Police Chief Takes To The Airwaves

This morning, Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts appeared on KQED Forum, with Host Scott Shafer.  Some of this interview amplified what Batts has discussed at recent strategic plan meetings.  While the Chief pointed out the recent double-digit declines in crime, he didn’t sugar-coat the challenges ahead.

Plenty was covered in the radio interview, so we selected and interpreted these points of interest:

  • Priorities – The Police Department is going to staff to address the highest crime-ridden areas.  Everyone deserves to live in safe neighborhoods.   Hard to argue here, tough to achieve.
  • Beats Matter – Beat officers will be assigned to their beats, full time.  When there’s crime, they might leave their posts to attend to emergencies.   Local focus with some interruptions seems reasonable.
  • Volunteers – Like Long Beach, Oakland expects to develop a volunteer force in the hundreds.  We need to get things set up to manage these citizen volunteers.   What are incentives to work well?
  • Interface – When you want to report a crime, we won’t make it as tough to file as today.  It shouldn’t even require a visit to police station in the future.  This is something we have to fix.   Yes, doesn’t this all cost real money?
  • City Budget – There are obviously not enough cops on the street.  Our $35 million shortfall next year (2010-2011) is creating a challenge, to say the least.   To us, this is Everest challenge!

Finally, the honeymoon period is drawing to a close for Police Chief Batts.  We have the right leader in place, who signed up to the job knowing he would be jumping over many hurdles here.  He still approaches the role with plenty of focused energy.

If you haven’t been at any live meetings with the Chief, then we encourage you to listen to his archived interview now.

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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.

Waiting For Messiah, Tony Batts

I, Anthony Batts, solemnly swear or affirm, that I will support the Constitution of the United States, Constitution of the State of California, and Charter of the City of Oakland and, truly and to the best of my abilities, perform the duties of the office of the Chief of Police.

At tonight’s Oakland City Council meeting, Mayor Ron Dellums performed a ceremonial “swearing in” of Tony Batts.  His loved ones were there.  San Francisco’s Police Chief George Gascon showed up.  And a contingent of Batts’ Long Beach cops traipsed north for this ceremony.

Praying For Messiah

Of course, the City Council welcomed our new chief with open arms.  My favorite comment came from Council Rep Rebecca Kaplan, who was up first and declared that “we’re going to hold off on the swearing at you for as long as possible.”  Isn’t that great?

Other Council reps also shared their expectations, and were hopeful about what Chief Batts could accomplish in Oakland.  Here are a few curated points from their welcome statements:

  • My sense is that you will do really well.
  • This time next year…crime [will be] lower.
  • I will entrust in you, to build the confidence.
  • There’s a lot that’s on your shoulders, and we’re in good hands.
  • I can’t wait until you have rolled up your sleeves.
  • We’re counting on you.
  • You have a contract.  I believe you are up to the task.
  • We are one voice, and now it’s entirely up to you.
  • We all have very high hopes.
  • Take the department to the next level.

We know that Tony Batts brings some great experience from down south, and clearly took this job to “do good” for Oakland.  Let’s wait and see whether the new police chief really is the next coming of the Messiah!

Our Take On Incoming Chief Batts

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.

New Oakland Police Chief
Batts Comes From The Inner City

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.