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The Oakland police chief’s middle school strategy

Chief Batts. Tribune photo by D. Ross CameronOakland Police Chief Anthony Batts is in Washington, D.C. right now, lobbying the federal powers that be to give him $6 million for a pilot community policing program at four Oakland middle schools.

Batts’ plan is to hire 24 police officers and to assign them to four Oakland middle schools: Frick, Madison, Roosevelt and Westlake.

Officer Jeff Thomason, a public information officer for the police department, said four of the six officers at each school would provide security, and that two would serve as mentors and run the O.K. Program for gang and violence prevention.

“Basically, we want to start our community policing model at those schools,” Thomason said.

Troy Flint, a spokesman for the Oakland school district, said the officers would help to protect students as they go to and from school, a major safety concern that contributes to truancy.

“This is the type of partnership we’re looking to develop with other government agencies,” Flint said.

Thomason said the $6 million would cover the program for one year. What happens the year after that? Why not put three officers at each school, instead of six, and make the money go twice as long?

Thomason said he didn’t know. He said it was likely the chief and the schools superintendent thought that six officers were needed at each school, and that they didn’t want to shortchange the students.

What do you think about this idea? Do you think it will keep students safer? Keep more of them from joining gangs or becoming victims or perpetrators of violence? Will it lead to a better relationship between the kids and the police?

Katy Murphy

Education reporter for the Oakland Tribune. Contact me at kmurphy@bayareanewsgroup.com.

  • HistoryMan

    As a teacher at one of these middle schools (however this is the first time I have heard about this), I do not think this program will make much of an impact. We already have a strong security presence on campus of 300 students. Add 6 police officers and we would have 9 security personnel. Is this really necessary? I def think not. Just if we could spend this money on what we really need….say…..teachers….how far fetched right?

  • SkylineHighSenior

    Only in the middle schools and they each get 6 (OPD or OUSDPD?) officers? I think this would be better utilized if those potential 24 officers are going to be part of OUSD Police Services (assuming that they will be OPD since Chief Batts is the one lobbying) and having them assigned to areas where they are needed most for visible security such as the one in a previous article or say, bust the group of students smoking marijuana in the parking lot in the morning, lunch and afternoon here :) .

  • let’sberational

    As a math teacher, I am trying to figure out how
    6 million for 6 officers at 4 schools is only enough for one year???? Are you telling me it costs $250,000 a year to walk students to school? And what a slap it the face to the great security officers we are already have.

  • Steven Weinberg

    I hope Chief Batts is successful. At the school I am most familiar with (Frick) there is a definite need for a greater police presence in the area surrounding the school. The on-campus security team does an excellent job in the building and immediately outside, but the streets the students have to travel to reach the school are some of the most dangerous in Oakland. The school administration has always made student safety a top priority, and 6 or more adults cover the major hot spots near the school every day at dismissal time, but this should be a police, and not a school, responsibility.

  • Cranky Teacher

    Presumably, the rest of the money is going into the O.K. Program for other staff, supplies, training, etc.?

  • Bernardo

    Laying off teachers and replacing them with more cops in inner-city schools. There’s no research to show that more police improves learning outcomes. Nor is there any to show that it makes schools safer. All it does is raise the expectation of violence. Pretty clear what we’re preparing our students for. Can you imagine this being done in predominantly white, middle class schools? Parents would go nuts. Where are you Oakland parents?

  • Nextset

    Bernardo: I disagree with your claim that this will “not make the schools safer”.

    Of course this is not done in white schools. Bay Area White schools are safer than black schools. Oakland Unified has black schools, thus the need for armed peace officers not “security officers”. You need armed security people ready, willing and able to kill someone on the spot. You need people who can arrest and book in the jail as well as juvenile hall. You need this because your schools are dangerous places because they attract/contain dangerous people.

    At least that’s the clear import of this story. And I see no reason to not take the Chief of Oakland Police at his word. He is there to make such decisions. And I trust his expert opinion on this more than any “educator’s” opinion.

    Ghetto schools – and I assume we are talking about Ghetto Schools, not Montera, contain Ghetto people. Ghetto People carry drug using, gang affiliated, violent, impulsive, mentally off personalities. The schools fail and neglect to keep book on even the most obvious signs of gang affiliation, parolee affiliation, or criminal affiliation of the students and families. Not to mention the schools have no complete knowledge of the criminal histories of their own students. So the “educators” really don’t know how dangerous their students and student’s families are.

    If OPD is going to provide staffing and a presence in various Oakland Schools you are probably lucky to have them. Just don’t get in their way, ever.

    And I don’t think the Parents of these students are complaining. They are lucky to have Police Services there to keep narcotics, violence and intimidation away from their kids. If they don’t want the OPD around they can speak for themselves.

    Oh, and the comment about the white schools being safer probably has a lot to do with the white schools actually expelling people who don’t conform to their higher norms. Black schools seem to have a different and lower standard of acceptable dress, deportment, & behavior. that’s too bad.

    OUSD is not run like Dunbar High was. I wish it were. Poverty has nothing to do with it. Discipline is cheap.

  • Katy Murphy

    I checked again with OPD’s public information officer, Jeff Thomason, and he said the 24 officers would cost about $4 million, including benefits. (On average, he said, six OPD officers cost $1 million.) He confirmed that it would cost $5.5 million to $6 million to run the program for one year. The other $1.5 to $2 million? Probably program costs.

    If the money comes through, I’ll get more details about how it will be spent.

  • Harold

    Violence is a REAL issue @OUSD middle schools. But the violence is usually after school, on the walk home. I support more safety measures outside these schools, so children may get home safely, without fear. But if they are going to act as security, inside, during instructional time – i am against that. I would hope that Oakland parents, would be against police breaking up fights between 6th graders on the playground. That would send a terrible message to all considered.

  • Nextset

    Harold: It would be about as subtle as travel posters of the California Prisons around the school.

    If that is what this plan actually leads to I hope Katy reports it in the Tribune. I see no reason to think this Police Chief would have his staff doing something politically incorrect. I believe they will be careful and correct in their operation and will have thought ahead with protocols to protect themselves from foreseeable avoidable criticism.

    I rather think the Police presence in the middle school will boil down to unformed show of force to discourage dangerous adults from turning up at school and acting out (protection), report takers for the child molest, child abuse and child neglect cases more likely to occur at underclass schools, and (effectively) social workers to attend to the special needs of ghetto youth – interaction with male authority figures.

    And if the Feds are paying for it, better Oakland Unified gets the service than some district in Texas.

    This is probably not a bad thing, just a sign of the times. But you can see, it is not needed in Piedmont.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    PS: The fun will start the minute one of the little “student” thug wanna-be’s addresses an officer in an insolent and surly tone of voice.

    When you have Peace Officers on the premises the rules change to their rules. Peace Officers cannot be required to take orders from a civilian. They will not be at the direction of any school administrator or teacher.

    If OPD on campus begin to stop, detain, search or interview someone there will be no interference permitted. It’s not like the “Security” personnel at all. Peace Officers are not free to ignore certain things. If the school people don’t like it they need to leave the scene – they can’t butt in. And the Officers have no obligation to explain or justify their actions while engaged.

    If X turns up at the school and Officers decide to detain & search them and/or their car they are not going to stop and chat about the decision with non officers. They may well know that X is searchable, they may have info that X carries weapons or drugs – or is wanted. And they are not going to hold a meeting to canvass the faculty about it. And if they have to take Ms X in they often cannot discuss why Ms/Mr X has to be quickly removed to interrogation. This is not an unlikely thing to happen. X may be a family member of staff or student, or even staff. It happens, full time staffing of OPD on a campus increases the odds tremendously. We see this at the Jr. Colleges – usually people there are mature enough to know they couldn’t know the whole story and don’t really get emotional because somebody else is in some trouble.

    Here we are talking of a school full of adolescents. It takes very little to stir them up and goad them into acting out. Some busybody may want to start a petition/demonstration/walk out about X’s search and seizure (I have warned before about foolish people fighting the battles of others).

    This is going to take some getting used to. It might even require reality adjustment on the part of a lot of people, students, family members & staff.

  • harlemmoon

    Are we listening to ourselves here?
    We’re talking about armed officers in MIDDLE SCHOOL.
    Have we entirely given up and decided to send our children to potential battle grounds that only front as institutions of learning?

    The discussion shouldn’t be about how many cops, how much they’re paid or in which schools they’re posted.

    The real discussion, the heart of the matter, is Why?

  • Harold

    @nextset – the rules you speak of, should not apply to children.

  • Hot r

    Critics do not know what they are talking about. Officers have been assigned to middle schools in Alameda for years with a very positive effect. these officers are handpicked to relate to the students and make staff and students feel SAFE. Many students admire the police officers and are actually willing to come forward with information which can PREVENT crimes while giving a more humane face to police work. You cannot learn or teach if it is not safe…

  • Nextset

    Harold: Which rules exactly? And Which “Children”? Do you distinguish between pre and post pubescent kids? There is a difference you know.

    And when you say “should” not apply – are you talking about the real world or some imaginary wishful thinking world where the gangs don’t use adolescent males for murder.

    Harlemmoon: You know, the reason all this is happening in the black schools is that we stopped trying to have “real” black schools sometime in the late 1960s and instead offered pacification “schools” where never is heard a discouraging word. If the black schools had the discipline they need, you wouldn’t be having these problems now. The troublemakers, black troublemakers, would be gone into reform schools and the black dulls would be gone into schools for the retarded.

    That sounds cold – but there you have it. Dunbar High for those who toe the line, Preston or something else for those who don’t or can’t. Was that better or not? And it was still segregated by race I suppose..

    Our problem is that when we integrated education we also decided we couldn’t discipline since that meant more blacks will always get disciplined more severely. So discipline went out the door alltogether, along with the Jewish kids (they used to be in OUSD!). To Piedmont/Orinda.

    Society decided this way is more fun – at least more fun for the politicians and “educators”. So now things are at the point that (nearly all?) urban little black kids get pat searched and attended to by police officers. Because we won’t cull the herd.

    Piedmont schools certainly will. Talk back over there a few times too many, cut class, and it’s continuation school.

    You see the difference.

    All because we wanted to make the chillun and their Mamas comfortable. Now we want to keep them (relatively) safe so in comes the cops and metal detectors.

    Don’t even get me started about TSA. Same process of madness there.

    Brave New World.

  • Nextset

    By discipline I’m not referring to corporal punishment although that’s not a bad idea. I am referring to handing out Fs, flunking students out and transferring them to Ditch Digger U. When that’s the order of the day you have better co-operation with remedial class, summer school, and voluntary transfer to more appropriate schools for the bad students. Likewise for behavioral problems. There’s a school for that and it’s not the one I’d be attending.

    Poor black and brown children who can read and write and function in school should be able to attend “good schools” free of bad students.

    This is what’s missing in Urban Education. It used to be there. We need it back.

  • Chauncey

    Middle school children? When was the last time you hilly whites went to Madison Middle during lunch? Or hang outside of Havenscourt back area after school?

    You guys are a joke! Thats why these growing thugs see the world the way they do. They know they can hurt and get over your types and will til Po-Po busts them and their heads!

    This site is fun stuff now. Dont even make sense all that musch anymore. Find better ones that talk real stuff- I did.

  • livegreen

    Kids needing protection going to and from school safely is not caused by Police, and bringing attention to the problem is not the problem or the cause of the problem. The problems the Chief is trying to address ALREADY EXIST and r caused by gang members and past or future school drop-outs who cause problems for other kids, often off campus. & ONLY police officers can solve the off-campus problems.

    I think it’s excellent the Chief is trying to do something about it. It is SO Bay Area that when somebody tries to do something critics pile on and list all the reasons it won’t work.

    In the meantime I only wish he could do more. Like address the liquor stores located near schools that kids have to walk past. Anybody ever wonder why there r so many? There’s something terribly wrog with that.

    Katy, please ask OPD if they’ve done any surveys to inventory liquor stores near schools and if they, OPD and the City can get grant funds to boost OPD ABAT and Nuiscance Dept support to get liquor stores AWAY from schools.