Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts admitted today that his city is one of the most dangerous in the country but said he’s developing a strategic plan to make it much safer within five years. Batts, who joined the Oakland Police Department in October after serving as the chief in Long Beach, said his detailed plan “is a roadmap for the community to hold us accountable” for making the city safer. He released a draft of his plan and will hold a community meeting at police headquarters at 6 p.m. tonight to get input from the public. Four additional hearings will be held at other cites throughout the city in early March. Batts said his strategic plan will be finalized by July 1.
He said the Oakland Police Department’s new motto is, “We will be there when you need us.” Speaking to reporters at police headquarters, Batts said, “We don’t do that now.” He said the department’s goal is to respond to all high-priority calls within five minutes but its average response time is 15 minutes. “That’s unacceptable and is too high,” Batts said. The chief said, “Many good people in the community do not trust the Police Department and live in fear of the police as well as of criminals. Collaboration between the department and the community has not met community expectations.” In addition, Batts said the department “is clearly under-resourced given the level of crime in Oakland and the demand for police services” and the morale of his personnel “is very low.” He said his strategic plan will require substantial change in the department, including change in its direction and priorities as well as its
organization and culture. Batts said that compared to crime rates in other cities across the country, “Our rate is higher, not by a little, but by a lot.” However, he said his department has had some success recently, mentioning that the city’s crime rate has dropped 27 percent in the last year. According to FBI statistics, Oakland had 984 violent crimes per 50,000 people in 2008, compared to 499 in Sacramento, 422 in San Francisco, 338 in Long Beach, 292 in Fresno, 238 in San Diego and 192 in San Jose. Batts said, “We’re not even close to San Jose,” but that he wants to be close to the levels in San Diego and San Jose by 2015. The chief said he’s increasing the police presence on Oakland’s
streets by moving 30 staff members from the headquarters office into the field full-time and having administrative staff work on patrol one day a week. Batts said he’s also beefing up the department’s public information staff to improve the news media’s access to the department.”We’ve done a terrible job of showing the public the good work we do,” Batts said. He said that although his department has many problems and it won’t be easy to achieve his ambitious goals, he’s confident that there will be significant improvement. “The city is on the precipice of change and everybody is cheering for the city of Oakland,” Batts said.
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