Oakland's new police chief, Anthony Batts, has his work cut out for him. Not only is he working to lower the city's crime rate, but he's trying to change the dysfunctional culture of the Oakland Police Department at the same time. High on Batts' list is improving the department's 911 response times, which have averaged at an appalling fifteen minutes per call. But an even bigger chore may be stopping cops from just standing around and doing nothing at times.
According to the San Francisco Chronicle, Batts told the story recently of his first ride-along as police chief. There was an officer-involved shooting and it appeared as if every cop in Oakland had responded to the scene. And after the situation had been resolved, the cops lingered on despite being needed elsewhere. Batts said that when he asked why the officers weren't being redeployed, a lieutenant responded: "That's not the way we do it here."
If ever there was the perfect example of the department's lack of priorities and leadership — that was it. In his effort to combat such behavior, Batts ordered the lieutenant to redeploy the officers immediately, and soon after, he changed department policy to give dispatchers the power to redeploy officers after an incident is over. Batts' retelling of the story not only was noteworthy for how he dealt with it, but for his willingness to call attention to it in the region's leading newspaper.
Batts also has decided to give dispatchers a greater role in the department's day-to-day decision-making. Dispatchers now have more authority to prioritize 911 calls. Previously, individual officers decided how quickly they would respond to such calls as people screaming for help, reports of domestic violence, and fights. Many officers traditionally had treated these calls as a lower priority, but under Batts' program, that should change.
Batts also had to deal last week with the fallout over a police sergeant's decision to order the fatal shooting of a scared deer. Cops had opened fire on the animal as it cowered in the backyard of an East Oakland home. The deer had jumped a fence after being chased by housing authority officers. A disgusted Batts declared that he was "unhappy" with what had happened and vowed more changes.
However, the Chronicle also reported that Batts' reforms aren't going over well within the department. A 28-page anonymous "white paper" going around the department reportedly contends that some department brass believe that Batts won't last.
Whites Fleeing Back to Cities
In a historic demographic shift, whites are no longer fleeing cities for the suburbs, but instead are moving back to urban areas in growing numbers, the Associated Press reported, citing a new study from the Brookings Institution that analyzed Census Data from 2000 to 2008. The study also revealed that minorities are now more likely to flee cities for the suburbs, as whites return in search of jobs, urban living, and shorter commutes. The trend is reversing decades of behavior.
"A new image of urban America is in the making," said William H. Frey, a demographer at Brookings who co-wrote the report. "What used to be white flight to the suburbs is turning into 'bright flight' to cities that have become magnets for aspiring young adults who see access to knowledge-based jobs, public transportation, and a new city ambiance as an attraction."
The study revealed that Washington, DC, and Atlanta posted the biggest increases in the percentage of whites living in their cities since 2000. Each is up 5 percentage points to 44 percent and 36 percent, respectively. Other cities experiencing white gains were New York, San Francisco, Boston, and cities in another seven of the nation's 100 largest metro areas. In the study, San Francisco included Oakland and Fremont.
GOP Too Far Right
There's an increasing consensus that leading Republican political candidates in California may be shifting too far to the right in their effort to attract Tea Party votes. Major dailies, including the Sacramento Bee and the Chronicle, noted last week that efforts by gubernatorial candidate Steve Poizner and moderate GOP Senate candidate Tom Campbell to move rightward may backfire in the fall if they get past the June Primary. Both Poizner and Campbell have established respected credentials over the years on immigration issues, yet both now support Arizona's draconian new anti-immigration law.
The Oakland and Richmond city councils voted last week to join a growing boycott of Arizona over its new law, which requires police officers to demand identification of people they "suspect" are in the country illegally. ... Cal students went on a hunger strike, demanding that UC Berkeley join the Arizona boycott. ... The Oakland teachers union voted to allow union leaders to call an indefinite strike over low wages. ... A Sacramento judge ruled that Governor Schwarzenegger can take $41 million from Oakland's redevelopment agency and give it to the cash-strapped school district. The ruling, which similarly applies to other cities and school districts around the state, is expected to be appealed. ... Oakland A's pitcher Dallas Braden pitched a perfect game on Mother's Day.