Oakland’s beleaguered police department entered 2013 in full defensive mode, says the Los Angeles Times The crime rate had soared. Staffing was off sharply. Memories of the heavy-handed police response to Occupy protests 14 months earlier — and the lawsuits it generated — remained fresh. Scrambling for a turnaround, elected leaders hired out-of-state consultants to overhaul policing strategy and launched the first new police academies in years to beef up the force. The federal judge overseeing a settlement agreement over racial profiling and the beating and framing of suspects gave a compliance director near-total control over the department.
The chief stepped down and an interim leader — the fourth in a tumultuous four years — took the reins. It appears that some of the work is paying off. Year-end data show homicides down by nearly 30 percent — as low as they’ve been since 2002. Shootings, as well as commercial and residential burglaries, were down too. Robberies climbed, but progress was noted in the second half of the year in curbing them. “In the last couple of months, we really started to see the nose-diving,” Interim Police Chief Sean Whent said. “There are fewer shootings, fewer murders,” he said. “That’s the real goal.” It is not entirely clear what caused the drop, but police, city officials and community leaders suggested that a crackdown on two of Oakland’s most violent gangs helped curtail not only the murder rate but also robberies, which have largely replaced street drug sales as a key source of gang income.