Sunday, December 30, 2012

Murder City

We've been saving some of the good news for the end of the year. Oakland has engaged the services of William J. Bratton. former chief of police in both New York and Los Angeles. He has been hired as a special consultant to Oakland's crime fighting efforts. "Bratton will help us build on the smart police strategies Chief Jordan has already put in place," Mayor Jean Quan said. That would be Chief Howard Jordan, who has been serving as the interim chief after Anthony Batts resigned due to what he described as "layers of bureaucracy" he had to deal with on a daily basis.  
In the face of a record-breaking wave of crime this year, the powers that be have decided to add an additional layer to this bureaucracy: A special consultant. Please understand that as a resident of Oakland, nothing would make me happier than to have a cease-fire in our streets, even if that meant having circus clowns on every corner. As long as those circus clowns answer to some central authority and their funding and organization was transparent for the outside observer. Such as myself. 
What concerns me is that with or without the clown proposal, Mister Bratton may not be the best man for our job. In a Wall Street Journal interview last year he said he didn't "see anything positive at all happening" in the city. "It's a perfect storm of bad: too much oversight, not enough support from city leaders, too few officers," he said. And now he's here to save the day. Along with another consultant, Robert Wasserman, with whom the city is already running a tab for one hundred thousand dollars. That's less than a thousand dollars per homicide.
Eventually, however, the citizens of this town are going to have to consult with themselves. Competing with Detroit on the baseball diamond is one thing, but racing to the top of the list of most dangerous cities isn't he competition we should be looking to win.  Do we really need a consultant to tell us that mothers should not have to shield their children from bullets? A day without gunfire in Oakland? That really would be good news.

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