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 

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.


  1. The argument, or threat, in favor of extending Measure Y taxes is that if we cut off the money, we will get even less police service. It's insulting to hear this from ten-year politicians like Jean Quan, after voters passed Y in 2004 and staffing immediately went down and stayed down for nearly all the life of the tax.

    And the argument is false. When Y passed, the parcel tax money went to OPD but general funds were withdrawn from OPD for uses City Hall preferred over public safety. When the Y money stops, what happens depends on who is mayor. (By the way, the usual fluctuations of tax revenue in line with economic conditions are currently up.)

    If Quan is mayor, yes, staffing will go down. But A mayor who puts public safety first can prove to voters he is serious. A year later voters will be happy to vote money for more police.

    The mayoral candidates' stand on Quan's proposed extension of Measure Y will be a litmus test.

    No new Measure Y in 2014!