One hundred and thirty-one people were murdered in Oakland last year — that’s the highest number since 2006. Other crime is up too, but the number of officers is down. So is police response time.
OPD Sgt. Chris Bolton says those numbers have consequences. “What is lost is time and ability to immerse ourselves with community members in positive interactions,” he says. “What is lost is our opportunity and ability to attend community meetings, to take on roles in community organizations.”
While struggling to meet its responsibilities, the police department is also under pressure to reform — it narrowly avoided a federal takeover late last year. The city already has an independent police monitor; officials have also agreed to hire a court-appointed compliance director. This person will have the power to fire top OPD commanders — including Chief Howard Jordan — as well as to change police policies and practices. He or she will also take on another thorny, persistent issue: the frequency of officer-involved shootings. Since 2010, there have been at least five incidents every year.
Jeralynn Blueford is the mother of the late 18-year-old Alan Blueford — a Skyline High senior fatally shot by an Oakland officer last May.
Inconsistencies have plagued the Blueford case from the beginning — and it’s just the latest of other similar cases. As it struggles to make yet another round of policy changes, what will it take for the Oakland Police Department regain community trust?
Adam Blueford is Alan’s father. He says he spoke with Alan 30 minutes prior to the run-in with the police.
“They walked outside to meet some girls supposedly,” Adam says. “And that’s where they were accosted. The police ran down the wrong side of the 90th street, pulled up on them with their lights out, jumped out with their guns drawn.”
Adam and I are standing on the driveway of 9230 Birch St., the spot where his son died on May 6th, 2012. It’s about two blocks from where Oakland Police officers Miguel Masso and Joe Fesmire first saw Alan and two friends. In his mind, Adam Blueford goes back again and again to that night.
“This is where my son died at,” says Blueford. “Right here. Right on the sidewalk.”
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