As you’ve undoubtedly heard by now, Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts is one of two finalists to be San Jose’s next top cop. The news that Batts applied to the San Jose job came as a surprise to Mayor Jean Quan, who learned of the chief’s application this past Friday. Should Batts take the job, he would leave less than halfway through the three-year, $255,000 contract given to him by former Mayor Ron Dellums in 2009.
There has been speculation that Batts’ decision to leave has a good deal to do with Jean Quan’s victory over Don Perata last November; others are taking it as a sign of Batts’ personal ambition and refusal to accept the reality of policing Oakland without the resources he wanted.
Regardless of Chief Batts’ future, there are a number of critical issues that the Oakland Police Department will have to deal with in the very immediate future.
- A spike in the crime rate. Although Oakland is currently in the midst of a four-year reduction in crime, there have been eight murders since January 1st, a stark contrast to the two homicides at this point in early 2010.
- Staffing. The police department is currently at 656 officers. Last year, the City Council said they could only afford to pay 637 officers in the current fiscal year. Since 2005, OPD has lost 349 officers.
- The Negotiated Settlement Agreement. Oakland has been under federal oversight since 2003, and there is a very real risk that this expensive arrangement will continue. At a status hearing last Fall, U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson expressed frustration with the slow pace of reforms and threatened to put the department into Federal receivership. The next status conference will be held in March, and independent auditor Robert Warshaw is expected to file his next quarterly report by the end of January.
- A protracted fight over Oakland’s gang injunction strategy. Last week the City Council bowed to the requests of activists and ordered a formal review of the efficacy of the North Oakland gang injunction. The proposed Fruitvale injunction will go back in front of Judge Robert Freedman on February 16th.