a better Cop or Firefighter if you live in the city you serve. It is the responsibility of every Public Servant to serve to the best of their ability and uphold the oath they swore to get the badge no matter where they drive, fly or boat to at the end of their shift. Some of the laziest, worst employees in Oakland live right here. It really makes no difference.

    Many people can not afford to live in Oakland with children. The schoold we all know are terrible, the private schools are too expensive and the areas that given the choice people find safe enough to have a family are WAYYYYYY out of the price range of a PD or OFD member, despite what you THINK our take home salaries actually are. (Far less than you would be led to believe by the papers and city officials)

    The reality is, as much as people do not want to hear this, the citizens are better served in a disaster by Public Safety members that do not live in the affected areas.

    What do you think a PD or FD member will do first in the event of a Earthquake or fire if they live in the affected area? They will help their family first, as they SHOULD. If they don’t live here, they will be more able to quickly and effective respond to the General Callback they will receive.

    Why are you so adamant that forcing people to live in the city will help us at all? Tax dollars? Spent at what retail exactly?

    As far as the Fire Department goes as well, just remember that all of us DO live here, more than 1/3 of the year, and all of the money that we spend on our food (yeah we pay for 100% of it), clothing (yeah we buy that too), uniforms (we buy them), dry cleaning (we pay for that too), gas etc is all spent right here.

  35. J-man's Dad

    Nice job, C-FF. I too am an O.F.D. member, for nearly 20 years, & I choose to raise my family in Oakland. It’s a struggle. I like the neighborhood I live in, but once my kids get to 4th grade, the public schools are no longer an option. I’m paying almost $20k a year for my 13 year old. In the last 2 years, the crime problem has directly impacted us. I try to support the retail and neighborhoods here. When I’m off duty, everytime a rig drives by my house, they blast the air horn. (Only a problem when the toddler’s napping.) But sometimes it bugs the wife. I could move over the hill, and not pay for private school, but then it’s over the hill. It’s my choice to live here, good and bad. The city should reward me for living here but sometimes I feel punished. Okay, reward is a bit too strong. They should provide incentives. Weather or not a cop or firefighter lives in the jurisdiction they work in should have no bearing on their sense of duty or commitment to the citizens they swear to protect.

    It starts from the top. The disfunctional admins of both departments created and are responsible for the current state. If it wasn’t for the IAFF Local 55 Oakland firefighters association, the citizens would be much less protected on a day to day basis.

  36. Max Allstadt

    One of the really unfortunate things about the incentives that Oakland does offer to some desired workers (teachers, for instance) is that they mandate that housing subsidies for teachers only go into permanently affordable units. This sends a message that I don’t like one bit.

    It says, “you’re important enough to help you with a stable home, but because you’re our servant, you don’t deserve help building equity and ancestral wealth. That’s too good for you.” This is not the message we should be sending to the people who teach our kids, guard our streets, haul us to the ER, and keep us safe from fire and earthquakes.

    I used to live on a block in Brooklyn that had three or four brownstones full of families that had been NYPD and NYFD for more than one generation. My immediate neighbor was an 80 year old retired cop and his cop kid and cop grandson. These are jobs that are family traditions, and the only way, facing a real estate price boom, that these families could stay in NYC was because grandpa bought and stayed. His incentive to stay was that his property kept appreciating at market rate. If we want essential service workers to come to Oakland and stay, we need to give them a shot at a similar stake.