Hello Spot.Us community members.
A quick update: We chatted recently with Alex Gronke and he is making good progress on his piece. He expects it to be done soon. We know it has been a long time, but as noted in earlier emails - we thought it better to try and push the story forward rather than rehash what is already out there. As you might guess the OPD has been a bit of a moving target.
If you have questions or concerns about this. Please contact David AT spot dot us.
Meanwhile here's the lastest from Alex Gronke also published at The OakBook. The numbers below are very interesting.
The $1.5 million Oakland officials agreed to pay the relatives of Gary King, Jr. two weeks ago is one of the larger single settlements the city has paid as a result of alleged police misconduct in recent years.
In 2007-08, the city paid $1.2 million for the roughly 77 claims and lawsuits brought against the Oakland Police Department, a list that ranges in seriousness from towing the wrong car to wrongful death.
While claims and lawsuits against the police department have been declining, the Oakland Police Department accounts for more than one of every four billable hours logged by the Oakland City Attorney. Meantime, the number of citizen complaints received by the police department continues to rise.
The Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division projects that it will receive 2,300 complaints by the end of this year, which is up considerably from the 1,700 complaints representing 3,215 allegations received in 2008.
Compare that figure to Long Beach. In 2007, that city’s Citizen Police Complaint Commission handled 285 complaints, a 16 percent decrease from the year before.
In Oakland, the IAD sustained only seven percent, or 219 of the allegations investigated in 2008.
Around 200 of the OPD’s 1,325 employees received three or more complaints in 2008.
African-Americans filed 39 percent of the complaints, while 44 percent of the complaints failed to specify race, gender, or both.
As of September 23, the Oakland Police Department’s number of sworn officers was down to 794, and the department was losing 4 police officers a month to transfers, disability, retirements, resignations, terminations, and deaths. No one knows when the police department will reach its mandated staffing level of 803 sworn officers.
The last police academy graduated 38 new police officers nearly one year ago, and there are no plans to open a new academy. At least one position has been filled. Anthony Batts, the new chief, is expected to be on the job following a swearing in ceremony on October 20th.
Overtime has long been a problem for the department. In 2004, Oakland City Council hired an outside consultant to help find ways to cut OPD’s overtime.
Not much changed. In 2007, OPD clocked $27 million of overtime. That was more than twice what had been budgeted. At the beginning of the year, Mayor Ron Dellums asked that police department cut its use of overtime by 25 percent. A report from the police department shows that it spent nearly $3 million on overtime pay in July and August of this year.
Posted by Spot. Us on 10/07/09
Our reporter Alex Gronke is going to be at a press conference later today (1pm) with Oakland’s new Chief of Police.
This is for his ongoing reporting on the Oakland PD Blues.
Do you have questions? Send them along to us and we’ll forward them to Alex who will try and ask them on your behalf.Posted by Spot. Us on 08/17/09
When William Bratton resigned as Los Angeles’ top cop on Monday, folks in Oakland wondered for a moment if the celebrity chief was heading north to turn around the city’s troubled police department. A Southland police chief is Oakland-bound, but it’s not Bratton.
Anthony Batts, Oakland Police Department’s new chief, was the chief of police in Long Beach for seven years. With demographics similar to Oakland’s and a comparable number of cops per 1,000 citizens, Long Beach has a lower crime rate than Oakland. In 2007, Long Beach reported half the number of violent crimes than Oakland despite an extra 80,000 residents. That figure alone is reason for crime-weary Oaklanders to have hope. Batts is also a different kind of police department administrator than Oakland has had for most of this decade.
Chief Batts has a doctorate in public administration and publishes articles in academic journals and other publications. In 2006, Batts co-wrote an article in the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Law Enforcement Bulletin outlining his department’s success with community oriented public safety (COPS) despite “a high level of police activity that keeps its officers in response mode.” Batts could be describing Oakland when he writes that “patrol officers in such areas continually address calls for service and detectives handle exorbitantly high caseloads.” But in Long Beach community policing appears to work.
Consider the citizen complaints against the Long Beach Police Department. In 2007, the citizen police complaint commission received 285 complaints compared to 341 the previous year. Oakland had nearly 1,000 citizen complaints in 2007.Posted by Alex Gronke on 08/13/09
From Alex Gronke related to his pitch: OPD Blues. Also published at The Oakbook Magazine.
Right around the time last year that people with an interest in Oakland’s national reputation were weighing the pros and cons of having an HBO series about an aging pimp filmed in the city, producers for a cable television program called Gang Wars slipped into town to document what they called “Baby Iraq” in two installments.
Rough cuts of the documentaries are circulating around City Hall. While the programs follow the exploits of the Oakland Police Department’s anti-gang unit the producers spent an equal amount of time with gang members, self-styled or otherwise. The producers obviously had the cooperation of OPD, although it’s far from certain the police will think the final product was a fair exchange for the access.
The police are depicted as massively out-gunned and outnumbered by Oakland’s criminal street gangs. The police do confront heavy firepower, and an ever-replenishing supply of new recruits to gangs, but Gang Wars: Oakland was unclear about actual numbers. At one point the narrator said there were 40,000 gang members in Oakland, although previously he said the city counted 10,000 gang bangers. It’s a rough cut, complete with uncensored language, so maybe those facts will be sorted out later.
In keeping with the traditions of the sensationalistic cable television documentary, Gang Wars: Oakland spends more time looking for drama and storylines than questions or answers. Oakland is a place that “some call Baby Iraq,” and that’s all there is to understand. Everything else is just the interplay between OPD and the thugs.
It's been an interesting time for the Oakland Police Department, says Alex Gronke, who has been been working to understand a police force that has taken many twists and turns since the Oakland Police Blues pitch was first proposed.
From the resignation of the police chief to the tragic death of four officers, the department has been a moving target difficult to get a hold on. Throw in a number of scandals and a budget crisis and everything's up in the air.
Get an update from Gronke himself about the morale of the department since the police chief stepped down, life after the tragic shooting of four officers, the search for a new chief and questions of police accountability.Posted by Spot. Us on 06/23/09
Hello Spot.Us Community Members!
An update for our ongoing story: Oakland Police Blues: http://spot.us/pitches/35
As any Oakland resident knows - the last 4-6 months have been a trying time for the OPD. Our reporter Alex Gronke has been observing it with the intent of producing a piece for Spot.Us and The Oakbook. The piece is still underway. Alex has wisely decided to produce a good piece rather than a rushed one, but we want to keep you involved in the story all the while - which has included little updates like these.
Here's a chance to here from the reporter directly.
This Friday at 11am Alex is going to discuss his observations and the reporting process to date. He will be joined by Kwan Booth and Serena Renner. You can join the call as well via Spot.Us' BlogTalkRadio show: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Spotus
When: 11am PST.
Where: Blog Talk Radio: http://www.blogtalkradio.com/Spotus
Call in number:
Originally published at The Oakbook
Part of the ongoing reporting on the Oakland Police Department.
The Monday following the funeral for the four police officers Lovelle Mixon killed in East Oakland, State Attorney General Jerry Brown appeared on Michael Savage's national AM radio program to decry how lawsuits and citizen watchdog groups have hamstrung police departments. Mr. Brown noted that in Oakland there are more cops investigating other cops than there are solving the city's homicides. When it's fully staffed, the Internal Affairs Department (IAD) counts nine officers and 10 sergeants in its ranks. By comparison, there's only one OPD officer trying to solve the hundreds of auto thefts in Oakland last year.
A proposal from Mayor Ron Dellums' Task Force on Police Issues seeks to remove 10 sworn officers from IAD and replace them with 10 new City employees under the Citizens' Police Review Board at an estimated cost of $1.2 million. The Oakland Police Department agrees that civilians should do many of the jobs now performed by sworn officers. But the acting police chief wants a civilianized IAD answering to OPD, arguing that the department already has a system for handling citizen complaints against OPD officers. On Tuesday, the Oakland City Council's Public Safety Committee will receive competing reports on how and when IAD should be civilianized. At stake is the handling of the roughly 1,500 citizen complaints filed against OPD officers each year.
There are now two ways for a citizen to lodge a complaint against a police officer. A complaint can be filed with OPD's IAD or with the Citizens' Police Review Board.
The Oakland Police Department's outsized IAD comes from the legal aftermath of the Riders incident. In 2003, the City and the OPD entered into a Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) with the plaintiffs in a civil suit alleging that police officers in West Oakland demonstrated a pattern of false arrests, illegal searches and excessive force. The NSA gave OPD up to seven years to comply with 51 tasks aimed at preventing police misconduct and breaches of integrity within the department. The very first item on the list was adding more staff to IAD.
While the most recent independent report evaluating OPD's compliance with the NSA found that the department was "vastly improved" in the way it handled complaints of police misconduct, it remained "not in compliance with most of the NSA tasks related to internal investigations." Still, there appears to be general agreement from citizen groups and police brass that IAD civilianize a big chunk of its operation within the next nine months. The disagreement stems from which agency will oversee the non-sworn investigators - OPD or the Citizens Police Review Board.
With Oakland facing a budget deficit of $82 million over the next two years, OPD and the Mayor's Task Force are using money to make their respective cases. The Task Force claims that the city will save $800,000 by hiring 10 civilian IAD investigators. OPD cites the higher clearance rates and the bigger caseloads of sworn IAD officers to argue that civilians won't save the City any money. In 2007, OPD's IAD received approximately 1,700 complaints compared to the Citizens Police Review Board's 80 complaints. The Mayor's Task Force, which includes members of the Citizens Police Review Board and People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO), contends that more people will report police misconduct if the investigation process is handled by civilians under civilian control.
There's no question that IAD is now creating problems that the crafters of the NSA didn't anticipate. Last year, the monitors overseeing OPD's compliance with the NSA found that supervisors are passing on complaints about their underlings to IAD rather than investigating the matters themselves. This from the May 2008 report by the independent monitoring team: "We have seen too many instances in which a supervisor immediately asks IAD to investigate an officer or civilian employee who has not been doing his/her work, has been late, or has been otherwise derelict in duty. In many of these instances, the appropriate response would be for the supervisor to document the problem, take corrective action, and continue to closely supervise the person."
Hey funders, it's been a long time since you first pledged the dough to get me started on the OPD Blues story. You are no doubt wondering where that story is. I expect to be done at the end of the month. You are also probably wondering what's taken so long.
My mission throughout this project has been to return to you with a profile of OPD that helps us better understand how OPD works, and how it doesn't. The last few months have been eventful for OPD. Through, crisis, changes in leadership, and tragedy the subject of the profile has been more than a moving target. The good news is that we have been talking to sources during these episodes, and the picture that emerges is richer than if the piece had been finished during some other, less tumultuous, four month period in the department's history.
Thanks again for your support, and I look forward to your feedback.Posted by Spot. Us on 04/10/09
The reporting and writing on the Oakland Police Department continues. In an effort to be transparent and bring the public along - I wanted to write an update with some thoughts and to ask for yours.
This story has taken longer than originally intended but for valid reasons. We are hoping to wrap this investigation up by the end of April.
Why the delay?
The story has become very sensitive and Alex Gronke has stuck with it. As a community of concerned citizens - I think we should recognize and applaud Alex for this.
After the Oscar Grant shooting, police enforcement in the East Bay has been under a microscope. The chief of police has stepped down and only a few weeks ago four police officers were murdered in a hail of gunfire.
Needless to say - things have not gotten better at the Oakland police department and an already touchy issue has become emotional and requires more context. I don’t believe Gronke ever intended this to be a story that merely wags a finger at the Oakland PD and tells them to “do better.” That would be too easy and in truth can be said of any police department in a major metropolitan city.
From my understanding - Alex’s piece will be a look at morale issues within the department itself. I’ve asked him for an update and hope to pass along word soon.
In many respects I’d say this story is indicative of the larger story for the entire city of Oakland at the moment. As Zennie62 put it “Oakland doesn’t seem to have enough umf, it seems to be dead in its morale…”
Almost every resident I speak with in Oakland tells me that their number one concern right now is the violence and while Alex continues reporting - we want to hear from you.
Kara Andrade and I will be doing what we can to collect input from the community and provide ongoing context where we can.Posted by Spot. Us on 04/09/09
When tragedy hits, there's a tendency to quickly seek the positive in the despair. And it's hard not to notice that folks put political and personal differences aside when something as awful as the killing of four police officers strikes a community. I've heard lots of people involved in Oakland's public safety scene express this sentiment, or something similar, since Saturday's massacre.
There's hope that this will put to rest some of the conflicts that have vexed reform at OPD, that the unity will still be here even when the grief is less raw. The three police officers that I've spoken to since Saturday have not mentioned this aspect of the killing, or expressed a hope that anything good will come from the killings. There's gratitude for the outpouring of sympathy, but there's also a sense that Oakland police officers want to be with their own families, friends, and colleagues now. The attention of the world's media makes them uncomfortable. One police officer said she just wants things to return to normal as soon as possible.
They won't. There's no doubting that OPD will be marked by this tragedy for a long time. This isn't the time to talk politics, but the killings will have an impact on who is chosen for the next chief, and on the future of the department.
From The OakBook
It’s easy to understand the vast interest in this case. But if you’re feeling overwhlemed by all the information out there, and just want to know how to contribute to the families of the officers or want to send your condolences, we suggest referring to the following links:
The New York Times: Oakland Seeking Answers in Police Killings
The Oakland Tribune: Street Shrines for Slain Oakland Officers Draw Crowds, Debate
San Jose Mercury News: Cop Killer was Depressed About Heading Back to Prison, Family Says
The San Francisco Chronicle: Doomed SWAT Seargants Didn’t Expect an AK-47Posted by Alex Gronke on 03/24/09