Anthony Batts is already changing the dysfunctional character of Oakland's police department. Over the years, department leaders have often refused to acknowledge shortcomings while jealously protecting their own at all costs. But last week, the new chief helped the department turn an important page. He called a press conference to publicly release a scathing report on the ill-advised raid last March that left two cops dead. He openly admitted that the department made mistakes. And then he moved quickly to discipline those responsible.
Batts intends to strip Captain Rick Orozco and Lieutenant Chris Mufarreh of two ranks each because of their handling of the botched raid, as first reported in the Oakland Tribune. Mufarreh was the main proponent of the raid, and according to the independent report, he pushed for it even before the department's SWAT team was fully in place, before an ambulance was on scene, and before attempting other measures to apprehend Lovelle Mixon, a parolee who had just killed two other officers. As for Orozco, he and then Deputy Police Chief Dave Kozicki, who recently took an early retirement, hastily approved the raid before setting up a command post — a routine step designed to give commanders an opportunity to get organized and fully assess a situation before taking action.
Attorney Michael Rains, who represents Orozco and Mufarreh, called the discipline of the commanders "outrageous" and vowed to fight it. But the independent report made it clear that Mufarreh and Orozco acted rashly and unnecessarily put officers in harm's way. Orozco comes across in the report as having failed to ask important questions or fully take charge, while Mufarreh appears to have been a hothead with credibility problems.
Mufarreh, for example, said he didn't believe that Mixon was holed up in the East Oakland apartment that police had surrounded, even though officers had received tips from two witnesses that he was inside. Nonetheless, he wanted to raid it anyway. And when Kozicki questioned whether they needed a search warrant, officers told him they didn't because it was "a fresh pursuit." But the report noted that if commanders believed Mixon wasn't in the apartment, then it was illegal for them to raid it without a warrant.
The chief's actions should go a long way toward improving the department. And his plan to train cops to not put themselves in positions in which they have to shoot someone — or be shot — also should help the department finally overcome its long and troubled history of officer-involved shootings.
Dellums Saves Port Jobs
Ron Dellums has not yet decided whether he plans to run for reelection this year, but he sure looks determined to get things done. Early last week, he struck a key deal that may save the jobs of up to 1,200 truckers at the Port of Oakland, according to the Tribune. The pact with state officials and the trucking industry will allow the truckers to keep serving the port while they apply for $11 million in new grant money earmarked for truck retrofits that Dellums also helped secure.
Under state law and port rules scheduled to go into effect January 1, truckers with old rigs would have been banned from the port because their trucks emit too much pollution. The truckers had claimed the new rules were unfair because they had previously applied for $22 million in public funds to retrofit their trucks or buy new ones, but were denied because the money ran out. But after Dellums hammered out the new deal, relieved truckers called off a planned City Hall protest and credited the mayor.
Fremont's Ballpark Pitch
The City of Fremont suddenly has a viable counterpoint to Oakland's plan for a waterfront ballpark for the A's — the soon-to-be closed NUMMI auto plant. The city unveiled its proposal late last week for a 36,000-seat stadium on the 370-acre property. The site is so massive that there's plenty of space for a ballpark village that A's co-owner Lew Wolff had wanted so badly. The site also is within walking distance of the new Warm Springs BART station scheduled to open in 2014.
Fremont's proposal, coupled with the two new ballpark sites proposed by Dellums for Jack London Square, also could doom the A's planned move to San Jose. The team's relocation was predicated on the idea that there are no viable ballpark sites in the East Bay. But now it looks as if there are at least three — two in Oakland, and one in Fremont.
Batts may be changing the culture of OPD, but if the city's first homicide of 2010 is any indication, his job will be among the toughest anywhere. An East Oakland father was shot and killed in his driveway in front of his two children and his wife by two robbers, who then got away. ... Oakland schools, meanwhile, are preparing to put a tax on the ballot to offset huge state spending cuts. Meanwhile, the hard-line teachers' union is demanding a 15 percent raise over three years. ... Oakland and Richmond parents, however, may soon have a lot more choices for their kids under sweeping legislation signed by the governor. Parents of kids in the state's worst schools will be able to transfer their children to better schools in other cities. ... The Oakland City Council approved a new free shuttle service that will take people from Uptown to Jack London Square on weekdays. ... Former Assemblywoman Wilma Chan is running to replace Alameda County Supervisor Alice Lai-Bitker, who is not seeking reelection. ... East Bay bankruptcies skyrocketed nearly 60 percent last year.