There are places where the police department exists in name only. Criminals are free to rob and shoot people with no fear of repercussions. When I worked in Port-au-Prince, Haiti, in the mid- and late '90s, there was no 911 to call for help. People who could afford it hired bodyguards to protect their persons and security guards with AK-47s to protect their homes and businesses because it was their only defense against armed criminals.
What does that have to do with Oakland? Look around. We already have security "ambassadors" -- private cops essentially -- patrolling downtown. Thugs who clearly feel emboldened to shoot their rivals in broad daylight on public streets with no concern whatsoever for other people getting hurt and no fear of getting prosecuted.
This past week was a bonanza for the funeral business in Oakland.
Five men were shot and killed in the streets of East Oakland within one 18-hour period on Monday and Tuesday. "Targeted," according to the police. As opposed to random victims, which would have been the case had the bullets from one of those shootings that struck a passing car carrying a woman and her 14-year-old daughter not continued on its evil path without harming them.
On Thursday, city officials and community leaders convened a news conference at Oakland Police Department headquarters to discuss the "spike" in violence. That would be the spike on top of all of the previous spikes that have led us to where we are today -- 95 killings as of this writing.
A collection of city officials -- including Mayor Jean Quan, City Council President Larry Reid and City Administrator Deanna Santana -- attended the news conference, which was essentially a photo op.
Oakland police Chief Howard Jordan once again called upon residents to come forward with information -- anonymously -- that can help investigators solve scores of open homicides.
The one useful bit of information was that police unveiled a new anonymous tip system called Nixle "Tip Watch." Crime witnesses can text TIP OAKLAND PD to 888777.
According to OPD, the identity of the sender is not known to OPD or Nixle because it is encrypted.
The real question is, how do we get from, "Oh, it's just those people killing each other as usual" or people from the affected communities believing that the life of a young black or Latino man shot and killed in the street still has value even if a police officer was not the one who pulled the trigger.
There is a hue and cry every time the independent monitor releases another damning report about OPD, as he did this past week, alleging Oakland police officers shoot suspects without cause but far fewer protests over the mounting body count in the streets.
On Tuesday, I went to the Oakland City Council meeting.
It was insanity. Police had barred the doors to council chambers to block access to hundreds of people who turned out to protest the May 6 police killing of Skyline High School senior Alan Blueford. "Anarchists" and remnants of Occupy Oakland have seized upon Blueford's shooting as a means of promoting their anti-police agenda.
Blueford's attorney, John Burris, had already received the police report that the protesters were raising such hell about earlier that day. So the lengthy disruption of City Council business was an entirely moot exercise.
As these people -- many of them not even from Oakland -- screamed about "justice for Alan Blueford," I thought about the 5-year-old boy in East Oakland who was shot in the neck while she walked down the sidewalk to get an ice cream. Gabriel Martinez Jr., 5, whose killer is still on the loose.
A friend who witnessed a shooting in front of her house several weeks ago that left her traumatized.
Don't get me wrong. I think the police bungled the release of information in Blueford's case, which led to the current fiasco.
But my point is this: Nothing is going to change in Oakland until the people living in African-American and Latino neighborhoods ravaged by the violence -- as well as outsiders from Piedmont and the like who profess to care so much about black men being shot and killed -- start holding killers who are not cops accountable.
That would be the 99 percent.