Oakland Police, Crime Rising, Trying to Rebuild Force, Earn Public Trust


Managing expectations amid a rising crime rate is the latest challenge in Oakland, California’s most violent city, says the Los Angeles Times. The police department is under pressure to satisfy conditions of a decade-old federal court settlement that stemmed from racial profiling and improper use of force. Two chiefs have left in two years. A quarter of its sworn officers have been lost since 2008 to budget cutbacks. The city handles about twice the emergency calls per capita as the average law enforcement agency in the state. As the department works to rebuild its force and earn citizens’ trust, it offers lessons on how deeply the nature of policing changes when resources are cut to the bone. “There are places in the country right now like Oakland that are at a tipping point,” said Chuck Wexler of the Police Executive Research Forum. “They are really testing how much police make a difference.”

Oakland is now the nation’s robbery capital, after a 24 percent jump last year. A 43 percent rise in burglaries left the lone full-time investigator drowning in 13,000 cases. Neighborhoods plagued by burglaries and robberies pushed to keep “problem-solving officers,” who analyze patterns and causes of crime. The rising number of homicides and shootings in gang-afflicted areas forced a reshuffling. It’s not an uncommon story: A fourth of agencies surveyed nationwide in 2010 by the Major Cities Chiefs Association had cut back on traffic, property crime and drug investigations; more than a third had sliced into community policing. In 2011, the Justice Department tallied 12,000 law enforcement layoffs and 30,000 unfilled positions.

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