Meet Captain Anthony Toribio, District 2 Area Commander

Saturday, October 12, 2013

Jutting up 10 stories above 7th Street and Broadway - and hard by the Nimitz Freeway - the Oakland Police Department Administration Building, known to those who work there as the PAB, presents an indecipherable gray wall of windows and panels to the street.

Before a seismic retroft several years ago, the building was fairly easy to enter through any of the several doorways dotting the sides and front of the ground floor. Now, many have been walled off; the doors remaining are sturdier, smaller and more foreboding. Several can be opened only by coded buttons.

On the August morning that we, Judith Berne, Rockridge News writer and Don Kinkead, editor, entered the PAB to interview Captain Anthony Toribio, a line of visitors already stretched from the appointment desk through the door to the outside.

In the large lobby, graced with a mezzanine floor above a bank of four elevators, an agitated young man paced in circles, then across the length of the lobby, then sat down at a lobby desk, talking angrily the whole time about how things weren't going well for him. His voice echoed alarmingly through the room. As two police officers entered the lobby from the adjoining office area, the young man stood and walked up to them, crossing his wrists in front of himself and saying, "I've been bad. I'm ready to be arrested. You can cuff me now." The officers casually positioned themselves on either side of him, and one asked, gently, "How have you been bad?"

Just then, Captain Toribio came up the stairs, greeted us, and invited us back to the office area. Gesturing toward the young man, still talking loudly, and to the long line still out the door, Kinkead asked, "Busy day in the lobby?" Toribio, looking around, said, "Oh, not too bad."

Had he not chosen law enforcement as a career, Captain Anthony Toribio said he would have been a teacher at the high school level. Instead, after a discussion with a roommate, he joined the Oakland Police Department, and, 23 years later, has no career regrets.

"I wanted to make a difference in life, to have something I could look back on when I was in my older years and say I had made a difference. Law enforcement seemed noble to me," Toribio said.

Although he has a brother who has been on the force for seven years, Toribio is the first in his family to go into law enforcement.

In another of the periodic restructurings of the Oakland Police Department that shuffle and realign positions and staff, Toribio was assigned in May to head the new District 2, covering North Oakland - all of Rockridge - and the Oakland Hills, and comprised of 12 community-policing beats.

This is not his first assignment in the Rockridge area. In January 2008, Toribio was named North and West Oakland Captain of an area that included much of Rockridge in what was then known as North Oakland Area 1.

Quoted in the January 2008 issue of The Rockridge News upon his appointment, Toribio spoke of his interest in what he termed "project-based" policing, a crime-solving approach that works to remove the root of a problem rather than simply dealing with the surface concern. Besides providing a more lasting solution, this approach gives an officer a greater sense of achievement, Toribio said then. "Most people become officers because they want to make a difference. When they do the job right, they get a sense of satisfaction, a sense of accomplishment and pride."

Now, five-and-a-half years later, the captain holds to the same philosophy. "I still feel it is a noble profession. Overall, it becomes what you make of it - a job or a passion. I hope those officers who don't begin with a sense of the profession's nobility develop a sense of ownership and connection with the people they serve, protect and help."

In all, there are now five police districts with officers assigned according to beats; there are 35 beats in the city divided among the districts. Captain Toribio is responsible for seven beats. Rockridge is covered by parts of beats 12Y and 13X.

"The reorganization provides a smaller, more manageable area and time to get into the weeds of crimes. It also allows more time to strategize about crime preventionÉ I previously had an area about twice as large."

With this restructuring, Toribio and his fellow captains can more easily help officers develop the sense of ownership and connection Toribio hopes they will have. Given that the captains have more compact districts, and will have more opportunity to work closely with the officers under their command, he expects a different level of policing to be possible.

Toribio says he can now review all crime reports and assign immediate follow-up for additional evidence or identification to round out an investigation. Also, exemplary work can be more promptly rewarded.

This improved accountability works both ways, he said. As a part of the restructure, the department's CompStat system (COMPuter analysis of crime STATistics) has been reengineered, permitting senior management to offer advice and direction to the captains.

The increased accountability of supervisors, Toribio believes, has improved the quality of investigative work of both officers and supervisors. And, he says, officers like it "because it all leads to the goal of stopping the bad guys."

Additional policing resources are soon to be made available to the department. "The police department has made a commitment to crime reduction and the city has made a commitment to fight crime by providing more sworn and civilian staff," the captain said. He noted two police academy classes have already graduated and moved on to field training. A third class started in September.

Toribio seems determined to spread the word of the changes in the department resulting from the reorganization as well as the improving Consent Decree management. At a fit 46 years of age and with a persistent sense of humor ("That's 322 in dog years," he said of his age), he does not lack for the energy or attitude to get his points across. He speaks at community meetings, neighborhood group meetings, and Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC) meetings. He has opened a Twitter account (@area2opd), and points out that the department now has a Facebook page as well.

"But," he emphasized, as the interview drew to a close, "crime reduction cannot happen by police work alone. My challenge to the community is: 'What more can you do to reduce crime?' Everyone needs to get out of their comfort zone and make a commitment to reduce crime. That could be: volunteer at a school; mentor a young person; form a Neighborhood Watch; organize a neighborhood event; harden the target [home] with greater security, better outside lighting and visibility. Add a video camera as suitable."

As we exited the interview room and walked through the lobby, all was unexpectedly quiet. No waiting line. No upset young man. A peaceful moment before the next wave of PAB business.

District 2 Contacts
Captain Toribio e-mail: AToribio@oaklandnet.com
District 2 website: http://www2.oaklandnet.com/Government/o/OPD/o/BFO/District2/index.htm
Problem Solving Officers (PSOs): work with the Greater Rockridge Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council (NCPC), meeting monthly with the group. They are:
Channelle Del Rosario, beat 12Y, e-mail: communitypolicingbeat12@oaklandnet.com, and:
Jason Trode, beat 13X, e-mail communitypolicingbeat13@oaklandnet.com
NCPC: http://www.rockridgencpc.com

 

Toribio on Private Patrols
"I think they can be helpful - they provide a deterrent to criminal activity. But, it is critical for those who would hire a security company to do their homework and research carefully what the company offers and what they - the clients - want. Companies should have strong policies about patrol member's duties. Still, their basic function is to 'observe and report.'"