OAKLAND -- Reiterating that he is not leaving Oakland, police Chief Anthony Batts said the next few months will be extremely busy as the department deals with further downsizing and the implementation of new programs designed to strengthen community relations.
Though he said city officials have not told him about any more officer layoffs, Batts said he has presented a budget scenario to Mayor Jean Quan calling for 15 percent in cuts to his department. He did not provide details, but said that attrition and the lack of planned recruit academics probably means more downsizing of the department.
Currently 658 officer positions are filled and an average of more than four officers are leaving every month either to retirement or other police jobs.
Because of the reduced numbers, Batts said he and senior commanders are working on a new "service delivery system" that will affect police response to crimes in progress, how they patrol the city and follow-up investigations.
Batts, who was a finalist for the San Jose police chief's job this year, said he has a good relationship with Quan, is "focused" on his current job, and is "not looking for another job and not anticipating looking for another job."
As to reports of low morale in the department, Batts said morale is "defined by different people in different ways." He said he can understand the frustration of officers who lost four fellow officers to a killer March 21, 2009, and then 80 fellow officers and 22 recruits to layoffs in July. But he said he believes the Oakland Police Department is a "very good organization" that has brought down crime and that would benefit greatly if the community gave it more support and let officers know that "they are doing a good job."
Batts also announced that 50 patrol officers Tuesday began using pager-size cameras that are worn on their uniforms or placed on a patrol car dashboard. The cameras will record contacts with people and vehicle pursuits, among other things. The video cannot be edited or manipulated and the cameras are intended to increase transparency and reduce complaints. All 350 field officers are expected to be using them by the summer.
Another plan is to begin distributing "Quick Compliment" cards that allows people who come in contact with officers to tell commanders of "exceptional" service and show good work is appreciated. Cards already are available to make complaints about police conduct.
Also in the works is a youth summit in September at which police can sit down with young people and discuss issues.
Repairs and modifications are still ongoing to prevent radio problems that have recently prevented officers in the field from communicating with each other or dispatchers.