Oakland officials bamboozled voters into supporting Measure BB by promising a return of the community policing “beat” officers, otherwise known as “problem solving officers” or “PSOs.” Measure Y requires one for every beat in Oakland. Well, in typical Oakland fashion, they are trying to get around the requirements of Measure Y/BB by slashing the number of beats in Oakland from 57 to 35. Well, actually, it’s a done deal. Without any City Council action, without any public discussion, without any formal announcement, and without any updating of City websites.
For years, the beats in Oakland were divided into 57 regions. While some are geographically bigger than others, they were supposed to have similar numbers of residents. The impact of this decision is huge. For example, in Montclair, Beats 13X and Y are now just one beat. And they’re only going to have one PSO. What that means, in effect, is that the residents of Montclair are going to get half the level of service that they got before. Other beats, however, will get two PSOs, based on a “stressor” index. So apparently the more dangerous neighborhoods will get two PSOs.
While I can understand OPD trying to make the best out of its limited resources, the bottom line is that this is not what we voted for. When we voted, back in 2004, and again in 2010, there were 57 beats, and we were promised one officer for each one of these neighborhood beats. Now, our beats are twice as big, and many of us will be getting half the level of service we were promised. The beats are so big you can hardly call the area a “community” anymore. This is contrary to the letter and the intent of Measure Y. I mean, think about it. Why not reduce the number of beats down to three while they’re at it? Do they think that would be legal?
Given this new and obvious vioalation of Measure Y, it is no surprise that the City has tried to make all of this happen very quietly, with no fanfare or public discussion. Was it agendized for the Measure Y Oversight Committee? Of course not. Is it on the agenda for the Public Safety Committee meeting? No. Did the Neighborhood Watch coordinator know anything about it? No - she said I was the first person to mention it to her.
While the City is paying lip service to the concept of community policing, the reality is that this decision is legally indefensible, and seriously erodes the progress we have made in bringing smaller communities together for the purpose of fighting and preventing crime. Not to mention, the erosion of public trust in yet another violation of Measure Y.