OAKLAND -- The second in a series of three reports aimed at improving police work in Oakland recommends the department sharply reduce the number of service calls that get dispatched to patrol officers.
With Oakland police already burdened with the state's highest rate of service calls per officer, consultant Robert Wasserman wrote that a 30 percent reduction was needed to help patrol officers proactively fight crime and respond more quickly to the most urgent 911 calls.
Too often officers are "running from call to call, often outside the neighborhood beat to which they are assigned," Wasserman wrote in a 39-page report released Friday.
Oakland officials turned to Wasserman, one of the nation's highest-profile police consultants, in late 2012 as the city was enduring a second consecutive year of surging crime rates. Wasserman, in turn, enlisted famed lawman William Bratton to join his team. Bratton issued the team's first report in May, recommending that the city create geographically based investigative units to better respond to burglaries and robberies and make major changes in the city's weekly crime-data-crunching meetings.
In December, Wasserman is slated to release a citywide crime-fighting plan that spells out how other city departments can help police reduce crime.
The three reports, which cost a combined $350,000, come as the city is embarking on a search for a permanent police chief, who city officials say should be selected by March.
Wasserman had harped on Oakland's high number of service calls and long response times during several community meetings held earlier this year. The issue was also a centerpiece of former Chief Anthony Batts' strategic plan for the department. Batts' report, also prepared by an outside consultant, found that it took Oakland police just under 15 minutes to respond to high-priority calls -- more than double the average time at comparable California cities.
Wasserman recommended assigning injured officers to respond to certain types of service calls via telephone and expanding the types of calls that can be reported online. He also recommended freeing 911 dispatchers from taking calls from police officers about administrative matters so that they could answer service calls more quickly.
The police department is also still in the process of hiring 20 police technicians who will be assigned to respond to nonemergency calls such as burglary reports, Assistant Chief Paul Figueroa said. The department will conduct extensive public outreach before changing any policies on responding to service calls, he added.
Wasserman's report was mostly devoid of statistics. Many of the recommendations focused on improving community relations and cementing the shift to decentralizing power to five newly created policing districts.
He wrote that police recruits should meet with community mentors and be required to write about their discussions so they have a "sense of how (the) community views policing and how their actions can determine the level of support police receive from (the) community."
Wasserman also recommended that officers attend more community meetings, that the department set up community-based intervention teams to deal with mental-health-related incidents, and that district captains get oversight of the city's neighborhood service coordinators.
Figueroa said commanders are still discussing which of the recommendations can be implemented right away given the department's staffing constraints. "We have to go through it and do some real strategic thinking given their recommendations," he said.
In response to Bratton's report, the department established the police districts in June and set up district investigative teams. Each district now has a dedicated robbery investigator, and the department now has three dedicated burglary investigators -- up from less than one.
Crime has dipped in Oakland since the rollout of the police districts. Compared to last year, major crimes are essentially flat and violent crime is up slightly as the strong increase in robberies has more than offset drops in homicides, assaults and rapes.
Contact Matthew Artz at 510-208-6435.