After many moons have come and gone, Oakland has finally attracted what appears to be a street-smart, book-smart police chief. Incoming Chief Anthony Batts held the top job in Long Beach, and the comparisons with Oakland are undeniable. For a motivated professional like Batts, why not move north and take on a new challenge?
We didn’t know what to think about Anthony Batts, and decided to view CBS5’s raw footage of the recent press confab. It helped to watch Batts give his prepared spiel and answer some questions off the cuff. You do get a sense of his warmth and seriousness, all in one package. And we believe this guy is a die-hard Raiders fan – his donning of the team cap is no act.
Chief Batts spent his formative years in Central LA. He saw what happened on the streets first-hand, and wondered if anyone cared about African-American kids like himself. To earn money for college and grad school, Batts joined the Long Beach police force – and stayed there for the past 27 years.
“I like to touch and feel,” explained Batts, who gets out of his Long Beach ivory tower by walking the streets and driving shotgun with beat officers too. He actually spent time wandering around Oakland incognito before taking the top cop position here, and asked folks near Lake Merritt how they felt about our police and prospects.
Mostly, Batts seems to take a page out of the playbook used by successful business executives. When the incoming chief talked about his approach, he said “the most important thing that I have done is put together a team and gotten out of the way.”
What Batts Plans To Do
Batts quickly ticked off his priorities for Oakland, which related to budgeting, crime rates, disconnects between police and other city workers, tactical capabilities and public trust. He challenged Oaklanders from the get-go: “If this community doesn’t want to make a difference [and is] more interested in fighting, dividing,” then he said there’s nothing much a chief could do.
He’s already familiar with the panoply of inner-city challenges here and mentioned dealing with gangs, prostitution, drugs and plain old violence. It sounds like Batts won’t create excuses for so-called intractable problems.
Even with a cash-strapped department, Betts doesn’t want Oaklanders to accept the bare minimum of police support. He firmly stated that cops must do more than appear when called. Not surprisingly, the new chief wants to rely on residents to communicate actively with cops, and prevent crimes that way.
Batts Believes In Community Power
Batts said he believes in community-oriented safety as well as governance. In Long Beach, he worked with 17 community groups directly, and focused on addressing the needs of African American, Latino, gay, affluent and impoverished residents. Something’s going right in Long Beach, as crime rates have dropped and are definitely lower than up here.
So we hope this newcomer, filled with intensity and clear-sighted direction, might be able to steer the Oakland ship differently – with a little help from his neighborhood friends. Speaking of which, we wonder if Batts will move to Montclair or live nearby.
Update: If you are in the public eye, then it helps to be squeaky clean these days. The Long Beach Beachcomer has written about domestic violence reports from 2002, which were related to Batts and his now-former wife, U.S. Congresswoman Laura Richardson. Not pretty, but it’s out in the open.