Oakland Mayoral Challengers Debate Crime, Need for More Officers

Oakland mayoral candidate Joe Tuman addresses voters during a candidate’s forum Wednesday at Laney College. PHOTO/STEVEN TAVARES

OAKLAND | MAYOR | Ten of the 17 current candidates for the Oakland mayoral race met at Laney College this week. Mayor Jean Quan and Councilmember Libby Schaaf made brief appearances before leaving for previous engagements. The absence of the incumbent and one of the front runners, though, may have allowed some breathing room for the other candidates in what became a spirited and race-defining forum on jobs and crime and exactly how many police officers Oakland needs to quell a perception of lawlessness.

Dan Siegel ponders how many cops does 
Oakland need as Shake Anderson, Joe
Tuman and Courtney Ruby look on.

Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris moderated the mayoral forum Wednesday evening in a slight different fashion than other forums in recent months. After posing questions pre-written and some from the audience, the second hour of the forum allowed Burris, also a well-known as a cable news television personality, to randomly pose his own questions with follow ups while reeling in other members of the panel to compare and contrast their stances.

The debate on public safety, inevitably the defining subject of this November mayoral race, flourished under this line of questioning starting with Burris’s colleague, Dan Siegel. “We’ve got to focus on jobs. The best program for a safe city is not more cops. I’m sorry, there’s no proof that 900 or a thousand or 1,500 cops will make Oakland safer and we can’t afford them anyway,” said Siegel. The statement would make for the loudest applause line of the night.

Burris then pulled Joe Tuman into the debate. The university professor, who is making the need for more cops again the centerpiece of his campaign, acknowledged the applause. “I want you to think about the logic of that for a moment,” said Tuman, while noting the past work by Burris and Siegel in suing the police department for civil rights abuses. “I understand the contentious relationship, that’s why John and Dan got a lot of work over the last couple of years between the police department and residents of our community. But to go from that to a statement–which, to be honest with you–is a little irresponsible, the police don’t matter and if you just give jobs to people everybody will just behave in a civil way and you’ll never have problems is not reality.”

Tuman later recounted the assault of his son in Oakland last summer while helping a friend. “There were no police around,” said Tuman. After chasing the mugger for six blocks, he said his son was beaten with a brick. “Cops do matter,” Tuman added before being interrupted by Burris. “If you have police officers who project a visible presence you discourage people from making bad choices and encourage them to make good choices.”

“I think the answer is truthfully somewhere between Dan and Joe,” said Bryan Parker, another candidate whose mayoral platform revolves around public safety. “I don’t think these are mutually exclusive options. Certainly we need more police.” Doing show would project a sense of safety for residents and value in the tax dollars working toward that goal, said Parker “This is about poverty. This is about economic inequality and having more access to jobs. And a person pulling their way out of poverty has a direct correlation with the reduction of crime.” The police department needs to better utilize technology as a “force multiplier” for more efficient with the limited resources, he added.

Siegel quickly rose from his seat to respond to his opponents. Police should protect property, people’s lives and their constitutional rights, said Siegel. “There is probably nothing that is more disgraceful about Oakland city government, and those who have been a part of this, that for 12 years we have been under a federal court’s consent agreement,” said Siegel. “It’s an incredible disgrace that city leaders have not been able to find a police chief who will keep officers under control and the tens of millions of dollars we spent on police abuse settlements and judgments.” Siegel said he would immediately hire a police chief who would end the consent decree within his first year in office.

Just how many more cops does Oakland need is of much debate, especially for some candidates advocating for as many as 300 hundred more officers, while acknowledging a lack of money to fund the large increase. “How many cops do we need?” asked Siegel. “People throw out these numbers that are completely arbitrary, have no basis in fact.”

11 thoughts on “Oakland Mayoral Challengers Debate Crime, Need for More Officers

  1. I started living in East L.A. at 10 years old, have seen a lot Gang war fare over 62 years still ring as the #1 killer of barrio and ghetto killing still goes on, Why, You have the have n have nots, Most of the panel are the haves, understand that


  2. Take run through East Oakland a no hope and aggression zone filled with unemployment, youth with no idea of real life without crime, the panel is out of touch and their heads are in the sand crime is a way of life and has been for generations.


  3. O.P.D is suffering from combat fatigue and mental stress, What does the Oakland public want from its officers, Their lives the chimestry from the approx 4 years of officer deaths is lingering again like the thief in the night, be real, like a stench.


  4. I have more experience with law enforcement than all them put together, from over most of the world, 60 million dollar underground economy in Oakland people are willing to do anything including die or kill for part of the pile of death money


  5. 12 years of the fed eye, I am not a sharp silver tongue political devil with ulterior motives, Ask Ms. Quan how much money does she have in Chinese banks. Oakland is moving toward default very quickly, spending is deadly, why outright lie to people


  6. First of all I think that they are all out of it, The Mayors false stories, the people of measure Y, Where is the real truth and reality, Bitcoins,, Oakland army base money, Mr Parker needs to come to reality, attitudes in East Oakland are aggressive& deadly


  7. Dan Siegel does not take the position that Oakland needs fewer cops. “Dan Siegel discusses the need for fewer
    cops in Oakland…” He has consistently said that somewhere around 650 – 700 (OPD has about 650 now, and should have closer to 700 after the next academy graduates) is sufficient given his plan for community policing, which puts 540 cops on the beats and not in desk chairs, leave 110+ for specialized units and supervisors, etc.


  8. Wonder where the writer spends his time–Piedmont? Sausalito? Or maybe the Oakland Hills.

    “How many police officers Oakland needs to quell a perception of lawlessness.”

    How about a forty-year murder rate that has been each and every year of the forty just about five times the national rate? I guess the people who really “perceive” this are not the folks that the writer hangs around with in the Oakland Hllls or Piedmont.

    Dan Siegel complaining about city leaders that haven't taken responsibility for completing the reforms mandated by the NSA for the police department?

    Which City Council members and Mayors do you think Siegel has been hanging out with for this decade of police reform noncompliance? Not Jean Quan or Libby Schaaf both of whom have been in City Hall as electeds or as a staffer for the duration.

    Siegel's remark about how many cops Oakland needs probably does sound so sweet in Deep East or the flats between 580 and 880 where a mugging, an armed robbery or a home invasion might not be to your taste. When you need an Oakland cop right away you are very very unlikely to get one right away. Why? Because all the 150 cops on duty at any one time are busy, very very busy. Dealing with shootings and then, if there's time, maybe untasty muggings, armed robberies and home invasions.

    Yes, there may not be any hard data about exactly how many cops will help Oakland reduce crime. Running a screwed-up city like Oakland isn't painting-by-the-numbers. It's leadership, management, taking responsibility and taking risks. It's definitely not playing political fantasy games, speaking some “progressive” line which sounds great while drinking hand made cocktails at your favorite trendy bar.

    Siegel certainly knows all about how to improve public safety in Oakland. He, along with Schaaf and Quan, helped put together the miserable Measure Y which has thrown away about $150 million over the past ten years with no evidence of violence prevention. Add to this some $50 million or more during the decade in settlements for complaints and you've got maybe $200 million for more cops. More cops could mean real community policing with cops walking regular beats, getting to know the neighbors and developing relationships of trust.

    Life is great in Piedmont and Sausalito. Virtually no crime at all. Not even a perception.


  9. I was at the debate and this article completely ignored my position on public safety. Under my “Community Empowered Safety Plan”, it would work with the existing number of police officers we have. Each officer will setup a 7 to 25 volunteers neighborhood watch. They will monitor surveillance set up in high and medium crime areas. Surveillance is open to the view of the residents in realtime on the internet so it can both prevent crime and police misconduct. This allows citizens to report to police via a touch of a keyboard or call 911 from the safety of their homes if they saw a crime happening.



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