Police as a campaign issue

Mayor Jean Quan is up for re-election – and her opponents are all attacking her for a weak Oakland police force and increased crime. I’m not sure what to believe at this point or who to follow, as I’ve only lived here for about 2 years.

Jean Quan

Here is what some of the opponents say on the issue of crime and OPD:

In Libby Schaaf’s campaign literature, she wants to: “Work to hire more police officers to protect every Oakland neighborhood and bring the Oakland Police Department up to full strength.”

From Joe Tuman’s website: “The residents of Oakland deserve to feel safe. I promise to do this by rebuilding OPD and working hard to shorten the response time.” (Joe Tuman is from S.F. State, my alma mater!)

From Bryan Parker’s website: “As mayor, Bryan would focus city spending on more police and anti-violence programs that are proven to combat crime. … More police are needed, but we also need to keep kids in school and off the streets so they can achieve a better future.

Personally, I don’t have strong feelings against the mayor – I could go either way on her and her performance – but I don’t really feel that impassioned toward what any of the candidates are saying. They basically all are saying the same thing – hire more police officers – and that requires money. In my neighborhood, we have an increase in break-ins, and my own apartment building was broken into a few months ago. But would having more police officers have prevented any of that? I’m not sure. Do more police officers do patrol? Where would they do the patrols? West Oakland is a mess, has been for decades. East Oakland is a war zone. More officers could be dispatched there first before they do a neighborhood watch across town.

I’m inclined to agree more with what Bryan Parker is saying – that there are basic systemic problems with poverty, education, drugs and recidivism first and foremost to tackle. It’s a double-edged sword: more cops, and more social programs.