Monday, July 7, 2014

Son of Measure Y Has Been Tweaked - But It Still Doesn't Work For Me

Dear Members of the City Council

I have now reviewed the most recent version of the language being proposed for the "new" Measure Y and it is insufficient in terms of accountability and the supposed staffing minimum.  

First, it does not actually require staffing of 700 officers as a precondition of collecting the tax.  Rather, it includes only the similar "budgeting/allocation" language from the original Measure Y, up until July 1, 2016.  As we already know, the City has routinely budgeted for OPD staffing well in excess of actual staffing for the past several years.  Police officers on paper only do not protect us.  For public safety to be real, we need actual officers on the streets.

In addition, the proposed language does not require staffing of 700 officers by a reasonable date.  The date inserted into the new measure is July 1, 2016.  That is two years from now.  It should not take two years to get us to 700 officers, particularly given that we were at 739 officers when Measure Y first passed, and given that we are at 646 now (still lower than when Mayor Quan was elected).  With over $20 million available under the new tax, there is no reason why staffing cannot and should not be at 700 by July 1, 2015 at the very latest.  


700 officers is far too low a number.  When we were initially asked to approve Measure Y in 2004, staffing stood at approximately 739; we were promised staffing at 803.  Most experts opine that Oakland needs closer to 900 or 1000 officers for full staffing.  At a minimum, the City should provide the same 739 we were promised under the original Measure Y as a precondition of collecting the tax.

Lastly, Oakland should not have to forever depend on special taxes for a police force that is still 200 officers lower than what the baseline should be.  There  needs to be a provision in the tax to wean the city off this tax, so that the City can fully fund a police force of at least 900 officers out of the general fund within 10 years.  Without this, you are going to be in the same situation in 10 years that you are in now - begging taxpayers weary of special taxes and  broken promises.  

In its current form, I cannot support the measure.  I request that you consider the changes I am proposing and give the taxpayers real and meaningful assurances of improved public safety and accountability.

Tuesday, June 24, 2014

My Letter to Oakland Officials on the New Measure Y

Dear Oakland Officials:

I have reviewed the language for the proposed "renewal" of Measure Y.  It is a grave disappointment.  Unless the language is seriously revised to include minimum staffing requirements and more and meaningful accountability, I will vigorously oppose the measure.  

Notably, the new proposed measure promises absolutely nothing.  Of course, one can understand why it promises nothing, given that the original Measure Y made numerous promises, and the City delivered on absolutely none of them.  Let's review just some of them:

1. No collection of the tax unless staffing was at least at 739 - promise broken.
2. Full staffing of police force at 803 - promise broken.
3. One problem solving officer for every beat - promise broken
4. Problem solving officer dedicated "solely" to the needs of the beat - promise broken
5. Annual audits - promise broken
6. Mentorship program through fire department - promise broken
7. Measure BB won't really lead to a disastrous drop in police staffing - promise broken
8. Measure Y will reduce crime - promise broken

The logic you appear to be following with your new proposal no doubt stems from these broken promises.  But the solution to broken promises should not be to promise nothing in the future, in exchange for the voters promising to give you more than $20 million a year.  The fact that you are promising nothing will not be lost on voters.  What you are asking for here, as in the last failed ballot measure (which lost 66% to 33%)  is a blank check.  Given the fact that you have already lost the voters' trust, the measure, as currently written, is doomed to fail.  Why would voters support a measure that promises absolutely nothing?  Why should voters trust you with a blank check given how irresponsible  the City has been with Measure Y funds in the past?  

It is not too late to revise the language to actually include specific staffing minimums.  Oakland needs a police force of at least 800 officers.  Meaningful language would guarantee supplementing our current staffing at an annual rate, with mandatory police academies, to ensure that full staffing is achieved by a date certain.  Without such language, you are free to do what you have already done in the past - waste the money on recruitment and training, only to lay off officers a year later.  

The reality is that voters have shelled out $200 million over the last 10 years, with promises of increased staffing and reduced crime.  The facts are clear - you wasted the money, and achieved none of the results.  You put a blank check ballot measure to the voters last time, and it failed miserably.  Please learn from your mistakes.

Monday, February 10, 2014

How Measure Y Continues to Fail: Most Recent Evaluation Report and My NCPC Experiences Highlight Ongoing Deficiencies in Community Policing

Long time, no blog.  The overall decline in police staffing and the rising crime rate have made monitoring Measure Y a depressing task for the past year, and I have been feeling particularly unmotivated.  But given the recent discussions about trying to reinstitute Measure Y in the fall, in some shape or form, I've been inspired to pick it up again.  Notably, for the past year I have been serving on the Steering Committee of my neighborhood crime prevention council (NCPC) and I must say, it has been an eye opening experience.  More on that later.

First though, I'd like to highlight some of the more glaring problems identified by the most recent Measure Y evaluation report.

Measure Y requires regular evaluations of the programs funded, including community policing.  The most recent report was released last month, and highlights numerous and ongoing problems with the community policing program, as it now exists.  Below is a list I have prepared with the most significant problems highlighted by the report; in bold is language from the 2004 voter information pamphlet to help illustrate the promise, and the reality, of Measure Y.

* Little or no coverage for absent PSOs on extended leaves
* PSOs being pulled away from their beats "frequently" to perform other duties
*  1/3 turnover of Measure Y positions, disrupting relationships
* Significant number of PSOs off their beats due to extended leaves and/or specialized assignments/training

Text of Measure Y:  . Neighborhood beat officers: each community policing beat shall have at least one neighborhood officer assigned solely to serve the residents of that beat to provide consistent contact and familiarity between residents and officers, continuity in problem solving and basic availability of police response in each neighborhood;


*  Reduction from 57 to 35 (larger)  beats, resulting in heavier workload for PSOs
* Having only one PSO per beat is insufficient and PSOs receive insufficient resources and support

Language from City Attorney's "impartial" analysis:   Revenue will be expended only...To hire 63 new sworn police officers, including at least one officer for each existing community policing beat

From "Argument in favor:"  Measure Y will decrease violent crime by adding at least one community policing officer in each neighborhood beat

From "Argument in Favor:"  Measure Y will decrease violent crime by adding at least one community policing officer in each neighborhood beat

*  Insufficient overall police staffing  (currently at approximately 625)

From text of Measure Y:  No tax authorized by this Ordinance may be collected in any year that the appropriation for staffing of sworn uniformed police officers is at a level lower than the amount necessary to maintain the number of uniformed officers employed by the City of Oakland for the fiscal year 2003- 2004 (739)  

From Summary prepared by City Attorney:   The permitted uses of the revenue are community and neighborhood policing (hiring and maintaining an additional 63 police officers above the currently budgeted 739 officers), 


*  Reduced/insufficient training in SARA database/project monitoring
* Inaccurate data produced by SARA ("Scanning, Analysis, Response, Alignment) database, IT bugs. lack of accountability protocols, failure to monitor opening and closing of projects, failure to assess goals, inadequate detail provided
*  Projects can remain open for two years or more with no closure
* PSOs are failing to set specific, measurable, attainable, realistic and time specific goals

From City Attorney's "Impartial Analysis:  This measure also requires an annual independent audit and establishes a "Violence Prevention and Public Safety Oversight Committee" to review the annual audits, evaluate the effectiveness of the programs, and make recommendations to the Mayor and City Council regarding regulations.

From Argument in Favor:  Measure Y includes strict....performance reviews of police and violence prevention programs. An annual, independent audit will be performed to ensure fiscal 
accountability

Notably, the authors of the evaluation report (who have their own political agenda, by the way) have presented at previous community events specifically advocating for the renewal of some form of Measure Y, and use this report to advocate for specific changes, such as allowing OPD to deploy officers to more crime-ridden areas.  Since I live in a somewhat less crime ridden part (despite the recent home invasion and shooting of an 81 year old woman in the middle of the day a block away from me), that means my neighborhood could receive even fewer resources than we have now.  No way am I going to vote for that.

The report goes on to note that OPD requires PSOs to regularly attend NCPC meeting and develop relationships with residents and other stakeholders.  I can tell you that this has not been happening in our neighborhood.  Our PSO never came to meetings last year because they were on his night off.  He regularly didn't respond to our emails.  He didn't seem to coordinate with anybody.  When we asked him for updates on SARA projects, we got no response.  Despite a formal request for quarterly reports to be presented to the community, with detailed information, from him and his superiors, what we got was a bunch of vague pablum and blah blah blah.

Not surprisingly, a survey of NCPC members disseminated in the spring of 2013  revealed that many community members did not know how to contact their PSO, most did not attend NCPC meetings, and few felt that being part of an NCPC gave them a voice in local crime fighting priorities.  Two thirds felt that their neighborhood had gotten more dangerous during the past year.

There were many failures of community policing that the report completely failed to mention, such as the following:

* Lack of sufficient police cars to enable officers to do their jobs;
* PSOs being forced to team up with officers in non-contiguous beats, making them spend even more time away from their beats
* Total overall staffing of OPD down to approximately 625 officers
* Overall crime rate increasing in 2012/13

Effective community policing?  I think not.  Ten years after we voted for Measure Y, our police force is down more than 100 officers from what we had in 2004, crime is up, public confidence is down, and community policing lacks sufficient resources, oversight, accountability, or staffing to be meaningful.  What a disappointment.


Saturday, September 21, 2013

Quan Lies About Police Staffing Number To Hide Her Abysmal Performance On Public Safety

Last Tuesday, City officials hosted a press conference to brag about a recently received $4.5 million federal COPS grant.  Notably, the grant awarded was significantly less than what the City has received in the past, and Oakland needs more officers now more than ever.  Staffing is currently at an embarrassing 611 officers, and crime continues to soar.

But Quan tried to hide the fact that the police force is dwindling at an alarming rate by claiming that when she became mayor, "we had less than 600 officers."  No doubt she made this claim to try to deceive the public into thinking that under her watch, the size of the force expanded.  However, she lied, because City records show that when she took office, Oakland had 656 officers.  She was off by a staggering 10%!  Worse yet, when confronted by the inaccuracy of her claims, she "stood by her statement," according to the Tribune story that exposed the issue.   http://www.mercurynews.com/breaking-news/ci_24116797/feds-pay-10-oakland-cop-jobs

You would hope that a Mayor who proclaims public safety to be her highest priority, and goes begging in Washington to pay for more police, should have a handle on where police staffing stood when she took over, and where it stands now.  So either she is hopelessly ignorant, a blatant liar, or both.  In any event, there is simply no excuse for what happened on Tuesday.

If you want a handy reference guide for for some important police staffing numbers and crime statistics since Measure Y first went into effect, I happen to have just put those together for a recent presentation I did for MGO last week.  (I was speaking on the topic of "Should Measure Y Be Renewed?" and I had plenty to say on the topic).  So here they are.  Mayor Quan, feast your eyes on the facts.

Police Staffing
*             As of Spring, 2006, there were no Measure Y PSOs - all officers had been redeployed to patrol.
*             By December 2006, only 16 PSO positions were filled
*             Violent crime spiked 20.8 % between 2005 and 2006
*             By May, 2007, police force stood at approximately 712, 91 officers below authorized strength, and well below the 739 baseline from 2004.
*             By June 2007, still only 16 PSO positions had been filled. 
*             In 2007, there were 120 murders, the second highest in 12 years.
*             By January 2008, force stood at 714 officers, and only 1/2 of the PSO positions had been filled.
*             By September, 2008, only 49 PSO positions had been filled
*             As of December, 2008 (date my brief #1 was filed) still 8 vacant PSO positions, and none of the truancy abatement, school resource officer or crime reduction team positions had been filled. 
*             After my lawsuit, finally got police force up to over 803, and it has been falling ever since
*             By July, 2009, size had dropped to 799
*             By March, 2010, down to 770
*             Number of PSOs cut in half - now one for every two beats, not one for every beat
*             November, 2010, City placed Measure BB on the ballot to eliminate the 739 minimum appropriation requirement
*             July 2010 - 80 police officers laid off
*             By the end of December, 2010, when Jean Quan took over - staffing at 658
*             By September, 2011, staffing at 656
*             June 2012, staffing down to 646
*             Today, it stands at 611 - nearly 200 officers LESS than what we were promised

Crime

*             2011 - Oakland had more violent crime than any other City in California

*             Between 2011-2012, violent crime up 20% - nearly twice the increases of SF and San Jose; property crimes up 26%!

*             2012 - Oakland 4th most dangerous City in America

*             FBI Crime Charts

2006      2007    2008    2009    2010   2011   2012
7599      7605   7905     6793    6267   6652   7962
24344  23664  21488  20173   17325 20904  26342

(Line 1:  Violent Crime; Line 2:  Property Crime)

Conclusion - for 2012 crime was the worst it has ever been since the passage of Measure Y .





Thursday, August 29, 2013

Measure Y Oversight Committee Inappropriately Meets To Brainstorm "Son of Measure Y"

Dear Oakland Officials:

I just reviewed the agenda for your upcoming "retreat" on September 4, 2013 where you will be discussing options for what should be included in a potential successor to Measure Y, which expires at the end of 2014.  I am writing to advise you that this discussion is inappropriate and is an improper use of City time and resources for political activities.

While the City has the option of drafting a new measure to replace Measure Y next year, to date, no formal discussions or actions on that topic have been scheduled.  To date, I am unaware of any public official who has asked for the opinion or input of the Measure Y Oversight Committee regarding Measure Y's successes and failures.  According to the Measure Y website,  your stated purpose is to "oversee the proper administration of the revenue collection and spending, and the implementation of the programs funded through Measure Y revenue."  It is neither your function nor your place to spend City time and resources trying to brainstorm what a replacement to Measure Y should include.  Any discussion on such topics is outside your jurisdiction and would be considered in political activity - i.e. advocating for the drafting and passage of a new measure.  (Nowhere in the agenda is there any room for discussion on the option of not renewing Measure Y, further supporting the impression that this meeting is inappropriately political.)

Based on the proposed agenda, I think we can all agree that Measure Y has been a huge failure. .  It took many years and litigation  for the PSO positions to actually get filled.  Shortly after they were filled, the number of PSOs was cut in half.  Now, PSOs are in charge of ridiculously large beats and are not sufficiently responsive to the community.  The police staffing minimum was then eliminated, resulting in the size of the police force drastically shrinking, when the main purpose of Measure Y was to increase the size of the force to 803.  The violence prevention programs have minimal to no measurable outcomes.  Violence in Oakland has dramatically increased in the years since Measure Y was adopted, contrary to its intent.  The proof, Oakland officials, is in the pudding.  

Notably, if your committee had spent more time and effort actually ensuring that the commitments of Measure Y were fulfilled, Measure Y would not have been such a dismal failure.  You share in the blame for Measure Y's failures.  But Measure Y still has 1 1/2 years to go, and there are still many things you can do to try to redeem yourselves and improve accountability.  Instead, you are choosing to waste your time and City resources engaging in what I consider to be overtly political activity - brainstorming how to come up with a replacement "Measure Y."  Again, you have no business engaging in such a discussion and I urge you to cancel the meeting, or modify the agenda to include a discussion of topics that are actually within your purview.

Marleen L. Sacks 

Tuesday, May 14, 2013

Highlights of New Bratton Report

Last week, The Bratton Group released a short (less than six pages) report highlighting many of the deficiencies in how OPD is currently staffed and organized.  Of particular note was the fact that there was only half an investigator assigned to more than 10,000 burglaries in 2012, and in essence, burglaries in Oakland were not even being investigated.  http://www.contracostatimes.com/breaking-news/ci_23208477/oakland-consultants-propose-overhauling-opd-crime-investigations

http://blogs.kqed.org/newsfix/2013/05/09/bratton-report-findings/

I've now read the full report, that was released a day or two ago.  I am seriously hoping that we are going to get more for our $250,000 than the two brief reports that have been produced in the last four months.  Nevertheless, in my opinion, here are some of the highlights of the recent report, which you can find in its totality here http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/police/documents/webcontent/oak041034.pdf:

"The single investigator assigned to burglary does not even work at this task full time, and given the roughly 13,000 burglaries in the city in 2012, this investigator would have no hope of investigating even a small fraction of them.  Burglaries, in effect, are not investigated in the City of Oakland.  Yet burglaries are the most invasive and violating of property crimes because most people regard the safety of their home as a critically important part of their sense of wellbeing.  As will be discussed further below, under the heading "investigating Cases and Managing Evidence," OPD evidence technicians have processed hundreds of burglary scenes and recovered prints that may be of value at many of them, yet there is currently no concerted effort to use this evidence to identify pattern burglars active throughout the city."

"An evidence tech interviewed by the Bratton Group team estimated that he alone responds to 200 to 300 burglaries a year and finds prints of apparent value in many cases.  Most of these prints are never examined or entered into the Automated Fingerprint Identification System (AFIS) which might be able to provide matches with previously arrested persons....in several pilot programs in which fingerprints taken at burglary scenes were entered to AFIS, the system yielded matches in approximately half the cases.  There is, therefore, a significant body of evidence in burglary incidents that is going unused.  ...The Bratton Group team recommends a new protocol for prioritizing AFIS comparisons for latent prints lifted at burglary scenes, DIU sergeants and their respective burglary investigators would identify cases in which prints of possible value have been found, in which identifiable property has been stolen, and/or in which links have been established ...to a pattern of other burglaries. ...Given the scale of the burglary problem in Oakland, the Department should consider hiring one or two additional fingerprint analysts to work exclusively or primarily on burglary prints so this rich source of evidence and investigative leads can be effectively tapped."

"...a good deal of time and energy is being wasted by technicians to process scenes that will never be further investigated or to process scenes of less importance instead of scenes where physical evidence might be of greater use...."

"It is clear that the incidence of all of these crimes has risen steeply since 2010, as police staffing has declined by almost 25%.  At 126 incidents in 2012, homicides are up 24 percent since 2011 and up 40 percent since 2010.  The homicide rate per 100,000 of population is 31, more than five times higher than the national average and more than four times the average in other California cities.  Robberies have risen from about 3,000 to more than 3700, and burglaries have risen from few than 8,000 to about 10,500"

"As noted in The Bratton Group's first report, homicides, robberies and burglaries have all risen steeply since 2010, and these surges probably are not unrelated to a parallel decline in sowrn personnel since 2009.  In seems clear that, with the current staffing and current configurations in investigations, robberies and burglaries are not being adequately investigated."

Monday, February 11, 2013

Robert Wasserman as Crime Consultant - No New Ideas and a Huge Disappointment

Yesterday afternoon I attended a presentation by Robert Wasserman, the consultant the City is paying $250,000 plus for ideas on reducing crime.  After hearing the presentation, I was not impressed.  For the most part, it was nothing but a big PR event, complete with a full complement of City staffers (Quan, Santana, Chief Jordan, Karen Boyd, police PR professionals, and a couple of council members).  Basically, it was an opportunity for the City and its hired guns to say, “look, we’re not doing nothing about crime!”  No, they’re not doing nothing.  They’re rearranging the deck chairs on the Titanic – again.

Wasserman’s speech focused on “problem solving,” “community policing,” “community engagement,” and “Neighborhood Watch.”  These ideas are not new.  We’ve had them in Oakland for years.  Wasserman claimed, “the time is now.”  Somebody needs to tell him that the time was “now” for putting a stop to Oakland’s unacceptable crime a long time ago.  It was certainly “now” back in 2004, when voters approved Measure Y.  It’s not like we didn’t have a plan back then.  We did.  It was to pour $20 million a year into violence prevention programs, and to hire 63 new officers to increase staffing to 803, and give every beat its own “problem solving/community policing” officer.  We were told that if we approved the plan, crime would go down.  We liked the plan, and we voted for it.  Then, as usual, the City didn’t follow through.  We got the promised staffing for less than 6 months.  For that brief period, lo and behold, crime actually did go down.  But then the City laid off 80 officers, refused to hold new police academies, and allowed staffing to sink to the approximately 610 officers we have now.  To add insult to injury, the number of problem solving officers was cut in half.  Surprise, surprise, crime skyrocketed. 

So how can Wasserman, or any of the City officials sitting there with their eyes glazed over, really believe he is proposing anything new?  He’s not.  Worse yet, he barely even acknowledged the tremendous understaffing issues.  He mentioned that the biggest targets for residential burglaries are houses that were just burglarized not long ago, because the bad guys know there’s a nice brand new TV in there.  So he was proposing intense surveillance of recently burglarized houses.  Oh really?  Where are the resources for that going to come from?  Our current force doesn’t even have time to respond to 911 calls, let alone do surveillance. 

Even though Wasserman emphasized the need for “community involvement” at every opportunity, neither he nor the City officials present appeared to be that interested in actually hearing input from the audience.  Dozens of people filled out question cards, and others wanted an opportunity to ask questions verbally.  But Quan monopolized most of the limited time left bloviating about her great relationship with the “White House” and name dropping other federal officials.  Most people left with their questions unanswered, and little if any detail on what type of changes might actually be in store.  What a disappointment. 
  

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

City Attorney's Office Refuses To Disclose Legal Fees on Jeff Baker Lawsuit


Last month, I did a public records request to find out how much in legal fees the Jeff Baker lawsuit has cost Oakland so far.  Since the lawsuit was filed in March, 2012, I would have expected to receive 10 months of (redacted) legal bills.  Instead, I got two.  And for those two months, the total amount billed was nearly $42,000.  Yup, that's right, $42,000 in legal fees for two months of legal services on a lawsuit that should have been been thrown out at the outset.  And Oakland is refusing to provide any additional information.

What's strange about the bills is that one is for services through June 30 ($27,040) and the other is for services through July 31 ($14,815).  I would have expected to see bills for April and May, as well as the months thereafter.  But none were produced.  What was also strange about the bills was that one invoice was issued on October 29, 2012, the other on November 5, 2012.  That's only a week apart, and months after the services were incurred.

As an employment lawyer who works for a law firm, not unlike the law firm representing the City in the Jeff Baker lawsuit (Sheppard Mullin), I know how law firms bill.  They bill promptly, and they bill every month.  They don't sit on billings and wait six months to send out an invoice.  They don't forget to bill for two months.  That just doesn't happen.  So if a law firm performs services in June, the client gets the invoice in July, for the services performed in June.  That's how it works.  It is simply not believable that in January, 2013, the City can legitimately claim it has only two months worth of invoices.

In order to clarify the issues, I advised the City, and asked for the dates of the billings, to see if perhaps the bills covered more than one month (which would be strange).  The dates of the billing should not be attorney-client privileged information.  But the City is refusing to provide this most basic, non-confidential information, claiming "attorney work product."  A commitment to transparency?  I think not.

Notably, a client cannot adequately supervise the legal work being performed unless bills are received and reviewed promptly.  For example, if the law firm has billed $100,000 on this case, but the City is only aware of $42,000 in billings, because that's all they've been invoiced so far, the City Attorney's office is not doing its job.  A supervising attorney should be monitoring both the work being done on the case and the bills monthly, in order to ensure the case is being handled correctly.  This clearly isn't happening here.  I've asked to speak to the supervising attorney about the matter, and have gotten no response.  In fact, nobody has even told me who the supervising attorney is.  Maybe because there is none?

Once again, Oakland demonstrates its lack of transparency, ineptitude, and disinterest in making any improvements.

Sunday, January 20, 2013

On Tuesday's Upcoming Council Meeting, And How Things Got So Bad


Dear Oakland Officials:

I've recently received robocalls, expensive mailers, and emails encouraging me and like-minded voters to attend Tuesday's City Council meeting to support some minor public safety measures.  While the measures call for funding an additional police academy, some outside resources and a new  consultant, the proposals are unlikely to make a significant, long-term dent in Oakland's shocking crime numbers, because they do not sufficiently expand the number of officers employed.

I will not be at the Council meeting on Tuesday.  I will not be there to beg for these basic, minor improvements to a tragic situation that you yourselves have helped to create.  If you had just done your jobs and followed the mandates of Measure Y, none of this would have ever been necessary.  If you had not foolishly placed Measure BB on the ballot, and pushed it through, there would never have been a risk of the police force actually dropping to zero.  (And for those of you new to the Council, you are not blameless, given your stated positions on Measure Y and your failure to acknowledge the past failures).

In 2004, Oakland officials put Measure Y on the ballot. Jean Quan, then a City Councilmember, “guaranteed“ that Measure Y would give us 63 additional officers, for a total of 802, for 10 years. Quan was quoted by the Oakland Tribune at the time: “…the money raised by Measure Y will be used to expand the department to 802 officers…All of us have to run for re-election – none of us would break such an obvious promise.“  Today, our police force stands at 613 officers.  Murders and other violent crime are skyrocketing.  You are all to blame not complying with the legal mandates of Measure Y.

In 2010, Oakland officials placed Measure BB on the ballot, eliminating the minimum funding requirements for police, and you made matters even worse.  Proponents of the measure claimed it would make Oakland "safer."  http://www.smartvoter.org/2010/11/02/ca/alm/meas/BB/  I, on the other hand, warned that if the measure passed, there was nothing to prevent the City from allowing the police force to drop even further, causing crime to increase.  Looks like I was right.   By the way, the rising crime rate is just the tip of the iceberg as far as negative consequences go.  With a police force 200 officers less than what was promised, and a string of broken promises, the City doesn't have a snowball's chance in hell of renewing Measure Y, costing it $200 million in lost revenue for the future.

The idea of having to beg citizens to beg the Council to fund police academies that won't even allow us to keep up with attrition is ridiculous and insulting.  Approving funding of police academies to provide citizens with basic services is the most elemental function of your position.  We should not have to beg for it.   And it could all have been prevented if you had just followed the law as it was originally written, and not tried to con the voters into passing Measure BB.

I will also not be at the meeting to "fill the seats" and "set the tone," as advocated by Ms. Kernighan.  http://pastebin.com/B4BR6w8Z  I support the measures.  You already know that.  But it is not our job to help you maintain order at Council meetings.  That is YOUR job.  You should not be asking citizens to subject themselves to harassment, bullying, intimidation, threats, insults cat calls and the general abuse that has been pervading these meetings.  [For a summary of the mayhem that has been going on, see the following: ]
http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Public-uproar-at-Oakland-Council-meeting-4197323.php
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Oakland-council-copes-with-rowdy-protesters-4208443.php
http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/johnson/article/Ideals-don-t-mean-giving-up-common-sense-4203807.php
 http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/johnson/article/Oakland-council-can-t-control-meetings-3882348.php

http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/johnson/article/Oakland-s-chance-at-City-Council-makeover-3991836.php

Pat - as Council President, what are you going to do to protect speakers?  Simply "asking" the police to "escort" the hecklers out of the room is clearly insufficient.  What has the Council itself done to set the tone this type of abusive, intimidating and disrespectful behavior will not be tolerated?  Why not open the meeting with a public statement that each and every Council member will not tolerate this type of behavior?  And when you say "will not tolerate," you need to mean it.  You need to actually impose serious consequences on the offenders, just like any parent, teacher or other authority figure should have learned long ago.  Empty threats make matters even worse, because everybody knows you have no credibility.  Arrests.  Convictions.  Restraining orders prohibiting them from coming to Council meetings in the future.  That's what's necessary here.

In order to truly put an end to this sort of abusive conduct, however, the real consequence needs to be that the bullies will not get what they want.  Complimenting them for their "passion" and for speaking on behalf of the "community" is precisely the wrong message.  And yet, that's the message that was delivered by Mr. Kalb and Ms. McElhaney at the end of the last meeting.

Good luck.  I'll be watching on KTOP.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Measure Y Violations Revealed, Ceasefire Funding, and A Revisit of Measure BB


Tonight, the Public Safety Committee approved $150,000 of Measure Y funding for a Project Ceasefire manager.  Now, I don't know a lot about Ceasefire, I will admit.  A lot of people seem to think it could be an important tool in fighting crime.  However, I cynically suspect that Ceasefire gets a lot of support because (a) City folks can claim they're trying something new; (b) it doesn't cost nearly as much as hiring more police; and (c) it doesn't involve Oakland "arresting" its way  out of the problem.

Under the original wording of Measure Y, using Measure Y funds for this purpose would never have been permitted.  That's because Measure Y violence prevention money  could only be used for four specific purposes.  But then the City conned Oakland voters into supporting Measure BB, which basically gave the City carte blanche on how to spend these funds.  So let's pay attention to how this Project Ceasefire plan works out.

Also at the Public Safety Committee meeting tonight, Measure Y Oversight Committee member Ryan Hunter revealed that the MYOC had uncovered that the Oakland Fire department mentorship program (gasp!) never existed!  You heard that right - a program that was guaranteed to be funded by Measure Y has, seven years later, never been instituted!  Now, this did not go unnoticed by me.  In fact, I did a public records request on this topic years back and revealed, by the absence of records, that the program didn't exist.  But the City continued to claim that it did, citing annual "open houses" at various fire houses.  Oh, give me a break.  But even after I brought the complete absence of such a program to light, the City STILL never created it.  And, to make matters work, they defended this legal violation by simply denying that there was a violation.  Now, finally, the City appears to realize that a promised program was never delivered.  Whether or not they'll actually do anything about it remains to be seen.  But given all of the "oversight" Measure Y was supposed to have, with outside evaluators, oversight committees and whatnot, it is appalling that this situation has been allowed to continue for SEVEN YEARS without any attention.  Other than the attention I gave it, which was ignored.

Lastly, since the Ceasefire funding issue made me think about Measure BB, I decided to revisit the language of the measure and what was promised to convince voters to support it.  (Notably, nobody, unless they had read the entire measure, would have had any notice of the changes that will allow Measure Y funds to be used for such projects as Ceasefire.)

 The introductory verbiage of Measure BB provided:  "To restore community police officer positions...."   The Argument in Support of Measure BB reads:  "Measure BB simply suspends the minimum police staffing requirement so that the City can fund the 63 community policing positions...Measure Y has demonstrated clear results, with crime declining consecutively for 3 years.."  Well, the community policing positions weren't restored.  We were promised one community policing officer per beat - 57 PSOs.  Since passage of Measure BB, the number of PSOs has been cut in half.  And crime has soared, contrary to the rosy statements in the City's arguments.

In my argument against Measure BB, I warned that passage of the Measure would allow the City to continue collecting Measure Y taxes and allow the size of the police force to drop even more, and not hold regular academies.  Unfortunately, history has proved me right.

Monday, October 1, 2012

New City Council Candidates On Successes and Failures of Measure Y

As you are hopefully aware, there are lots of people running for vacant and non-vacant City Council seats this election season. Make Oakland Better Now submitted a survey to all the candidates to give them an opportunity to explain their positions on several important issues facing the City. One of the questions posed was as follows: "Measure Y expires at the end of 2014. Has it worked? Will you vote to renew it? What changes, if any, would you like to see if it’s renewed?" You can check out all of the candidates' responses to the questions here: http://makeoaklandbetternow.org/Default.aspx Here's my take on how some of the main contenders responded:

Ignacio De La Fuente - At Large: Grade - D. De La Fuente says that he thinks "Measure Y has worked, to some degree..." He acknowledges that "it is unfortunate that the measure Y funding process has become such a political game that has resulted in the continued funding of organizations that are not delivering the outcomes they promised." However, he claims that the community policing aspect of Measure Y has worked, without acknowledging two critical failures: we got the 803 officers promised for less than 6 months out of the 10 years promised; and the number of beats currently being staffed has been cut in half. Without acknowledging these two appalling failures, I cannot trust that Mr. De La Fuente will do what is necessary in the coming term. He is also incredibly vague on the conditions that would need to be in place before voting to renew it, stating: "I would vote to renew measure Y but only with a strong revision to the accountability and oversight of any new measure that is crafted."

Rebecca Kaplan - At large: Grade - B. Kaplan acknowledges at least some of Measure Y's implementation failures. She specifically acknowledges that the goal of the voters in 2004 was to expand the force to 803 officers, and that when we got the promised staffing (finally), crime went down. She points out that De La Fuente voted for police layoffs, and she didn't. She also notes that in order to support a Measure Y renewal, she would recommend "more specific and
enforceable deployment requirements," as well as an end to the exemption for vacant properties, and strengthening accountability provisions. While she doesn't acknowledge the three lawsuits, the failure to give each beat their own PSO, or the political game in doling out violence prevention funds, her acknowledging the staffing problems gives her far more credibility than her opponent here.

Lynette Gibson-McElhaney - District 3: Grade -D. Her response to the question is so vague and meaningless that it is evident that she knows virtually nothing about Measure Y, its intentions, or its failures. Her response is basically, "blah, blah blah."

Sean Sullivan - District 3: Grade - C+. Sullivan acknowledges that "Measure Y has been undermined by bureaucracy, cronyism and lack of leadership from the city council." However, his focus (as expected) is on the violence-prevention aspect of Measure Y, and faults Measure Y for not having a "jobs" aspect. Sorry, but Measure Y is already about too many things, and adding a jobs component would just detract from what I think the focus should be - increased police staffing. While he acknolwedges that police staffing should be addressed, he doesn't emphasize the need for guaranteed increased staffing, nor does he acknowledge the clear connection between increased staffing and reduced crime. Kudos to Sullivan for acknowledging that "passage of another Measure Y is greatly in doubt under the shadow of the lies, promise breaking of Measure BB and administration of the program by someone ill qualified for the job." (Sullivan is clearly referring to the recent scandal uncovered by the Oakland Tribune regarding Jeff Baker).

Alex Miller-Cole - District 3: Grade - F. I don't know who this guy is but he seems to know next to nothing about Measure Y. Here's his response, which says it all: " I feel that with better accountability and oversight, Measure Y could have a greater impact on Oakland’s citizens. If the appropriate changes were made in those areas, I would vote to renew it. As council member, I would push for an improvement in accountability and oversight. Measurable outcomes with independent
verification must be integrated into whatever succeeds Measure Y."

Larry Lionel Young Jr. - District 3: Grade - F. First, this guy's lack of literacy skills is apparent. He can barely put a coherent sentence together. Next, his priority appears to be the "hire Oakland first" policy (i.e. priority for hiring officers who live in Oakland, although he doesn't bother to explain that). Apparently Mr. Young doesn't know that residency requirements are illegal in California, and I hardly think even a "preference" would pass legal muster, let alone have any impact on crime. His stunning moment of insight is that "the parcel tax should represent the parcel that is being taxed, this way taxes can be proper and fair according to the personal asset." Huh? Then he tries (unsuccessfully) to explain that the tax should be based on assessed value, which of course is not authorized under existing law regarding parcel taxes.

Derrick Muhammed - District 3: Grade - F-. Here's why: " I believe it has worked. I will vote to renew."

Dan Kalb - District 1: Grade - D. Kalb once referred to me as a "Tea Partier," so I have never been a fan. But that aside, it is evident that Kalb is likely to endorse renewal of Measure Y no matter what. While acknowledging it hasn't "met expectations," he doesn't squarely deal with its obvious failures. He says he will "lead" the campaign to renew Measure Y, and only wants the following changes: "Reduce the fire department’s portion by $500,000....Put more emphasis on effective anti-recidivism program.... Hire evaluators who take the job of evaluation seriously and are not afraid to be critical....Increase the per parcel assessment from $90 to somewhere between $105 and $110." He says nothing about otherwise improving accountability for violence prevention programs, or, more importantly, assuring an overall increase in police staffing, which was always one of the main goals.

Len Raphael - District 1: Grade - B-. Len worked with me on the campaign to defeat Measure I, the most recent new parcel tax, so he knows the background and his heart and brain are in the right place. Most importantly, he acknowledges Measure Y's abysmal failures front and center, stating: "Measure Y has failed in every respect: violence has not decreased and we do not have the mandated
number of problem solving officers." He also notes that the violence prevention programs are "patronage vehicles," which is true. However, his focus is on the RDA evaluation report, which nobody knows about, and which focused primarily on violence prevention programs, not police staffing issues. He also focuses on evaluations and data-driven programs, which is just more "blah blah blah." What we really need is guaranteed additional staffing, and Len unfortunately does not address this. Lastly, he doesn't address the question of under what circumstances he would approve a renewal of Measure Y.

Amy Lemley - District 1: Grade - D. Lemley starts out by acknowledging that Measure Y has not worked as promised, but then goes on to demonstrate her manifest ignorance of Measure BB, which took away the mandate that the City "appropriate" enough funds for staffing 739 officers. Lemley seems not to even know that Measure BB passed! Also, her estimate on how much of the funding goes to OPD is off by a couple million dollars. However, what's a few million dollars to candidates for Oakland City Council? Lemley states she will make renewal of a "reformed" Measure Y part of her campaign, but doesn't say specifically what changes are necessary, other than the changes made by Measure BB, which she seems to be unaware of.

Don Link - District 1: Grade -B-. Link knows his Measure Y facts, for the most part. Link starts off with a positive spin, claiming that Measure Y "has worked overall with important caveats." His first caveat has to do with firehouses, which, I am sorry, is just not the biggest failure by a long shot. He then acknowledges that increased staffing reduced crime, and also acknowledges that Measure Y was "compromised" when Dellums authorized $8 million of Measure Y funds to pay for recruitment and training that wasn't authorized. (The subject of my first lawsuit). He also acknowledges that OPD has cut the number of PSOs in half, and that claiming that this meets the requirements of Measure Y is disingenuous. While Link states any renewal of Measure Y should require staffing of all 57 beats, as originally required, he fails to insist on mandatory staffing at 803, as originally promised.

Noel Gallo - District 5: Grade - D+. Gallo demonstrates minimal knowledge of Measure Y. He says he supports the purposes of the Measure, acknowledges Oakland's high crime rate, but then says his priority is to fund a "greater variety" of violence prevention programs. Sorry, but if the City can't even manage to monitor the ones currently funded, reducing the number of programs would seem to be the better ideas. He also seems to support the idea of hiring more officers, but doesn't insist on any particular mandate as a condition of renewal. In addition, he says something about how he does not support "reimbursing the City for the cost of services during the period of time that the City
did not collect Measure Y." What does that mean? I have no idea. Yes, Measure Y was not collected for one year, but then it was double-collected the following year. So what is he talking about?

Mario Juarez - District 5: - Grade - C-. Juarez acknowledges outright that " Measure Y has not worked. It has lacked responsible accountability, authoritative oversight and it has defrauded citizens." However, he lacks any specifics on what conditions he would place on renewing it, noting: "I would not vote to renew it unless there was a way to assure that the money is spent as
promised." He states he'd like to see more PSOs, better training and a focus on investigative services.  However, this doesn't address Measure Y's critical past failures, i.e. the failure to maintain a specific level of staffing or number of PSOs. He also gives the usual "blah, blah blah" about including stakeholders in developing a "city-wide strategy." No, forget all this emphasis on strategy. Just fill the positions, for goodness sake!

Tuesday, July 31, 2012

Former Measure Y Administrator Sues Oakland

Jeff Baker, former Assistant to the City Administrator, was fired in March, 2011, and filed a lawsuit alleging wrongful termination in March of this year. I finally had a chance to review the suit in some detail, and as an employment litigator and somebody with more knowledge about Measure Y than practically anybody else around, I'll share my insights.

In a nutshell, Baker is claiming that he would submit requests for information on Measure Y related topics and complaints to OPD and OFD and would get no response. He claims he communicated concerns about issues related to Measure Y implementation and legal compliance, like understaffing of problem solving officers, as well as patrol positions and overtime inappropriately being paid through Measure Y. He claims he got no response to these communications. He claims when he tried to meet with then City Administrator Dan Lindheim, Lindheim would blow him off or cancel the meetings, and once told him, "No on important has time to read emails." While he mentions the "specter of racism," he doesn't actually allege race discrimination, and rather, has sued for retaliation (for having made "inquiries" and voiced "concerns"), breach of contract, wrongful discharge in violation of public policy, and negligent infliction of emotional distress.

Baker, who I understand has a law degree but never passed the bar, is representing himself in the action. Usually, that means he shopped the case around and nobody would take it. As an employment litigator, I would say the City would have had strong grounds for having all of the causes of action except for two thrown out on what is called a "demurrer," i.e. a pleading that disposes of the claims very quickly on legal grounds. The other two claims are likely to be thrown out prior to any requested jury trial because Baker won't be able to establish the necessary facts. His main claims for retaliation are based on Labor Code 1102.5 and Government Code Section 12940(h), which would generally require the plaintiff to actually have filed a complaint, not just made "inquiries." Moreover, reporting illegal activities to your own employer, as opposed to somebody else, is not enough to claim whistleblower status. Lastly, the plaintiff would need to establish that he was reporting actually illegal conduct, not just improper conduct. So to win on his main claim, Baker would pretty much have to prove the merits of my last two lawsuits. Good luck to him on that!

What is so ironic about all this is that Baker was exceedingly unhelpful to me throughout my litigation. He seemed like a government stooge to me all the way, not a whistle-blower. At one meeting, he reprimanded the Measure Y Oversight Committee for allowing me to speak more than two minutes on the topic of Measure BB, prior to the election. When I said something back that he considered unflattering, he walked past me, glared at me, and said, "shameful," in an effort to intimidate and muzzle me. Of course it was completely inappropriate for a public official to try to silence a member of the public in such a way, and I reported my concerns to Lindheim at the time. Not that he did anything, given that important people never read their email. (Actually, he did admit to me that if I cc'd him on an email he wouldn't read it, and in order to get his attention, I started sending emails directly to him, not as copies.)

What is particularly sad about all this is that such a lawsuit could have had the potential to shed some light on major Measure Y abuses. But I don't think this one will. I'll bet dollars to donuts that Baker never actually alleged any Measure Y violations, and I'm pretty sure he never put those concerns in writing. In my own discovery requests, I certainly never received any such emails, which should have been encompassed by my requests. Moreover, I always suspected that when he was working with the program auditors, they were in cahoots to cover up or minimize Measure Y abuses, not highlight them. And given all of his contact with those auditors, and his regular contact with the MYOC, where is the evidence that he shared his concerns or "complaints" with them? I doubt there is any, because I doubt he had any concerns. Moreover, one of the issues I prevailed on in my original lawsuit was the City's failure to conduct the annual audit required by the Government Code. It didn't get done for three years until I sued. Whose fault was it that it never got done? In my opinion - his.

The bottom line is that I don't think this lawsuit will amount to a hill of beans. It will cost the City a lot of money, as all litigation does, but won't serve any public purpose in improving transparency or accountability. So we all lose. Again.

Wednesday, June 27, 2012

Jean Quan With Egg on Her Face Over Meaningless "100 Blocks Program; Chief Jordan Admits OPD Never Adopted It


The pressure has been building for several months now, with leaks here and there to suggest that the "100 Blocks" program was either non-existent, or not working. First, I did a series of public records requests that resulted in, at first, totally delayed production of documents, and ultimately, the release of a paltry number of documents, none of which included any correspondence whatsoever between OPD and the Mayor's office referencing anything called the "100 Blocks Program." Then I asked Chief Jordan point blank about it at the District 4 meeting in March, and he admitted they don't use "that term" and that OPD isn't doing anything differently than it has done in the past. That pretty much confirmed, in my mind, that there was no real "100 Blocks" program as far as OPD was concerned, and the claims that police resources were being concentrated in those areas was nothing but BS.

Since then, there has been plenty of criticism that even if there is a program, it's not working. http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/johnson/article/In-Oakland-learning-to-live-with-crime-3635556.php. Some police officials claimed the program only resulted in moving the crime elsewhere. http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/OPD-chief-burglaries-100-blocks-plan-unrelated-3507766.php

Despite Quan's ridiculous claims that homicides were down 56% (http://www.ibabuzz.com/outtakes/2012/06/12/quan-responds-to-100-blocks-flap/) the actual fact is that the murder rate today is the same as it was last year.

Then came the death blow to her PR scam - actual statistical data that conclusively shows that 90% of the crime doesn't really occur in this limited 100 blocks. http://www.infoalamedacounty.org/index.php/research/crimesafety/violenceprevention/oakland100blocks.html

Undeterred, Quan continued to defend her efforts to defraud the citizenry, claiming that her plan was more "nimble" and that releasing maps of the specific 100 blocks would somehow compromise crime fighting. http://www.kqed.org/news/story/2012/06/12/97345/oakland_group_mayor_spar_over_100_blocks?category=bay+area

But then, while on a junket in Brazil, Quan's assistant finally admitted the statistical data (to the extent it ever really existed) was "incorrect." http://www.thecrimereport.org/news/crime-and-justice-news/2012-06-oakland-crime-data-wrong

Today, she admitted herself that the figures were wrong, but appeared to blame the police department for continuing to allow her to repeat her profoundly erroneous announcements. http://www.insidebayarea.com/news/ci_20955526/quan-tries-explain-key-crime-figure-error

But even more importantly, Chief Howard Jordan released a memo confirming what I had uncovered at the District 4 meeting back in March: the memo confirms that OPD is doing nothing differently than it has in the past. In the memo, Jordan states:

"In August of 2010, the Department implemented a Strategic Plan containing short, mid, and long-term actions ....with the objective of focusing proactive violence suppression and enforcement efforts. OPD continues to follow this framework despite the plan’s recommendation that staffing levels in the Department be greatly improved....Using the framework provided by Strategic Plan action items, OPD most recently implemented a 90-day violence reduction plan on January 17, 2012, contemporaneously with the “100-Block Initiative” kickoff. The violence reduction plan was not restricted by boundaries, but was focused in areas of the city which continue to be afflicted by a disproportionate and unacceptable amount of violence....."

So there you have it - an admission that Jordan is using a "violence reduction plan" that was consistent with a two-year old strategic plan, and Quan was doing her own thing with the 100-Block Initiative. Quan was focusing on some imaginary, undisclosed, or statistically unsupported "100 Blocks," while Jordan was not restricted by any geographic boundaries.

This is absolutely confirmation that Quan's grand solution to Oakland's crime problem, her so-called public safety plan, didn't involve OPD, and wasn't being followed or even referenced by OPD. OPD was just doing what it had always done, and the "100 Blocks" Program was nothing but a bunch of empty rhetoric.

Friday, June 22, 2012

Latest Post from Make Oakland Better Now

Since I have been too busy/lazy to post a whole lot recently, I'm going to take this opportunity to reprint the most recent OakTalk post from Make Oakland Better Now highlighting the scary police staffing numbers, and the fact that the Council is finally starting to acknowledge the connection between abysmal staffing and crime. took them long enough!

Adding Police Officers Takes Center Stage at 6.18 City Council Meeting
by oaktalk


Today's post is by Catherine Binder, a lifelong Oaklander, a second year political science student at Wellesley College and MOBN!'s summer intern.

On June 18th, the Oakland City Council held a special meeting on their Proposed Amended Midcycle Policy Budget for Fiscal Year 2012-2013. The main topic of discussion centered on Oakland’s police force, revealing noteworthy details with regard to future police academies as well as the number of officers currently employed. The councilmembers’ discussion brings attention to the ever present and prominent MOBN! focus on public safety. As mentioned by Councilmember Jane Brunner, the Police Department is undoubtedly understaffed, with 646 officers, a number that continues to decline.

As Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan quipped early on, Oakland performed its own experiment by laying off 80 officers in July 2010. In doing so, crime increased, demonstrating the importance of a strong and correctly sized police department.

To address the understaffed department, a new police academy is scheduled to take place in August. The City Administrator’s budget adjustment proposal includes a second police academy, beginning in January. Because of the candidate procurement process, academy cycle and a shortage of field training officers, OPD can currently only hold two academies per year. Moreover, because both the SFPD and Sheriff’s department are hiring, there is some question whether OPD will be able to fill its academies. In Monday’s meeting, several Oakland residents’ Open Forum speeches began the discussion on the city’s police force, after which councilmembers’ input brought about a heavy focus on pure numbers. In asking Police Chief Howard Jordan various questions on police academies, Councilmember Brunner reviewed such calculations. As Chief Jordan reported, an academy begins with a class of 55 and, with attrition and other factors, typically produces 30 officers. Due to attrition, the OPD is losing roughly 4 to 5 officers every month. In addition, not all incoming cadets successfully complete academy training. For these reasons, each police academy (at which two are currently planned) theoretically results in a net of 16 officers.

In citing a 30% increase in city-wide crime, Brunner, like Councilmember Patricia Kernighan, advocated for a third police academy. Kernighan and Brunner similarly expressed concern over the possibility of stagnation. As Kernighan pointed out, utilizing two police academies a year does not allow Oakland to catch up and expand its steadily declining police force. Brunner, likewise, supported the addition of more police officers, stating Oakland needs an academy before July to truly get ahead.

Kernighan presented what she deemed one scary thought: in December 2012, Oakland will have a police department of 612 officers. Brunner followed up with another, even scarier thought: 90 officers, out of the 612, are currently on leave.

Councilmember Ignacio De La Fuente continued the discussion with a focus on the number of officers actually on Oakland streets, regardless of the number of officers on the force. According to Chief Jordan, 260 officers currently work the streets, whereas Oakland needs 320-330 officers to fully run such operations.

In this City Council meeting, alarming statistics were certainly brought to light. Upon further research, we can see that the declining OPD force has been a continuing trend for many years, even before the 80-officer layoff in 2010 (which, according to the NY Times 7.15.10, resulted in a total of 696 officers). In December 2008, Oakland had about 837 officers (SF Gate 6.5.12). Furthermore, since 2000, OPD’s sworn officer count has fallen 9% (SF Gate 5.25.12). As Chronicle Columnist Chip Johnson points out here, crime has become something Oaklanders find commonplace. And for now, getting officers back on deck seems to be the first step in many toward this greater public safety. MOBN! is pleased to hear the City Council discuss not whether we should have more police academies, but instead how many we should have.

The Oakland City Council is scheduled to take final action on the proposed mid-cycle budget adjustments, including those impacting policing, on Thursday, June 28 at 6:00 p.m.

Monday, June 11, 2012

Oakland's Dismal Performance on Crime Response and Transparency Continues

On April 24, I submitted a public records request for documents related to the Police Department's response times for emergency and non-emergency calls, and how those response times have changed in response to recommendations made in a 2010 "Strategic Plan." On June 5, well over a month later, and a month after the 10-day deadline to respond under the Public Records Act, I received a response. Notably, the response indicated that OPD still had not even commenced its search for records related to the "recommendations" to improve response times, so I'm not holding my breath on receiving those additional documents any time soon. Also, the documents only related to dispatch response times; no documents were provided regarding actual police response times. Grade for transparency and compliance with Public Records Act: F.

The records themselves reveal that OPD has nothing to be proud about in terms of its response times. Every month, OPD creates an "activity report" that shows how many "priority 1" calls were dispatched within 1 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 15 minutes, 30 minutes, and 60 minutes. They do the same for Priority 2 and Priority 3 calls. Here's a comparison for January 2011 to January 2012:

January 2011 1 minute: 33.32
5 minutes: 69.72
10 minutes: 80.69
15 minutes: 83.43
30 minutes: 86.81
60 minutes 88.89

January 2012
1 minute: 27.50
5 minutes: 62.76
10 minutes: 74,80
15 minutes: 78.74
30 minutes: 83.32
60 minutes: 86.57

For the most part, a review of the reports reveals that OPD's dispatch times have been steadily worsening with each passing month. (Although there are a few anomalies where the dispatch times were particularly abysmal, e.g. May, 2011, where only 47% of the Priority 1 calls were responded to within 5 minutes.) For priority 2 and 3 calls (i.e. non-emergency calls) get this: in January, 2011, only 58% of Priority 2 calls had been dispatched within 58 minutes; only 39% of the Priority 3 calls had been dispatched in 60 minutes. In January, 2012, those numbers dropped to 47% and 28% respectively. Pathetic. Dramatically worse than one year ago. Grade: F

Thursday, March 29, 2012

Chief Jordan Confirm's Quan's 100 Block Program Doesn't Exist

Last night I attended a public safety meeting hosted by District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf. In front of 200 or 300 concerned residents, I asked Chief Jordan directly about the "100 blocks" program, how it was being staffed, and to explain the apparent discrepancy between his March 2, 2012 memo about redeployment of PSOs, and Quan's claim in Sunday's Chronicle article that the officers staffing the program were only "new hires." I also asked why I hadn't received any documents from OPD specifically referencing the so-called "100 blocks" program.

Chief Jordan then answered that OPD doesn't use the term "100 blocks program." Rather, OPD has a "violence reduction" or "violence suppression" program that applies to the entire city, and has no geographic boundaries. OPD is responding in the same way they have always done by responding to "crime hot spots." Basically, they aren't doing anything new, and there is no special OPD staffing for any "100 blocks program." As far as he understood it, the "100 blocks program" is just Quan's effort to involve other agencies to help in those neighborhoods; he didn't specifically know which agencies they were or what they were doing, but it was business as usual for OPD.

So basically, what Chief Jordan said was that as far as OPD is concerned, there is no "100 blocks program." As I stated in my earlier blog post on this subject, the "100 blocks program" is just a bunch of political rhetoric; it doesn't really exist.

Sunday, March 25, 2012

Newsflash: Quan's "100 Block Initiative" Doesn't Exist

In response to my most recent public records request, the City produced no documents that actually constituted the infamous "100 Block Initiative." However, I was able to find this document on-line. http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca/groups/mayor/documents/report/oak033792.pdf Lots of pretty pictures of people holding signs and captions reading "job fairs" and "outreach," but nothing substantive about how the City is supposed to concentrate resources on the 100 most dangerous blocks in Oakland. More revealing, the City produced not a single document that discussed how police resources will be allocated to address crime in these 100 blocks. That's right, not a single document. Which to me, pretty much says that the "100 Block Initiative" doesn't exist.

While the City did produce numerous emails from last year about how the City was reducing the number of "community policing beats" from 57 to 35, which deprived many neighborhoods of their dedicated "problem solving officer," this reshuffling of staffing started long before Quan announced her "plan" in approximately October. http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/12/08/BABN1LLJP3.DTL Notably, not a single email from the police department referenced the words "100 blocks" or anything remotely resembling the "100 Block Initiative" or how it was going to be staffed.

Sunday's Chronicle story, http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/25/BAB21NODRS.DTL&tsp=1 reported the following: " Quan, a longtime hills resident, was blunt when asked if her plan had changed officer staffing: 'No.' The additional officers working in the 100-block areas are new hires - either through budget negotiations or a federal grant, she said." Really? So why didn't the City produce any documents indicating that these were the parameters for staffing the "plan?" Probably because this is pure fabrication. In fact, Chief Jordan issued a memo on March 2, 2012 (which the City failed to produce!) confirming that, to the extent the plan actually did exist, it was being staffed by the 22 PSOs taken away from their regular beats. http://local.nixle.com/alert/4794732/ The Bay Citizen has written two stories confirming that this is the case, including the vehement opposition by many residents. http://www.baycitizen.org/policing/story/nearly-half-oakland-community-policing/ See also http://www.baycitizen.org/policing/story/quans-anti-violence-plan-may-undermine/ If these reports were erroneous, surely Ms. Quan would have demanded a retraction or correction?

But maybe not, since doing so would only heighten scrutiny about the details of this so-called "plan." And that scrutiny would lead to public records requests like the one I already submitted. The response I've received so far appears to confirm that the "100 Block Initiatve" doesn't exist; at a minimum, nobody has put anything together on how to staff the "plan" with real police officers. Members of the City Council have confirmed they've never seen a "plan." http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2012/03/17/BALV1NM130.DTL and Matier and Ross reported last week that the "plan appears to be more "talk" than "walk." At this stage, it appears that it is nothing but talk, and poor cover for the ongoing violations of Measure Y.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Oakland Honors The Newly Named Sanjiv Handa Sunshine Ordinance In the Same Way It Honored Sanjiv - By Ignoring It

So as you may have heard, the City Council has been considering renaming the Sunshine Ordinance after Sanjiv Handa. It appeared to have sufficient votes to pass the final reading last night, until Pat Kernighan suddenly changed her vote from aye to nay, tying the matter and requiring the vote of Jean Quan, who wasn't present, so it will have to wait until the next meeting....

In any event, changing the name of the Sunshine Ordinance will do nothing to the City's actual compliance with the law, other than heighten the irony, since the City never paid any attention to Sanjiv in the first place. Oakland's ongoing violations of the Public Records Act and its own Sunshine Ordinance will continue unabated, particulary given that the toothless Public Ethics Commission is all but dead now. Although the City hired a replacement for Dan Purnell (who was no prize) in December, she lasted less than a month, after it was decided to include overseeing the Citizens Police Review Board along with her PEC duties. Although that would have overloaded even a normal person, the final straw was when a bunch of FTP types decided she had to go, since she was a former police officer. Their twisted logic was that because of her background, she couldn't possibly be fair in overseeing citizen complaints of police misconduct. Huh? That's about as logical as saying that former drug users shouldn't be drug counselors.

But I digress. On the subject of public records, I made a request on February 22 for documents related to the redeployment of Measure Y funded PSOs to service Mayor Quan's "100 Block" initiative. As you may have heard, this plan has generated quite a bit of heat in the community, as well as publicity. http://local.nixle.com/alert/4794732/

http://www.baycitizen.org/policing/story/quans-anti-violence-plan-may-undermine/

Needless to say, I got no response within the mandatory 10 days outlining which documents would be produced, or when I could expect them. I sent my usual follow-up emails, made my usual follow-up phone calls, and weeks passed. Finally, out of frustration, I called Deputy Chief Breshears a couple of days ago and asked for the status of my request from OPD, and some records were provided the next day. But it was a paltry amount, and none of them even mentioned the "100 Blocks" Initiative, and none were even from 2012! So I sent a follow-up email to DC Breshears indicating that either the "100 Block" Initiative didn't really exist, or else I hadn't gotten close to all of the documents. He responded that he had withheld some documents because they were "tactical" in nature. Notably, "tactical" is not an official exemption to the California Public Records Act. Moreover, if the City intended to shield any documents from disclosure, it was required to notify me of that much earlier, and specify a specific provision of the Act that made the documents exempt. No citations were provided.

So today I followed up by contacting the City Attorney's office, and spoke to Doryanna Moreno. Now, I should mention that previously, Mark Morodomi was in charge of the City's "Open Government" program. No longer, and I don't know why. Maybe it has something to do with his latest quote to the Bay Citizen that spending Measure Y funds on Carribbean cruises might violate the law? http://www.baycitizen.org/policing/story/nearly-half-oakland-community-policing/

I had had numerous conversations with Mr. Morodomi over the years about the City's abysmal compliance with public records requests, and offered numerous suggestions on how to improve compliance. At least he pretended to listen politely, but never did anything. Ms. Moreno, on the other hand, didn't listen politely. She listened, but pretty much said "uh huh," to everything I said, offered no apologies, and said nothing about what she intended to do to rectify the problems. Her only defense was that they were all very busy and understaffed. I told her that was no defense to clear legal violations. From a customer service perspective, she sucked. I had to force her to admit that the response was not handled well, and I had to demand to know what she was going to do to make things right. She was noncommittal. You'd think that knowing I'd already sued the City for over 30 previous violations of the PRA might make her a bit more responsive and interested in avoiding another lawsuiit. Perhaps this lack of legal compliance, lack of people skills, and lack of proactivity might explain why the city has to pay a gazillion dollars every year in loser cases. http://www.insidebayarea.com/news/ci_20226278/oakland-strip-search-payouts-top-1-million

I consider the City Attorney's office to have responsibility for overseeing compliance with the Public Records Act and the City's Sunshine Ordinance. I see it as their responsibiltiy to ensure that departments are properly trained and that protocols are in place for preparing responses, complying with timelines, and other requirements. The buck should stop with them, not with individual department heads, who no doubt have plenty of responsibility as well. Because the bottom line is that if the departments don't comply, the City Attorney's office will wind up having to defend the actions in litigation, and its much easier to ensure compliance than it is to defend these kinds of lawsuits. Given that the current City Attorney, Barbara Parker, is up for reelection, I would hope she reads this, gets the message, and picks up her game.

Realistically, however, I'm more likely to get the Sanjiv treatment....

Monday, February 20, 2012

Occupy Oakland Sinks to New Lows

According to the latest official poll, Occupy Oakland has lost considerable support around the Bay Area over the past several months. http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2012/01/31/cbs-5-poll-occupy-movement-losing-bay-area-support/ Needless to say, its repeated illegal actions, violence and vandalism are not appreciated by the vast majority of Bay area residents. Add to this the fact that Occupy has been taking away valuable police resources from an already understaffed department, a total cost of over $3 million to Oakland taxpayers so far, and the arrest of approximately 400 protesters during the ridiculous and illegal attempt to take over the Kaiser Convention Center, and Occupy has effectively reduced support not only for the local movement, but for OWS as well.

But Occupy's arrogance and obliviousness only get worse. Just recently, Occupy Oakland apparently got a few of its members who had nothing better to do with their time to sit in front of the computer and hit one key a few thousand times to distort a Tribune on-line poll regarding Occupy support. Then they publish this ridiculous article to claim that Occupy Oakland enjoys 94% support!
http://occupyoakland.org/2012/02/bay-area-news-group-poll-finds-94-support-occupy/ These morons actually think that this is persuasive?

To make matters even worse, Occupy supporters then hacked the personal information of local public safety advocate Nancy Sidebotham, in an attempt to intimidate her after she organized "Stand for Oakland," a counter-protest against Occupy's violence and vandalism. http://www.ktvu.com/videos/news/oakland-participants-in-occupy-oakland-counter/vF2ns/

I attended the second one of these events last Friday. A group of 40 or 50 silent protesters stood on the steps of City Hall with small yellow signs saying "I stand for Oakland" or "I support OPD." The editor of the "Occupied Oakland Tribune" suggested on Twitter that a band of "tent monsters" come down, presumably to harass or intimidate the silent protesters. Instead, a motley crew of five or six Occupiers hung around with their camera phones, skateboards and/or sage. The sage guy (Zachary Runningwolf) waved his obnoxious smoke in people's faces while repeatedly yelling "you're an asshole" to everyone. You can watch a video of part of action here. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j2gw0ZYBSzY Watch the interviews with the Stand for Oakland supporters at the end, who articulately outline why Occupy Oakland has lost its way and its support.

Today, Occupy Oakland is sponsoring "Occupy San Quentin" to show its support for prisoners, i.e. victims of the "prison industrial complex." So a movement that began with the purpose of drawing attention to the erosion of the middle class, foreclosure abuses, and bank bailouts, is now claiming that criminals and Death Row inmates are the victims? Wow. According to the deluded claims of the Occupiers, people are in prison for being "have nots," not for their crimes. Tell that to Ted Bundy, Martha Stewart, Bernie Madoff or O.J. Simpson. http://www.scribd.com/fullscreen/82114207 The solution, according to the advocates of today's protest, is the abolition of capitalims, and, I presume, letting criminals run loose in the streets?

Oh, and one additional tidbit: legal support for the Occupied Oakland Tribune, which is promoting this event, is from Siegel and Yee, Jane Brunner's law firm.

Monday, February 6, 2012

How To Help With the Jean Quan Recall Effort

Just so that you all are up to speed: there are two recall petitions being circulated, by three separate groups. The first petition was initiated by Gene Hazzard. But then he pissed off a bunch of people who had volunteered to help gather signatures, and they formed a second group, led by Nancy Sidebotham, Charles Pine and others. They have website you can visit. http://www.recallandrestore.com/

Then a splinter group of the "Recall and Restore" faction thought that the Hazzard petition was defective, and they formed their own group. They are led by Greg Harland, Len Raphael and Wayne Rowland. You can visit their website here. http://www.recallquan.com/

Their legal challenge against the Hazzard petition went nowhere. Yes, there was a defect. Apparently the Hazzard petition was published in the "legal notices" section of the local paper without including the names and addresses of the first 50-75 supporters. Who cares? Particularly since the names and addresses had already been published by all the local papers earlier the same week? Also, if this were such a big deal, then the City Clerk should have rejected the petition on that basis, and any claims that the defect was somehow substantively relevant should be considered waived under the doctrine of "laches." (Meaning if you sleep on your rights, you lose your right to sue).

So now what we've got are two recall petitions being circulated. Kind of confusing, I know. But I am not taking sides. I support both the petitions. I hope at least one of them succeeds. I can't say I'm too optimistic, because frankly the efforts aren't super well organized, but I'll try to help. I have already signed the Hazzard petition, and am helping gather signatures for the Sidebotham/Pine group. Please contact them through their website if you'd like to sign their petition or help gather signatures.

The Greg Harland group has provided instructions on how you can sign the petition, and help collect signatures, from the comfort of your own home:

Visit RecallQuan.com and click on the "volunteer" button.

State that you would like to collect signatures from your home.

Alternatively, email info@recallquan.com

(You must be a registered Oakland voter.)

An email with a circulator's document will be sent to you. Read the entire document, then sign and date your acknowledgement; fax or email the signed document to us.

A packet with printed blank petitions will be mailed to you.

When you are ready, contact the Committee to Recall Mayor Quan Now by email or phone and arrange to get us the signed petitions.