Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts has his work cut out for him — changing the dysfunctional culture of OPD, while lowering the crime rate at the same time. The Chron’s Matthai Kuruvila had interesting story over the weekend about Batts’ attempt to dramatically improve 911 response times, which have averaged an appalling 15 minutes. But the most insightful part of the piece was Batts’ observation of cops just standing around and doing nothing.
Batts told the story of his first ride-along as police chief. There was an officer-involved shooting and it appeared to Batts as if every cop in the city had responded to the scene. And even after the situation had been resolved, the cops stayed on, just standing around. Batts said that when he asked a lieutenant why the officers weren’t being redeployed, the lieutenant responded: “That’s not the way we do it here.”
If ever there was the perfect example of OPD's lack of priorities, that was it. To his credit, Batts ordered the lieutenant to redeploy the officers immediately, and soon after changed department policy to give dispatchers the power to redeploy officers after an incident is resolved.
It’s part of Batts program to give dispatchers a greater role in the department. Dispatchers also now have more authority to prioritize 911 calls, which should speed up response times. It had been department policy to allow individual officers to decide how quickly to respond to such calls as people screaming for help, domestic violence, and fights. As a result, many officers traditionally had given such calls lower priority. But under Batts’ program, that should change.
However, according to the Chron’s Matier and Ross, a 28-page anonymous “white paper” going around OPD reportedly contends that some department brass believe that Batts won’t last, and they’re just biding their time, thinking that they'll outlast him.