June Town Hall Meeting Draws a Full House

Mayor Quan, Interim Police Chief Sean Whent at Joint RCPC/NCPC Meeting
Monday, July 8, 2013

It was obvious that public safety was much on people's minds, especially with the looming deadline for the city to approve a new budget, as a capacity crowd filled the Rockridge Branch Library meeting room for the June 20 joint Rockridge Community Planning Council - Greater Rockridge Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council Town Hall meeting.

A major reason for the large turnout was the presence of Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Interim Police Chief Sean Whent, who both focused their remarks on public safety issues.

Before Chief Whent and the Mayor arrived, NCPC Chair Frank Castro and Problem Solving Officers (PSOs) Lane (Beat 12Y) and Trode (Beat 13X), along with Police Lieutenant Bolton, filled the crowd in on the latest crime statistics and trends in Rockridge.

Overall, they said, crime incidents were up this month from last, but were down dramatically compared to this time last year. Questions from the audience included:

  • What if a report made on the non-emergency line gets no response? Answer: Make the report anyhow. It helps the police know how to distribute resources.
  • Which number is best to call in an emergency such as a fire, medical emergency, or crime-in-progress? Answer: 911 from a landline or 510/777-3211 from a cell phone. For non-emergency concerns, call 510/777-3333; for anonymous drug tips, call 510/238-3784.
  • Why are some police dispatchers impolite over the phone when taking a report? Answer: They're often stressed, but they've recently gotten more training on dealing with the public. If one is rude during a call, let the Police Department know and the dispatcher will be counseled.

It was also reported that the Department is working with the Rockridge District Association (RDA) to integrate security cameras on College Avenue into a police network. Opportunities are developing for integrated residential security cameras as well.

Chief Whent then discussed the Police Department's reorganization, one of several recommendations of the recent consultants' evaluation.

Rockridge is now in District Two of five newly drawn districts, and covers most of North Oakland. It is headed up by Captain Anthony Toribio, who many may recall was in charge of a similar area in 2008, until cutbacks forced a consolidation of districts.

The Chief said that additional resources, both sworn officer and civilian, are being allocated to each district. He noted that the city has held several police academies recently and, with the new budget, will be adding more. Additional police dispatchers are also being recruited and trained.

Whent also acknowledged that the Department's resources and responsiveness are not what he'd like them to be, but assured the audience that it is working on improving the situation.

Finally, he noted that the Department has been using a new program, Nixle, for citizens who want to receive important police alerts via text message or e-mail. Interested persons can sign up at http://nixle.us/register/ for general alerts and at http://bit.ly/VpsuyK for emergency alerts for residents.

Mayor Quan followed up on the Chief's remarks, discussing the city's emphasis on restoring police department staffing closer to full strength.

She noted that the city is doing more to recruit Oakland residents for the police force and said she was proud that the latest police academy graduating class had a higher percentage of minorities, bilingual officers, and women than any other before. She felt it was important that the Department mirror the city's diversity. She also said that between turnover and additional new officers, the Department was building a new generation of officers.

During the extensive question-and-answer period, Mayor Quan and Chief Whent discussed many issues. The Mayor explained that city employees, having endured furlough days and gone five years without a cost-of-living increase, were due for a pay increase, but increased city revenue meant Oakland could provide a modest ÒbumpÓ in employee pay and still work on restoring police and other services.

Chief Whent said that the city had no plans for a curfew for under-eighteen-year-olds. He explained that a curfew would raise difficult issues such as where to put violators. He also said that most of the serious problems that might be addressed by a curfew involve people over age 18, and they would be unaffected by a curfew.

The meeting ended with a warm round of applause for both the Mayor and the Chief. NCPC Chair Castro reminded everyone to come back July 11 for the next regular NCPC meeting, when Captain Toribio will be speaking.

Contacting the Oakland Police
Emergency: call 911 from a landline; call 510/777-3211 from a cell phone.
Non-emergency: call 510/777-3333
To make an anonymous drug tip: call 510/238-3784.