OAKLAND -- From the sound of police and city leaders Thursday, the next Oakland police motto should be "Walk, Bike, Smile."
Three weeks after creating five policing districts, each run by a captain who is supposed to stay on the pulse of neighborhood concerns, Oakland top cops said they are intent on getting officers out of their patrol cars and talking to residents.
"The partnership with the community, the trust in the police department: that is the key to how we are going to reduce crime in the long term in this city," Interim Chief Sean Whent said Thursday with the police captains sitting in front of him.
Oakland police have struggled to win the hearts of residents, especially in heavily minority neighborhoods. The lack of trust is seen as a major reason why the department has struggled to solve major cases.
The district policing plan, championed by a consultant team hired by the city last year, is designed to make the captains more accountable to the command staff and officers more connected to residents.
Mayor Jean Quan said residents queried by the consultants said they wanted police officers to "slow down, say hello and smile."
Several captains said they have begun reintroducing foot and bike patrols in crime hot spots. Captain Eric Lewis said he has officers riding in downtown Oakland from 8 p.m. to 3 a.m. Thursdays, Fridays and Saturdays.
Captain Kirk Coleman said some of his officers are biking sections of East Oakland. "That's where you get up close and personal," he said. "You meet with the citizens; you hear their concerns."
Captains also said they had taken steps to combat sex trafficking in East Oakland, as well as fight robberies, which have continued to increase since the district plan went into effect.
Whent said the department will further carry out the consultants' recommendations next month when they start creating district-level investigative units to focus on robberies and property crimes.
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