Eight months ago, Anthony Batts looked like he might become one of the best police chiefs Oakland has had in years. He’s charismatic, he said all the right things, and he appeared to really want to improve crime fighting in the city. But maybe all the adulation Oaklanders poured on him went to his head. It's hard to say. Because over the past eight months, Batts has displayed a different side to his leadership skills, and it's been an eye-opener:
1. Last spring and early summer, it became clear that the Oakland City Council was going to vote to lay off police officers, unless the cops’ union agreed to pay 9 percent of its pension plan like all other city employees do. It was the most important negotiation with the police union in at least a decade. But Batts refused to involve himself, even though his then popularity likely could have helped find a creative solution to a difficult financial situation.
2. Then when the police union refused to back off its no-layoffs demand, the Oakland City Council, the mayor, and the city administrator agreed on a tough decision to lay off eighty cops. So what did Batts do? He immediately undermined his bosses by announcing publicly that OPD would no longer respond to some types of service even though past chiefs with fewer resources never made that call.
3. He applied to become San Jose’s police chief in October, before the election, apparently because he was upset about the layoffs. And then after the election, when Mayor Jean Quan was starting to put together her new administration, Batts lied to her and Councilman Larry Reid, telling them he had no intention of leaving.
4. Throughout the fall, Batts also refused to actively support a large parcel tax measure that would have allowed him to rehire the laid off cops, plus hire more. At the same time, he continued to contend that Oakland needs 925 police officers, but offered no ideas for how the near-broke city would able to afford it without a large parcel tax.
5. After San Jose decided last week to hire someone else as its police chief, Batts publicly trashed the Oakland city council, the mayor, and the city administrator, calling their lay-off decision "horrendous," even though he had done nothing to help solve the problem.
In short, Batts has shown over the past eight months that he apparently views his role as police chief as: 1. Make unaffordable demands. 2. Refuse to help city leaders find a way to meet his demands. 3. Try to jump ship when they can’t meet his demands. 4. Publicly trash them for not meeting his demands.
That’s just not what Oakland needs from his its leaders. It needs people who are willing to roll up their sleeves and solve problems, and not just sit back and issue expensive dictates and then throw temper tantrums when the city can’t afford them.
Batts said late last week that still he wasn’t sure whether Oakland was a good “fit” for him, and refused to commit to staying on. After the last eight months, it's become increasingly clear that he’s not a good “fit” for Oakland, and Quan should start looking for a new person for the job.