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Things Fall Apart
June 22, 2010 3:08 PM   Subscribe

The City of Oakland, California, is preparing to fire more than one quarter of it's entire police force.

It's no secret that Oakland is a deeply troubled city. (Previously here, here, here and here on Metafilter) But it now appears that the situation is reaching a breaking point, as Oakland police have already begun a crash course in crowd control training.

The Mayor of Oakland, Ron Dellums, has been spotted at "high profile boxing matches" while missing City Council meetings where the fiscal and social crisis continues unabated. "Who the [expletive] are you to decide my role?" he recently shot back at an inquiring journalist.
posted by Avenger (101 comments total) 11 users marked this as a favorite

 
Well at least he looks cool.
posted by clarknova at 3:13 PM on June 22, 2010


Man, welcome to Idiocracy.
posted by Blazecock Pileon at 3:15 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Quarter? Meh, that's nothing for California:

Maywood to lay off all city employees, dismantle Police Department

"The city of Maywood will lay off all city employees and begin contracting police services with the Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department effective July 1, officials said.

In addition to contracting with the Sheriff's Department, the Maywood City Council voted unanimously Monday night to lay off an estimated 100 employees and contract with neighboring Bell, which will handle other city services such as finance, records management, parks and recreation, street maintenance and others. Maywood will be billed about $50,833 monthly, which officials said will save $164,375 annually.

"We will become 100% a contracted city," said Angela Spaccia, Maywood's interim city manager."

posted by VikingSword at 3:15 PM on June 22, 2010


Grocer's apostrophe.
posted by fixedgear at 3:16 PM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


"Who the [fuck] are you to decide my role?"

A voter, you asshat.
posted by Bathtub Bobsled at 3:17 PM on June 22, 2010 [26 favorites]


I live in the Lake Merritt area of Oakland. This has not been a good spring safety wise in my neighborhood this year (although better than many of the other beats in the city), no doubt it will only get worse. I like a lot of the things near where I live, but if I'm still in the Bay area at the end of this year, it will probably not be in Oakland.
posted by QuarterlyProphet at 3:18 PM on June 22, 2010


i guess they're finally going to take down that giant sign near the 880/980 junction saying that you should be an oakland policeman starting out at 70k or whatever, huh? and here i was always laughing and wondering who in their right mind driving by would look at that sign and be like, me! me! sign me up!

that said, i'm glad the last of my friends moved out of oakland (...after getting mugged, no less. in rockridge! is nothing sacred...)
posted by raw sugar at 3:19 PM on June 22, 2010


I'm curious as to why Maywood doesn't approach full anschluss with Bell but I'm sure there's some small-town realpolitik I wouldn't've thought of here. This is so sad for Oakland. One of my favorite cities and home to some of the best people I've ever known. Hey, wasn't California s'posed to be legalizing and taxing reefer by now?
posted by jtron at 3:20 PM on June 22, 2010


Ahh, Oakland. You never change.

Has there ever been a major American city that was quite well known to be troubled, that later turned it around? Turned it around to the point where the common refrain is, "Well, City ABC used to be just a big tub of shit, but ever since XYZ, it's been lovely."

I guess you could put NYC in that category, having pulled out of the nosedive in the late 70s, but that's kind of a special case (and many would argue the bad old days weren't so bad, and the "cure" included a heaping dose of Disneyfication).

But seriously ... Oakland's been fucked up forever. Will it ever get better?
posted by Cool Papa Bell at 3:20 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


welcome to Idiocracy

I thought Robocop.
posted by Joe Beese at 3:20 PM on June 22, 2010 [16 favorites]


Maywood was under court order to reform its police department. And they have a population of about 29K. Oakland's population is a little over 400K. A little different.
posted by rtha at 3:22 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


As I said before: we are fascinated by Detroit, for it is the harbinger of the future.

One step at a time: destination - Detroit. Oakland is there what, quarter of the way? Halfway?
posted by VikingSword at 3:26 PM on June 22, 2010


Whenever you're dealing with bureaucrats, you always need to look at the books carefully.

Selfless administrators will, when asked to trim their budgets, cut the fat first, and keep the essential services. This means their departments shrink, and bureaucratic compensation and promotion opportunities are based almost entirely on the size of the departments they manage. This means that selfless bureaucrats limit their own ability to advance.

Selfish bureaucrats cut essential services first, and keep as much fat under their umbrella as possible. This pushes the pain onto other departments, or on the public at large. This increases the likelihood that they'll receive more money, and this helps advance their careers. Selfish bureaucrats tend to prosper.

The last time we talked about a city cutting police and fire, when we actually looked at the books, they were giving big raises to the council members and boosting spending on IT a whole bunch, while loading all the cuts into police, fire, and streetlights. And, as far as I know, it worked... I believe the voters passed bills authorizing more taxes.

When you're dealing with this kind of situation, you have to really LOOK at what's going on, because bureaucracies, by their very nature, reward evil behavior. You can't believe them when they say they need to cut services you want, you have to actually go look.
posted by Malor at 3:29 PM on June 22, 2010 [54 favorites]


Guess I know where to pull that [mythical] bank job now.

(and)

The City of Oakland, California, is preparing to fire more than one quarter of it's entire police force.

posted by Avenger


Guess you could move and set up shop now.

(and)

Has there ever been a major American city that was quite well known to be troubled, that later turned it around?

I can't speak from personal experience but people say that Pittsburgh made a pretty big change.

Oh, and where I live now use to be marked for death, so much so that someone once took out a billboard saying "the last one out of Duluth please turn out the lights". I won't say we are an economic powerhouse now, but it is a nice place to live if you can swing it.
posted by edgeways at 3:29 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


destination - Detroit. and Condition: Oakland.
posted by joe lisboa at 3:30 PM on June 22, 2010


I really love living in Oakland, and am proud to be a resident of this culturally diverse and beautiful city, but in regards to the violence, crime and horrible law enforcement sooner or later something is going to give.
posted by anoirmarie at 3:32 PM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


Sounds like Washington Monument Syndrome.
posted by Chocolate Pickle at 3:32 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


from the "high profile boxing matches" link, he's reported as saying:
"I am the CEO of the city."
This highlights one of the pervasive notions that seemto be running in non-profits and public sector employment: the idea that "running things as a business" will sort everything out somehow. We're not down 29% in donations and revenues because of a goddamn global recession but because we're not "run as a business". The exact definition of being "run as a business" never really gets beyond some crude penny-ante-fascist idea of yes things shall be different when I'm in charge, yes. How about you run shit competently? You could be a competent city rather than a city "with a CEO". It's probably some goddamn Chamber of Commerce dogwhistle that amounts to "fuck them, get ours" when it comes down to it.
posted by boo_radley at 3:35 PM on June 22, 2010 [11 favorites]


The City of Oakland, California, is preparing to fire more than one quarter of it's entire police force.

posted by Avenger

Guess you could move and set up shop now.


Dude, the West Coast Avengers sucked.
posted by GuyZero at 3:36 PM on June 22, 2010 [12 favorites]


omg...I live in oakland. better start reading this stuff. yikes!
posted by supermedusa at 3:41 PM on June 22, 2010


"run as a business"

The other problem is that government's job is to take care of and provide for people: almost the exact opposite of that of a business.

The proper way to run a city or country "like a business" would be to immediately start euthanizing those who take more via social services than they produce.
posted by drjimmy11 at 3:41 PM on June 22, 2010 [13 favorites]


This highlights one of the pervasive notions that seemto be running in non-profits and public sector employment: the idea that "running things as a business" will sort everything out somehow. We're not down 29% in donations and revenues because of a goddamn global recession but because we're not "run as a business". The exact definition of being "run as a business" never really gets beyond some crude penny-ante-fascist idea of yes things shall be different when I'm in charge, yes. How about you run shit competently? You could be a competent city rather than a city "with a CEO". It's probably some goddamn Chamber of Commerce dogwhistle that amounts to "fuck them, get ours" when it comes down to it.

Especially ironic because W'pedia calls him "the first openly Socialist Congressman since World War II."
posted by grobstein at 3:42 PM on June 22, 2010


Ugh. I live in the Laurel area. My house was burgled, while we were sleeping, about 2 weeks ago. A few days before that happened, I watched some guys kick in an across-the-street neighbors' door and grab a bunch of stuff before a get-away car picked them up. There has been another burglary down the street in the past week. Sunday night, someone attempted to rob the house a few doors down, got confronted by the guy and his dog and escaped into the backyards of (presumably) myself and other neighbors. Apparently, a pretty large force of officers came but couldn't go after the guy because they needed the canine unit. So, he got away.

This is relatively new, and the neighborhood was pretty decent before. I don't know what we need to fix our streets, but I'm guessing less cops is not the answer. And get rid of Dellums already.

Also agree with anoirmarie.
posted by waitangi at 3:44 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


In Oakland, the starting pay for police is at least $71,000 and, with overtime and other compensation, first-year officers can earn more than $100,000 a year. In New York, starting pay is about $44,000.

WHAT?!
posted by anoirmarie at 3:47 PM on June 22, 2010


Is it conceivable that any group in power would be able to turn a failing city around?

That is, are bad governments a cause or an effect?
posted by jefficator at 3:49 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


The police in Oakland cost the city $206 million. The average salary for a rookie officer is 70,000 plus 150% pension matching and lifetime health after vesting.
posted by parmanparman at 3:50 PM on June 22, 2010


I moved from the Lake Merritt to downtown Oakland almost a year ago. No plans on moving anytime soon.
posted by proneSMK at 3:53 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


anoirmarie: "In Oakland, the starting pay for police is at least $71,000 and, with overtime and other compensation, first-year officers can earn more than $100,000 a year. In New York, starting pay is about $44,000.

WHAT?!
"

Welcome to Oakland, man. People ain't gonna police this shit for 5 digits, dude.
In a November 2008 Congressional Quarterly Press publication, the city of Oakland ranked 5th worst in a nationwide ranking of violent crime. The ranking counted six crime categories: murder, rape, robbery, aggravated assault, burglary and motor vehicle theft. CQ Press has used these categories for determining city crime rankings since 1999. By comparison, other Bay Area cities ranked as follows: Richmond was 9th worst, Vallejo 67th, San Francisco 102nd, Hayward 125th and Berkeley 132nd.[97] Oakland finished 2008 with 124 homicides, three less than the 2007 total.

Carjackings occur two to three times more frequently in Oakland than in other cities of comparable size, and police have recorded at least one reported carjacking in every Oakland neighborhood.[120] From January 2005 to December 2007, the first three years the Oakland Police Department began tracking the crime, 884 carjackings were reported in the city of 400,000 residents. By comparison, in San Francisco, a city with roughly twice the population, 334 carjackings occurred during the same time period.

An increase in the number of police officers helped reduce the crime rate toward the end of 2008, a trend that continued through the first half of 2009. Other serious crimes have dropped since January 1, 2009, compared to the same time period during 2008.[121] However, in the wake of several high profile officer-involved shootings and other violence in 2009, a spokesman for the Oakland Police Department has remarked that Oakland is "still a dangerous city."[96]
posted by boo_radley at 3:56 PM on June 22, 2010


Ugh. I live in the Laurel area. My house was burgled, while we were sleeping, about 2 weeks ago. A few days before that happened, I watched some guys kick in an across-the-street neighbors' door and grab a bunch of stuff before a get-away car picked them up. There has been another burglary down the street in the past week. Sunday night, someone attempted to rob the house a few doors down, got confronted by the guy and his dog and escaped into the backyards of (presumably) myself and other neighbors. Apparently, a pretty large force of officers came but couldn't go after the guy because they needed the canine unit. So, he got away.

Ugh is right. I live right next to Mosswood Park and we're seeing the same increase in crime. My car was broken into, the house across the street burglarized, mail is constantly stolen and the police have been little help.
posted by anoirmarie at 3:57 PM on June 22, 2010


Welcome to Oakland, man. People ain't gonna police this shit for 5 digits, dude.

Well, if they did a better job, then I might not have a problem with the figures. But all I hear about is how the police in Oakland have failed to do their jobs and have abused their power.
posted by anoirmarie at 3:59 PM on June 22, 2010


that's nothing for California

When you can clear out the entire government staff by letting go of "an estimated 100 employees," that's a TINY community. And it is, with a total area of 1.18 square miles. They were able to provide free wifi to the whole city. It's pretty much a small part of the larger Greater Los Angeles Area.
posted by filthy light thief at 3:59 PM on June 22, 2010


Been there, done that. our new mayor in Tulsa decided he needed to breaking the FOP, so he laid off hundreds of officers. Then it came out that there was federal grant money literally waiting to be used to pay for officers, so he hired some of them back, wasting hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of paid out sick time, comp time, vacation, and other accrued but not yet used monies out of an already stretched budget.

Now he's hired the rest of them back, since a bunch of officers retired, as expected, thus freeing up the other hundred or so slots.

A couple weeks back it came out that the mayor's office's staff cost was hundreds of thousands of dollars over budget. Rather than live with the 10% reduction the rest of the departments had to take, he found some departments that had reduced more than required by the council and started paying his staff out of the budget of other departments. He claimed the overage was because our previous mayor didn't take a salary. What he failed to acknowledge was that the Mayor's office's budget wasn't reduced when the previous mayor made that choice, said previous mayor instead used the money to fund a couple of additional positions within her office.

Now he's decided to privatize the zoo. How nice.
posted by wierdo at 4:02 PM on June 22, 2010


An article about another small California city.
posted by infinitewindow at 4:06 PM on June 22, 2010


California's budget problems aren't going to end until we change the pension system for government employees. Most taxpayers don't get cushy pensions after 20 years on the job; why should civil servants? It's too late to do anything about the existing liability, you can't retroactively cut employee's pensions. But you can at least fix it going forward.
posted by Nelson at 4:08 PM on June 22, 2010


What council members want is for police to fall in line with other city workers and pay the employee portion of their CalPERS pensions, which amounts to 9 percent of their salaries.


Seriously? There are thousands on municipal workers making 25 or 30K and they have to give up the same percentage. Stop bitching you overly entitled assholes.
posted by nestor_makhno at 4:12 PM on June 22, 2010


I live in Oakland and love Oakland. I'm interested in what the new police chief (from Long Beach, a city that's said to have turned itself around) is going to do in the next few years, especially after we get rid of Dellums. This is a major transitional moment, and I'm hoping the police can make a major contribution to it.

That said, what with the Oakland city government having subsidized the Black Muslim Bakery gang for decades, and administrators and the police having actively conspired with them, not to mention the rampant corruption among the police such as the Riders robbing drug dealers and locking up innocent people on trumped-up drug charges (speaking of which even the drug testing lab techs have been shown to not be above suspicion), I'm not worried about police cuts so much as I am hoping they trim away the fat.

Also, yes, should the ballot in November turn the direction of legalizing recreational use of marijuana, Oakland is in a good position to turn itself around completely. Things are already turning around. It's not as bad here as the image would have it, and this year is better than last year.

One thing that interests me is that the Oakland city government has only existed in its current state for a few years (check the wiki page). Oakland is a city with a lot of history, and historical problems and conditions extending many decades into the present, but the current organization of the city is a relatively new structure. I wonder what it can do, and what it is already doing the effects of which will take time to be evident. I'm down on Dellums but even I have to admit things are better than they were a few years ago. There's a lot of potential for good here.
posted by doteatop at 4:12 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I'd pat him on the head and say "there, there" but I heard there is no there there.
posted by hal9k at 4:13 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Lexi & I live east of the lake. I honestly don't know what the fuck to do about this place sometimes.

Parts of this city are gorgeous and awesome. Some parts I don't bike through during the daylight hours. I don't pedal through the Shady 80s at all or much of West O after dark. But Lexi & I bike all over this town.

I totally squee over having Barbara Lee as my congresscritter . I fucking love living in Oakland. I grew up in Queens, NY, and I feel at home in Oakland.

But Davis has better weather and everyone bikes. And they have a police force.

I fucking love this city, and I joke about it never quitting while never actually getting it's shoes tied. But this... this is fucked up.

Dellums has to fucking go. What a fucking expensive disaster of a mayor he turned out to be.
posted by Pirate-Bartender-Zombie-Monkey at 4:16 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


When I see things like this I'm reminded that this is the exact outcome that the "starve the beast" conservatives want.
posted by LastOfHisKind at 4:18 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Fewer cops, new HD CCTV cameras on every block. Outsource the monitoring to a call center in Kansas. Let the monitoring folks direct the flow of police units to crime in real time. With 16 megapixel cameras you can do quite good visual identification of criminals. It really is about putting in the right expert systems to direct the flow of uniformed and detective units through the process.
posted by humanfont at 4:38 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Having lived both in Detroit and Oakland, Oakland won't crumble like Detroit.

Detroit is basically an island- everything depends on the auto companies - if you lose your job, it's not like there's a lot of other nearby places to go work at. Detroit's also in the middle of nowhere - if you're not going there for the auto industry, there's no reason to go, really.

Oakland, on the other hand, has a strong network of the entire Bay Area. There's plenty of reasons to live here, even as bad as it gets - you can live here and work elsewhere if nothing else. Most of the panic I read about is either about gentrified areas getting hit, or the crime rates of messed up neighborhoods, but naturally without anything about the context of the people who live there or the decades of neglect and inaction.

Oakland needs help, but the usual focus on "revitalization" by way of gentrification isn't really going to produce a stable foundation.

(As I look at the many new condos down the block that once were going for $300K 4 years ago and now are still 80% empty at $100K today).
posted by yeloson at 4:44 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


The pension system is killing municipalities, and until that is reformed it is simply an unsustainable path we're on. My community in Northeast Ohio is in the midst of budget problems and last night's city council meeting brought out a LOT of pissed off residents wondering why it is that civil servants have earned upwards of 47% pay increases in the past four years along with incredible retirement plans.

It's unsustainable so long as the taxpayers are taking cutbacks and being laid off.
posted by tgrundke at 4:47 PM on June 22, 2010


Having lived both in Detroit and Oakland, Oakland won't crumble like Detroit.

Detroit is basically an island- everything depends on the auto companies - if you lose your job, it's not like there's a lot of other nearby places to go work at. Detroit's also in the middle of nowhere - if you're not going there for the auto industry, there's no reason to go, really.
Yeah, Oakland is right across the bridge from San Francisco. There are always going to be jobs in the Bay Area and people willing to live in a higher crime, lower cost area to save money. Rents in SF and other areas around there are crazy expensive.
posted by delmoi at 4:49 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Most taxpayers don't get cushy pensions after 20 years on the job; why should civil servants?

You've got this exactly backwards. Civil servants get reasonable pensions after 20 to 30 years on the job. Why shouldn't you?
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 4:50 PM on June 22, 2010 [78 favorites]


Fewer cops, new HD CCTV cameras on every block. Outsource the monitoring to a call center in Kansas.

I'm not sure if you're serious or just trolling.

After setting up all these cameras, a criminal only has to wear a mask and get into an unmarked car, outside the perimeter of big brother. Install all the cameras you want, and as a criminal I will figure out a way to break into your house and work within the propagation delay of some drone in Kansas sending out instructions to overworked officers.

I really don't think this problem will get fixed until the residents take it upon themselves to take ownership of where they live, by any means necessary. Neighborhood patrols and such.
posted by hanoixan at 4:51 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


But seriously ... Oakland's been fucked up forever.

Not really; just since WWII, like so many other cities in America that boomed during the war in an ultimately unsustainable way. From Wikipedia:
Post-WWII (1940s and 1950s)...Soon after the war, with the disappearance of Oakland's shipbuilding industry and the decline of its automobile industry, jobs became more scarce.
posted by davejay at 4:53 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


delmoi:Yeah, Oakland is right across the bridge from San Francisco. There are always going to be jobs in the Bay Area and people willing to live in a higher crime, lower cost area to save money. Rents in SF and other areas around there are crazy expensive.

I think if you examine the actual crime rates per person for various crimes you'll see that the difference between SF and Oakland in terms of crime is more perception than reality. Oakland is definitely worse, but only slightly, not by an order of magnitude (or more).
posted by doteatop at 4:54 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Civil servants get reasonable pensions after 20 to 30 years on the job. Why shouldn't you?

I'd love one. Will you pay for mine please?
posted by Nelson at 4:58 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


DEFEND OAKLAND.
posted by loquacious at 4:59 PM on June 22, 2010 [7 favorites]


I really don't think this problem will get fixed until the residents take it upon themselves to take ownership of where they live, by any means necessary. Neighborhood patrols and such.

I sort of agree. But part of taking ownership of where you live is demanding and paying for high quality services, including police protection. California has been (like many other places in the US) in the grips of a weird model for decades -- Oakland is being hard hit now, but it is the state as a whole that has a broken balance between cutting property taxes and refusing to cut the most expensive of entitlements. Just look at the UC system, for example.

So neighborhood patrols or not, you aren't going to fix Oakland's issues without fixing California's overall system of governance; the alternative is the gated/privatized path for the rich and nothing for everyone else that has been predicted for decades (cf Mike Davis' City of Quartz).
posted by Forktine at 5:01 PM on June 22, 2010


"I am the CEO of the city."

Ideally a CEO maximizes shareholder value by giving the shareholders (citizens) the greatest possible return (quality of services) on their investment (taxes). I have yet to see a politician maximize shareholder value. As mentioned upthread it's about petty fiefdoms.

Milwaukee example:

The Wisconsin State Patrol patrols highways in every county except one: Milwaukee. Highways in Milwaukee County are the exclusive domain of MCSD. The freeway system here isn't that extensive so the Sheriff proposed allowing the State Patrol in and detaching units from freeway duty to patrol surface streets. The reaction from the 18 municipalities in Milwaukee County? "Oh hell no, you are not patrolling our neighborhoods!" Way to utilize available resources to maximize shareholder value guys.
posted by MikeMc at 5:05 PM on June 22, 2010


I really don't think this problem will get fixed until the residents take it upon themselves to take ownership of where they live, by any means necessary. Neighborhood patrols and such.

I have to agree with hanoixan here. We are hoping to start something like this. I know there's only so much one can do as a citizen, and there's a certain sense of MACHETES FOR EVERYONE!, but having solidarity with the other residents around us will be key. And it's started already, so that's good.

Now if only we had some police backup...
posted by waitangi at 5:08 PM on June 22, 2010


I'd love one. Will you pay for mine please?

No problem, vote "yes" on the next few dozen tax hikes.
posted by griphus at 5:09 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am hugely in favor of this. Caveat Mefite: I don't live in Oakland so I'm speaking purely from my own generalities about police, corruption, and tax funding of overgrown adolescent sociopaths in uniform, but: Seriously, I love the idea of the police being knocked off their pedestal even- or because- they are needed. If they were doing their job for a fucking starting salary of $70K, then Oakland wouldn't need their police so much. Since they aren't doing their job even at that cost, then why throw good money after bad? Either these police were incompetent so you should save money, or the real solutions were social anyway and better funded by taking a gouge from the bloated police budget. Either way this sounds like it makes good sense financially and from a public safety perspective. :)

Also, this:
Oakland police union leaders ramped up their public-relations war with the city Monday over the possible layoffs of 150 officers, gathering at the site of a recent street shooting to warn that crime could become epidemic if the cuts go through.
sounds almost like extortion. Fucking police...
posted by hincandenza at 5:12 PM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


Only if they lay off Officer Bacon (sic).
posted by emhutchinson at 5:13 PM on June 22, 2010


Has there ever been a major American city that was quite well known to be troubled, that later turned it around?

Recession/depression is not helping, but for the hopeful and romantic, you might want to keep an eye on Corey Booker and Newark, NJ. Lord knows he's trying.
posted by IndigoJones at 5:29 PM on June 22, 2010


Most taxpayers don't get cushy pensions after 20 years on the job; why should civil servants?

Have you really thought through the implications of what you are saying?

Do you believe that having 60-year-old street cops is a good idea, that they would be as effective in a physical confrontation as 23-45 year olds?
posted by jason's_planet at 5:46 PM on June 22, 2010


Seeing as we equip them with guns and tazers, then yes I do. I'd suggest a good cop isn't about brawn and beef like some meatheaded afficionado of ultimate fighting itching to throw down with some punk. A good cop is skilled at de-escalating conflict before it gets out of hand, at establishing authority without provoking where possible, at recognizing dangerous situations early and calling for backup, for making in-roads into the community and establishing relationships with local business and citizens, at controlling their emotions and maintaining discipline in themselves while on patrol- in short, a good cop is good at a number of things where age and maturity and calmness will actually be an asset. A good cop almost never needs to physically engage a person one on one with brute force; that should be the rare exception, not the rule.

Oh wait, wait- I'm sorry jason's_planet. What I meant to say "A good cop sees the neighborhood as a militarized zone and acts accordingly". In which case yes, a 23-45 year old ragin' gym rat is your ideal police officer.
posted by hincandenza at 5:58 PM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


if you examine the actual crime rates per person for various crimes

For 2008, cases per 100K population. I excerpted the table for SF and Oakland and it looked all purty in live preview, but then real preview stripped out all the table formatting. So I'll just mention total violent crimes for SF was 995.3, for Oakland, 1968.4. That includes SF's 12.3 murders per 100K, and Oakland's 28.6.

So, yeah, not an order of magnitude, but I'd call double more than just a matter of perception.
posted by Zed at 6:01 PM on June 22, 2010


argh there was just a shooting on my block. first one in just over a year. I really do love oakland, but...sigh...


.
posted by supermedusa at 6:02 PM on June 22, 2010


Oh, big deal. Last year in Oakland, they SHUT DOWN MOTHER'S COOKIES!!!1

I mean, raise your hand if you like Oakland cops more than iced oatmeal cookies.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 6:06 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


Zed: So, yeah, not an order of magnitude, but I'd call double more than just a matter of perception.

Double sounds like a lot, but in this case it's the difference between 0.0128% and 0.0286%. Of course more people are affected by violent crimes than just the victims. I think the numbers you cite are pretty indicative of the kind of distinction we're talking about between the two cities. This contrasts against the common media representations of Oakland, even locally; SF is generally not even to be found on the "Most Dangerous Cities" lists that Oakland ends up on.

All this discounts demographics, and the granularity of a city is probably not as meaningful as we'd like. If you look at just Rockridge for example, the numbers more or less match the aggregate values for SF. If you just take Dimond and compare to Acorn, you'll see a lot of variation in Oakland. The same is true in SF, a lot of differences between the Outer Sunset and the Mission. For the purposes of the renters that delmoi was referring to in his original comment, I think many neighborhoods in Oakland are filling a nice, cheap, surprisingly safe niche.
posted by doteatop at 6:20 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Your criminal fantasy of ski masked home invasion neglected to realize that my home is located on the 6th floor of my dojo. If you get past the boss on level 5 you will still have to contend with my iron dragon style. Even if you manage to win, my lack of material possesions will leave you with a hollow victory. Even the secret level isn't very good, mostly some old cassette tapes and a half empty can of Tinactin. Might clear up that jock itch.

Of course you probably won't make it to the front door to since the license plate tracking system will alarm that there is no plate on the vehicle and the ski mask is a dead give away. Plus people always forget one camera, like that guy who tried to bomb Times Square, but got caught on tape taking a test drive in a mall parking lot.
posted by humanfont at 6:21 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


Atlanta is an example of an extremely troubled city that has turned around in many respects. As a former Oakland resident, I believe Oakland, with proper leadership, could do the same. I also believe it is legitimate to ask why Ron Dellums, and so many of his contemporaries, have rotted morally.
posted by texorama at 6:24 PM on June 22, 2010


supermedusa

Wow, that is quite a crime table. According to that wiki page Oakland is #2 in violent crime in the US. Only St Louis has worse violent crime.

I don't know, laying off cops is not a smart budget plan.
posted by Rashomon at 6:26 PM on June 22, 2010


A good cop almost never needs to physically engage a person one on one with brute force; that should be the rare exception, not the rule.

Good points you make, there. Ideally, that is how it should be done.

But still, if and when a physical confrontation does actually happen, you need to have officers who can use brute force effectively. Younger people are much better at that sort of thing than older people.

This is not to submit a brief for the Oakland Police Department, or for law enforcement in general. I'm explaining the reasoning behind early retirement for police officers.
posted by jason's_planet at 6:29 PM on June 22, 2010


Do you believe that having 60-year-old street cops is a good idea

I don't know that 60 year old street cops are a bad idea, particularly walking a beat. And there's lots of other police jobs that require less fast reaction time and endurance. I'd love to have some 60 year old cops doing casework, investigation, or hell, just doing one of those "sit there and earn overtime while watching the electric company tear up the sidewalk" gigs.

And the flip side: you don't see a lot of 60 year old subcontractors working heavy construction. Don't they deserve pensions too? For that matter, how many 60 year old software engineers do you know? Lots of people have to figure out how to keep making money after they turn 50, 60, or even 70. Those people are paying the taxes that fund the California civil servant pensions.
posted by Nelson at 6:31 PM on June 22, 2010 [2 favorites]


California's budget problems aren't going to end until we change the pension system for government employees. Most taxpayers don't get cushy pensions after 20 years on the job; why should civil servants?

Oh please. Even if you managed to get every public employee working for free with not a cent of retirement, you'd still be bitching about them. They deserve pensions if only because they have to listen to dickhead pomposity like that every day.

Pensions used to be the status-quo in this country. And the arrangement worked! Don't take it out on civil servants because the private sector managed to screw its employees out of it, and then convince them they don't deserve it. Neat trick, that.
posted by Thorzdad at 6:36 PM on June 22, 2010 [18 favorites]


Cool Papa Bell:
Has there ever been a major American city that was quite well known to be troubled, that later turned it around? Turned it around to the point where the common refrain is, "Well, City ABC used to be just a big tub of shit, but ever since XYZ, it's been lovely."

Pittsburgh.

In the 1970's & '80's, the steel industry crashed, simultaneously taking with it the pollution that gave it the blackened reputation as an ugly city, and its entire economy.

Shift forward to the '90's, when the city sandblasts damn near every surface clean, and rebuilds itself as a center of advertising and software development. By 2000, high-tech industry (encouraged by the plethora of universities in town) had a strong foothold. Medical research is big here, and a couple of the local hospitals are top-rated in the nation in their specialties.

Today, it has a stunning skyline, a lively nightlife, opera, ballet, theatre ranging from off-broadway to homespun playwrights, multiple art districts, and of course a sports fan base that is 2nd to none in energy. Parks, zoo, children's science museums, nearby amusement parks, in-city nature trails, nearby serious hiking, ...

Everything you could really want in a major US city. A complete turnaround.

--

Good luck, Oakland. Pittsburgh is the exception to the rule.
posted by IAmBroom at 6:45 PM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


...after getting mugged, no less. in rockridge! is nothing sacred...

I was robbed at gunpoint around Shafter and Hudson in Rockridge... it's a good spot for mugging. There's money there, it's completely quiet after dark, everybody's got their porch lights off saving the environment, and the BART brings foot traffic. Hop in the getaway and you're on the freeway in seconds.
posted by eddydamascene at 7:11 PM on June 22, 2010


IAmBroom, everything that you said about Pittsburgh is true and it is a pretty special place but we're having many of the same problems that Oakland and many other cities are having. The tax base is weak, the pension fund is a 1/2 a billion dollars below its funding target, the physical infrastructure is crumbling and the EPA is making us rebuild the entire city sewer system in the next twenty years. And there's just no money for anything, libraries, transit, street repairs, nothing. Just as an example, last year the city had to blow up a bridge in a northside neighborhood because they had never been able to fix it and it was about to fall down on its own.

So, yea. Cities can come back but the money issues never go away.
posted by octothorpe at 7:24 PM on June 22, 2010


Do you believe that having 60-year-old street cops is a good idea, that they would be as effective in a physical confrontation as 23-45 year olds?

Your arithmetic is wonky. If someone joins the police department in their early 20s, which is common, then 30 years later they are in their 50s. I personally think having older cops with less to prove and more intrinsic authority is an excellent idea.

I'd also add that there is a ton of police work that is not done on the street. If they retired people from street duty at, say, 55, some 30 years after they started, what would be wrong with that?
posted by lupus_yonderboy at 7:24 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


Avenger, reach your audience: it's vs its. Some of us see that cognitive speedbump and stop reading immediately.
posted by intermod at 7:43 PM on June 22, 2010


Mmmmmm... It's Its.
posted by Ambrosia Voyeur at 8:13 PM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


You've got this exactly backwards. Civil servants get reasonable pensions after 20 to 30 years on the job. Why shouldn't you?

and

Oh please. Even if you managed to get every public employee working for free with not a cent of retirement, you'd still be bitching about them. They deserve pensions if only because they have to listen to dickhead pomposity like that every day.

Pensions used to be the status-quo in this country. And the arrangement worked! Don't take it out on civil servants because the private sector managed to screw its employees out of it, and then convince them they don't deserve it. Neat trick, that.


How are these sentiments not "Fuck you got mine?"
posted by Snyder at 8:16 PM on June 22, 2010 [1 favorite]


I sort of agree. But part of taking ownership of where you live is demanding and paying for high quality services, including police protection.

... and Oakland voters did just that in 2004, voting for a new parcel tax to go to police, fire, and violence prevention programs. It was supposed to add 63 police officers. Of course, it's been mired in a lawsuit, and Oakland has not gotten all the police officers it voted for.

If they were doing their job for a fucking starting salary of $70K, then Oakland wouldn't need their police so much. Since they aren't doing their job even at that cost, then why throw good money after bad?

Care to explain how exactly Oakland Police haven't been doing their job, and how losing 25% will solve that specific problem? You don't live here, but you're happy to declare from 600 miles away that Oakland's crime issues are because the police aren't doing their jobs.
posted by oneirodynia at 8:17 PM on June 22, 2010


Mmmmmm... It's Its.

Oh man, I was born and raised in Frisco but left 15 years ago and this is the probably the thing I miss most, even more than my family. They'll ship anywhere in the U.S. but at a 300% handling fee. $125 for ice cream? I'm surprised I've only done it once.

I'm sorry you were saying something about cops?

posted by Slarty Bartfast at 8:28 PM on June 22, 2010


How are these sentiments not "Fuck you got mine?"

Because the police and fire unions didn't do anything to screw over corporate employees? Instead of rampant jealousy toward "cushy government jobs," people really ought to be writing their representatives to de-incentivize exporting jobs. Then unifying the workers might not immediately cause the company to close up shop and move to China.
posted by explosion at 8:44 PM on June 22, 2010 [5 favorites]


Good. There's too many cops anyway.

"This is a dangerous city," Sgt. Dom Arotzarena, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association, said at a news conference at Eighth and Adeline streets in West Oakland, where 43-year-old James Johnson was shot to death June 6. If the City Council cuts officers from the city's 776-member police force, he said, "it could be a lot more dangerous."

One of the things we could do to lessen the need for police is mandatory car LoJacks. I'm surprised it's never come up.
posted by mrgrimm at 8:56 PM on June 22, 2010


How are these sentiments not "Fuck you got mine?"

The most obvious answer is that I don't have mine. I have a 403b, the nonprofit equivalent of a 401k.*

The second most obvious answer is that there's no fuck you. I'd like you to have a good pension instead of being fucked over. Is your heart really so grinch-sized that that wasn't immediately obvious from context?

*In the interests of full disclosure, I had a choice of participating in a civil-service pension or taking a 403b; I picked the 403b in large part because I didn't trust the good people of New York not to gut the pension at some point.
posted by ROU_Xenophobe at 9:04 PM on June 22, 2010 [3 favorites]


Some of us see that cognitive speedbump and stop reading immediately.

There's a word for cars that can't make it over speed bumps.

I have a hard time getting a handle on Oakland's climate. I live in St. Louis, which usually tops it in the crime rankings, but as it turns out that ranking is much more relevant to people that live in the blighted parts of town; zones elsewhere seem fairly normal. Purely anecdotally, of all the people I've come to know well in the five years that I've lived here, two have been mugged and one has been robbed. How does Oakland compare, from the (admittedly subjective) resident's perspective?
posted by invitapriore at 9:40 PM on June 22, 2010


invitapriore, the nature and frequency of the crime here is definitely dependent on location. It also happens to be dependent on time of year- it is always much worse in summer.

When I first moved to (east) Oakland, it was to a generally well kept, leafy, suburban, blue collar neighborhood. The first neighbor I met said "things are pretty quiet here, until the kids get out of school in summer!" The nicer neighborhoods are preyed on, especially if they are adjacent to less-nice areas or freeway on-ramps. In that first "nice", middle class-ish neighborhood which was probably 60/40 black/white, my car was broken into frequently. When I moved to poor West Oakland, 90/10 black/white, my car was entirely left alone. A guy was shot across the street, though.

People way up in the hills are usually far enough off the beaten path that not much goes on. Along the big roads in the flats, there's lots of prostitution and narcotics busts. There are some tight knit, quiet neighborhoods where just a few streets over all kinds of stuff happens. Out in the Avenues in East Oakland, there are some really bad areas. West Oakland is thought of as bad too, but there are some businesses moving in and houses on nearly every block being cleaned up. East Oakland has some neighborhoods I wouldn't even want to drive through.

I live downtown now, next to the lake. It's a pretty dense, fairly friendly, extremely diverse neighborhood. We have lots of car break-ins here, and I know a few neighbors have been mugged.

You can see this all on a map at Oakland Crimespotting. It hasn't been updated in a few days, so pull the slider back to get a more accurate view.
posted by oneirodynia at 10:33 PM on June 22, 2010 [4 favorites]


I am a native Californian and have lived in Oakland for the last 18 years, and I have to think long and hard to say something positive about the OPD. Yet when super wealthy business persons such as GOP nominee for governor Meg Whitman are constantly advocating for further tax cuts for those with the most and further elimination of services to those who need it most one should consider who to take aim at first.

The salaries and pensions of civil servants are not the problem when those they serve are willing to pay for them. Since the passage of Prop. 13 in 1978 California has been in a slow and steady death spiral. Local and state government has been forced to rely on sales tax (leading to big box monstrosities) and unfettered housing development (truly a snake eating its tail).

I can imagine that being a police officer in any major city is an awful job. Coming in contact with the worst people and situations day after day. I don't envy them and I also think that $70,000.00 a year isn't a whole hell of a lot if you live in the bay area.

Anybody who has lived in Oakland for any length of time can offer anecdotal evidence of the state of crime in this city. That evidence is usually put forth as positive if one has not experienced or witnessed a crime and negative if one has.

"Oakland is a dangerous place" It certainly is if you are young and black or Latino and live in either West Oakland or East Oakland. Both these areas are marginalized and isolated areas. Further investigation of Oakland's crime statistics show that the majority of violent crime is black on black followed by Latino on Latino. It is a culture of death that is sad and seems unsolvable. If you live on the outer edges of either of these areas you will be aware of the crime and violence, but will most likely never experience it.

My personal experience with the response by the OPD to 911 calls is abysmal. This includes wrestling on the sidewalk with the fattest intruder to ones house that you can imagine. The police response was 20 minutes after the 911 call. They then sat sat around my dining table each noting my DOB address and phone number including the appropriately named officer Bacon. Ignoring my description of the car and license number that eventually carried away our intruder they promised to investigate further. The next day I pass the car as described parked around the corner and when I call the police about it they ask me repeatedly if I'm sure that is the car. Finally an officer tells me that they will investigate and a detective will contact me to look at some photos. No one ever called.

That said, when we first moved into our house there was a 24 hour drug business going on across the street. The locals with the OPD and a sympathetic lawyer forced the family to sell and move out. A complete transformation of the quality of life on our block.

Yet I also think the OPD was the least effective in bringing this about.

Power to the people.
posted by pianomover at 11:23 PM on June 22, 2010 [6 favorites]


When I see things like this I'm reminded that this is the exact outcome that the "starve the beast" conservatives want.


Lastofhiskind I believe you are correct.
posted by pianomover at 11:35 PM on June 22, 2010


This is a bit tangential, but I made a post on scraper bikes who are located in Oakland, a few weeks ago.

Just thought I'd mention it as something good going on there
posted by a womble is an active kind of sloth at 2:58 AM on June 23, 2010


And the flip side: you don't see a lot of 60 year old subcontractors working heavy construction. Don't they deserve pensions too?

What a specious argument. Well of course construction workers should get pensions... they shouldn't be relegated to the magical term of "subcontractor" which is a work position designed to (ta dah!) prevent a worker from getting benefits. You may as well ask "well do you think illegal immigrants should get minimum wage?" Well, no shit. You want to guess why businesses hire them?
posted by XQUZYPHYR at 4:16 AM on June 23, 2010


I'd agree with Malor that Oakland officials are most likely cutting services to further their own careers, so residence should respond by voting out all the incumbents. If you have ballot measures, you might directly restrict spending to essential services, or even institute tax cuts so deep the city must cut fat.
posted by jeffburdges at 4:40 AM on June 23, 2010


Meanwhile in Sacramento:
The Sacramento County, Calif., sheriff's deputies union is using mobile billboards, mailers and radio and newspaper ads with vivid images and messages in a bid to avert more layoffs. The campaign includes a photo of a child with an adult's hand over its mouth and the words, "Your child could be at risk!" Another shows a masked man breaking through a door and asks, "Do you feel safe?"
posted by 445supermag at 5:48 AM on June 23, 2010


I thought Robocop.

Absolutely the first thing that came to mind for me too.
posted by antifuse at 6:54 AM on June 23, 2010


What criteria will Oakland use to determine which police officers to lay off? No answer to this question in the two fpp links.
posted by eccnineten at 7:01 AM on June 23, 2010


Uh, am I the only government employee who has a pension percentage taken out of my check every month?

Because, you know, to read it here a pension is all WOO HOO FREE RIDE and not something garnished from my wages over the course of an entire 30 year career.
posted by absalom at 7:12 AM on June 23, 2010 [3 favorites]


Nelson wrote: "I'd love one. Will you pay for mine please?"

When I had the option, I did. I didn't literally pay for your pension, but I bought my groceries from a store that took care of its employees by paying them a good wage with good benefits, including retirement. Sadly, they left the market.
posted by wierdo at 7:45 AM on June 23, 2010


Will this be an across the board cut, or will they just cut the vice squad, the drug cowboys, and the other worthless parts of the police force? If the latter I support the move unreservedly.
posted by sotonohito at 9:32 AM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


You've got this exactly backwards. Civil servants get reasonable pensions after 20 to 30 years on the job. Why shouldn't you?


Civil servants, who are also...wait for it..taxpayers.
posted by fixedgear at 12:30 PM on June 23, 2010


jeffburges: I'd agree with Malor that Oakland officials are most likely cutting services to further their own careers,

Note that I didn't actually say that, just observed that it was a possibility, and that we'd seen it the last time we looked at a city cutting services. (in Colorado, I think it was.) Some smart people dug up the actual figures, and that high level overview made it look near-certain that they were cutting in bad faith.

Often, you have to get down to individual departments to get a proper handle on the finances, which can take some time, but just the top-level budget was enough for the Colorado town.

I don't know that Oakland is doing the same thing. I think it's quite possible, but I haven't examined their budget.
posted by Malor at 12:35 PM on June 23, 2010


On the plus side: Less police brutality.
On the minus side: More criminal brutality.
posted by Mister_A at 12:38 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


absalom: "Uh, am I the only government employee who has a pension percentage taken out of my check every month?

Because, you know, to read it here a pension is all WOO HOO FREE RIDE and not something garnished from my wages over the course of an entire 30 year career.
"

Well you see for most people pensions are as familiar and normal as unicorns and so if they don't know what they are they just fill in the blanks with rainbows and pixie dust. Trying to explain that it's like a 401-k without being managed by a coked up goon is impossible, just impossible.
posted by boo_radley at 5:25 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Many pensions are managed by coked up goons. Others are managed by dumb goons, who are subject to relentless sales pitches by coked up goons.
posted by grobstein at 5:39 PM on June 23, 2010 [1 favorite]


Instead of rampant jealousy toward "cushy government jobs," people really ought to be writing their representatives to de-incentivize exporting jobs. Then unifying the workers might not immediately cause the company to close up shop and move to China.

and

The second most obvious answer is that there's no fuck you. I'd like you to have a good pension instead of being fucked over.

I didn't realize it was so easy for me to get a job with a pension! Thanks!

Seriously, I said what I said because it reads like the same kind of dismissals that anti-HCR protesters made about getting health insurance.

Is your heart really so grinch-sized that that wasn't immediately obvious from context?

I don't begrudge anyone a pension, but when a lot of states and municipalities are hemorrhaging money, and things like schools, entitlements for the poor, and public safety expenses are on the chopping block in many places, I hardly think that looking at pension spending and future pension plans as possible places to reduce spending makes me some kind of monster.
posted by Snyder at 7:03 PM on June 24, 2010


Uh, am I the only government employee who has a pension percentage taken out of my check every month?

I just read in the weekly today that folks are pushing to have OPD actually have to pay 9% of their pension, which is similar to firefighters and other Oakland city services.

Currently, they pay none towards it.
posted by yeloson at 10:56 PM on June 24, 2010


Some follow-up. Rather than the publicised, higher figure of 25%, only just over 10% of OPD has been put on the line, and it's not definite yet.
posted by doteatop at 7:56 AM on June 25, 2010


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