OAKLAND -- Surprise? Not really. Disappointment? Some. Anger? A little.
That's the general rank-and-file officers' reaction to the possibility of Oakland Chief of Police Anthony Batts becoming the top cop in San Jose after just over a year of leading the Oakland department.
Batts, who has just under two years left on his contract with Oakland, is one of two finalists for the San Jose job, and the choice could be made in a few weeks.
Capt. Ersie Joyner III, commander of one of the city's three geographical areas, said he was "disappointed but not surprised" Batts might leave.
"It's a great opportunity for him both professionally and financially," said Joyner, a 20-year veteran. "His leadership will be missed. He was inspiring and motivating in getting the troops to go out there and fight crime."
But he said Oakland still has "dedicated men and women" who will continue that tradition.
Since the official decision has not been made, some officers concerned about possible retaliation for their comments from either the department or city hall, would only talk if their names were not used.
Many thought Batts may have finally gotten fed up with constant interference from City Hall, a shrinking number of officers and a lack of resources, and he may have underestimated how difficult it could be to get the department in compliance with reforms mandated in a negotiated settlement agreement, or NSA, stemming from the Riders case a decade ago.
One sergeant with more than 20 years on the job said he was not surprised Batts might head south, especially after "he got up here and discovered the city was not what he thought it would be," particularly with staffing levels and the political situation.
He called Batts "incredibly dynamic" and thought he would be the one to get the department in total compliance with the settlement agreement.
But he also said Batts' management style had alienated "a lot of talented people here" who would not be sorry to see him go.
The sergeant said he believes San Jose offers "simpler politics, a better economic structure" not to mention it being a "step up" to a bigger city.
Another sergeant, with more than 10 years experience, said he was "a little surprised" Batts might leave, especially since he had given no prior hints about departing. He thought Batts gave the department "a lot of promise, a lot of hope and he boosted morale. But I think he just got worn down."
An officer with more than 20 years, said she is "a little down, a little disappointed" that Batts might be leaving.
"He was someone I believed in. He had inspiration, and it seemed like he cared. I understand how you're limited in what you can and cannot do with city government. But the guy never said, 'I can't do what I was brought into do.' Even though he was limited in what he could do, you should fulfill your obligation."
She said a lot of officers feel the department has been "chipped away" by outside influences and "this is just another chipping away."
But she understands there was always the possibility Batts would leave, although not so soon. "You can't blame anybody for pursuing their dream."
She thinks it will be harder for Batts to lead the Oakland department if he does not get the San Jose job. "You don't get what you want and now you're sorry?"
A 14-year veteran of the department said morale got better after Batts took over but it is falling as budget problems, officers leaving and NSA restrictions make it harder to do the proactive police work he believes is needed in Oakland.
"In (Batts') defense, being chief in Oakland under the NSA is career suicide. I think he was totally misled (by city officials before taking the job.) You can't come out of this and shine. San Jose has more opportunities to enhance his personal career. If he stays and crime goes up and businesses leave, that's a mark on his career."
A department sentiment is that if Batts leaves there is no need to do a nationwide search for a new chief. Many feel his replacement should either be someone already at the department or someone who has been in Oakland before who understands the current culture, is loyal to both the city and the department, and is willing to commit to staying for the long haul.
"It needs to be someone who will walk in with their eyes open to what is really going on, the staffing, the settlement agreement, the politics,"a supervisor said. "Someone with an OPD history would not be a bad choice."