Gunmen have shot out the windows of AC Transit buses in drive-bys. Firefighters have had to duck for cover when bullets fired from the street struck their fire stations. Last week, we learned that Oakland is the robbery capital of the U.S., according to FBI data analyzed by this newspaper. Criminals are stealing people's cellphones, cars, jewelry and other possessions at gunpoint on a regular basis.
Oakland residents and business people are desperate for police and city officials to take action to address over-the-top crime.
But for every step forward, it seems, there are always at least two back.
Wednesday was supposed to be the day that Oakland officials unveiled their latest crime reduction plan -- this one produced by uber police consultant William Bratton and the Strategic Policy Partnership. OPD had sent out a media advisory at 8:12 a.m. saying that Chief Howard Jordan and the consultants would discuss the plan at a 12:30 news conference at OPD.
But Oakland's police chief had other plans.
Later that morning, Jordan informed City Administrator Deanna Santana that he was taking a medical leave -- effective immediately. Jordan, 47, a 24-year-veteran of the department, said he intended to seek retirement for medical reasons. Claiming a medical disability enables Jordan to get a much richer retirement.
Jordan and city officials refused to give details of his illness. Jordan told KGO-TV that he had been under a doctor's care for treatment of a "debilitating health condition" and that he had decided to retire based on medical advice.
The chief's abrupt announcement blindsided the police command, rank-and-file, much of City Hall and the community.
At a news conference Wednesday, Santana, Mayor Jean Quan and police officials insisted that Jordan's departure would not hamper the city's implementation of the new crime reduction plan.
Some suspect the timing of Jordan's departure was influenced by federal overseer Thomas Frazier's May 1 report critical of OPD's executive leadership, that Jordan decided to jump rather than wait to be pushed.
Jordan denied that he had been pressured to quit.
I never expected Jordan to stick around long after Frazier's appointment as compliance director in March.
Jordan had the title, pay and benefits of chief. But he had to answer to Quan, Judge Thelton Henderson and his appointees, independent monitor Robert Warshaw and compliance director Frazier. Then there were the newly hired consultants, William Bratton, Robert Wasserman and their team. Jordan was in an untenable position.
The only questions are why did he leave now? And what is his illness? The stress of his job would be enough to make anyone sick. Jordan is the third chief to head for the exit in four years.
After the surprise announcement, city officials announced that Anthony Toribio would take over as interim chief while Oakland conducts a national search for Jordan's replacement.
But two days later, Toribio was out. He agreed to be voluntarily demoted to captain.
On Friday, Quan and Santana announced a new police leadership team headed by Sean Whent, interim chief.
Whent and most of the others named have internal affairs experience, which could suggest that OPD will more aggressively pursue police misconduct allegations. One can only hope it does not mean that OPD will spend ever more of its time investigating the police rather than focusing on violent criminals, who far outnumber rogue officers.
Against the backdrop of political intrigue, the release of the Bratton report was anti-climactic. Many of the recommendations were similar to those made by two members of the team six years ago. The department didn't have enough manpower or the technology then to implement them. It's hard to see how OPD's severely understaffed force would be any more equipped to put them into practice this time around.
City officials say they will launch a nationwide search for a new chief.
How about this for a job description? Chief of police wanted to head demoralized, critically short-staffed department in one of the most violent cities in the U.S. Must answer to mayor, a bevy of police consultants, a compliance director and a federal judge. The compliance director can overturn any decision you make and recommend that you be fired.
How many qualified candidates do you suppose will take Oakland up on that offer?