11
Nov
09

What To Ask Chief Batts, Hills Edition

As Oakland Police Chief Tony Batts continues his inaugural Tour de Oakland, he plans to make a pit-stop in the hills.  He’s scheduled a Montera Middle School (555 Ascot Drive, map) appearance this Thursday, with refreshments at 6:30pm and the meeting at 7:00pm.

At this introductory event, you’ll have an opportunity to hear him live – and should have time to bring up your safety concerns too.  Although you might ask about the “same old stuff,” remember that Montclair and Oakland Hills matters are new for Batts.  Questions about burglaries and thefts bear repeating!

Welcome Oakland Police Dept

Everyone’s already learned what Chief Batts achieved in Long Beach, to reduce crime levels.  Recently a Long Beacher also described Batts as a fearless leader, and here’s a snippet:

Having worked for Chief Batts, I can say that if anyone is interested in being an agent of change in the City of Oakland, then you have finally found a true ally.  He will make you take a stand, get involved or get out of the way and he shares power willingly.

The downside is, most people are afraid to admit they are afraid to change, being comfortable with the status quo and in all likelihood will find a less sympathetic ear for doing nothing.

The first 6-12 months with the Chief are NO JOKE.  He will look for those who want to lead from the front, take appropriate risks and do the face to face thing with everyday people as well as the so called ‘leaders.’

[He’s] a guy who acknowledged that you can’t arrest your way out of every situation.   I can say that Chief Batts will not fail Oakland and, with any effort at all, Oakland won’t fail him.

Tony Batts is not a messiah, but at least we can expect changes…and that’s a good thing.  We have heard all kinds of positive rhetoric, but are looking forward to additional responsiveness and support by Oakland Police.

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2 Responses to “What To Ask Chief Batts, Hills Edition”


  1. 1 Andy K
    November 13, 2009 at 8:51 am

    Sorry I missed this one. So far the reports on Batts are good – he is saying the right things. This might be the one thing Dellums got right.

  2. 2 Sandra Pohutsky
    November 13, 2009 at 3:17 pm

    I had an extraordinary experience last night. The new Oakland Police Chief, Anthony Batts, spoke to a group of about 130 people in a Montclair School. I stopped my tears before they ran down my cheek and decided there was absolutely nothing to ask him; just sit back and wait for him to do his job.

    He spoke without a microphone for an hour, quickly, eloquently, pacing. I don’t know which “part” of him seemed dominant – intelligence, experience, determination or heart.

    He had eight more months before he retired as Long Beach police chief. He agreed to be on the committee that was searching for the new Oakland police chief. Soon they asked him to interview for the Oakland chief position but he was ready to retire. Then, the March 21st deaths of four Oakland officers…. Batts came to Oakland to attend the funeral and began to think seriously about being the chief. It was the officers he met and …. sorry, I cannot capture how he expressed himself.

    Before he accepted the job, he researched the history of the Oakland Police Department. He mentioned that Oakland cops were recruited from all across America before Oakland exploded in the mid 1960’s. He walked around different parts of town in jeans and a T-shirt, stopping people in the street to ask their opinion of Oakland and the OPD. Lots of stories here! He also went to the OPD headquarters and walked around, unchallenged, watching and listening to how the police do their jobs now. He noted the long waits when people call in with “Priority One” calls. “Unacceptable!” he said.

    He decided to accept the job of police chief when he attended the funeral of Officer Hoyle. He emailed his acceptance of the job “I want to help.”

    He met with Dellums and others, and was hired. Two hours after his formal acceptance and appointment, he was in his hotel room and got two phone messages from people in Long Beach saying that the White House wanted to talk with him on his personal line. The White House wanted Batts to apply for the position as head of the Drug Enforcement Administration, DEA. But he had just accepted a job and was honor-bound not to pursue the DEA appointment. He had started out as a “drug cop” so that appointment would have been spectacular.

    He said that Chief of the Oakland Police Department is known as the toughest police job in America. He turned Long Beach around and he is determined to turn Oakland around.

    One of his motto’s is “What would you do if failure wasn’t an option?”

    He said “The sheer volume of carnage (in Oakland) is ridiculous, absurd. This is a major city and no one is outraged. People just seem to accept it.”

    He recalled the names and faces of people who have recently been killed by stray bullets. He said one 22 year old woman, killed as she sat on her bed, looked like his daughter.

    He talked about growing up when people who looked like him were sprayed with fire hoses and attacked by dogs in the civil rights movement of the early 60s.

    He said “The greatest threat to civil rights today is a 13-year-old kid with a gun in his hand.”

    He said “The Police Department is the economic driver of a city. If there is negative news, no tourists, no conventions, no business development will come to the city.”

    He said he wants Oakland to be a city, not a group of neighborhoods – Montclair, West Oakland, etc. He said said we have to think and be a whole city. (Note from Sandra: I think separate city council districts leads to a dysfunctional city.)

    “Oakland is the hub for drugs. They come up from South America and Mexico to Oakland, and then are distributed in all directions across America.” Batts and the new SF Police Chief are old friends from childhood and are working together on fighting the drug distribution network in the Bay Area.”

    He has called on what seems to be his huge group of friends in universities, foundations, FBI, CHP and other police departments to decide what needs to be done in the OPD. He has surveyed all the OPD officers and is interviewing all the command staff for ideas and to be sure they are the right person for the job they have now. Consultants report will be finished in January; there will probably be another public meeting in Montclair when the recommendations are available. He is willing to shake it all up. Based on facts, not opinions.

    If we will ever get a smoothly functioning police department, it is now. Batts wants to focus the OPD on the basic police work needed for a safe city.

    Batts said he is going to ask us for help. He wants one hour a week. One hour a week to talk with a kid. He said “I’m going to ask you to go to places you may not know, where you might not be comfortable, where no one looks like you. I want you to talk with a kid. One hour a week. It can make a huge difference to the kid. It’s their lives we are talking about!” I understand what he means, I don’t want to go outside our neighborhood but I will do it.


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