Oakland Tribune Outtakes

Notes from Oakland, Berkeley and in between

More police news

By awoodall
Friday, December 4th, 2009 at 4:36 pm in Night Owl, Oakland Police Department.

I just finished an update to the Thursday night shooting, which turned out to be a lot more complicated than it sounded last night. That always happens to me: whenever I expect a shooting or otherwise fatality to be routine (excuse the expression) the story turns out to be more involved. That is because what sounds like breaking news often fizzles out. A car hanging from a bridge turns out to be a fender-bender. A body floating in Lake Merritt turns out to be a sandbag. I have learned to take a few extra minutes but in some cases the mantra is “you never know until you get there.” The biggest surprise last night was not the complicated shooting story but Oakland police. The new chief actually asked reporters if we needed a comment right away instead of waiting for the spokesman to arrive in half an hour or longer. And the officers were friendly. They escorted residents as best they could back into the building (the woman with seven or eight kids) or brought out children to frantic family.  They at least listened to people asking to get in. I have heard them more than once do little more than grunt at people locked out at night in the cold from their homes because of a homicide. The neighbors weren’t nearly as combattative, either. I haven’t had time to ask anyone about it yet. Could be a fluke. But I hope not.

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5 Responses to “More police news”

  1. Dave C. Says:

    Interesting to hear your impressions. Of course we shouldn’t read too much into one person’s impressions of one situation, but it does sound like an improvement in some ways. I definitely believe that when a leader (in this case, Chief Batts) sets an example and makes it clear that he expects (i.e., demands) that his employees will behave in a certain way, then that alone can cause pretty fast and dramatic changes. Or as you say, could be a fluke. Who knows? As for the neighbors, maybe they were reacting favorably to the demeanor of the police, or maybe the people in that particular building are fed up with the repeated violence there, or maybe the residents who were around last night just happened to be less combative people, or maybe…again, who knows?

    It’ll be interesting to hear if you sense a similar thaw in the air at future incidents…

  2. awoodall Says:

    Yeah, you never know. But I think police respond when they feel like they have a good chief who has the department’s interests at heart. I am not saying that applies to Batts but it could. One of Batts No. 1 priorities is to improve community relations. I think what happened Thursday is a byproduct of that mandate. Every chief is hired with a specific political purpose in mind. The purposes change.

  3. erkle Says:

    I think a floating sandbag is a story unto itself.

  4. awoodall Says:

    The performance was no fluke, according to Batts, who laid out his agenda for OPD last week during a press conference. Batts didn’t announce anything new that Kelly Rayburn hasn’t reported. But it was the first I had heard that he was trying to forge better relations (the reason for HIS hire over others) between police and the public by just such means as being nice to them at crime scenes. We’ll see what comes of it but if you want me two cents (and even if you don’t) I think it’s good to hear. That doesn’t mean they are going to be walking around purring at people but neither do they have to growl anymore.

  5. Fragmentary Evidence » Doing More With Less: OPD’s Plans to Bring Down Crime Says:

    […] the department can get information to the press and the public more quickly and effectively. He makes sure that information is being shared with the public promptly at crime scenes. The man is no dummy, and he knows that fostering good relations with the press and the public […]

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