Jim, my neighbor from across the street commutes every day to Oakland. He parks his vehicle in a lot in one of the “better” areas of Oakland (i.e., outside gang territory). Three weeks ago after work he went to the lot to get his Silverado pickup and drive home — but it was gone: stolen.
Jim was bummed. He loved the tuck; and though he has another car for commuting, and has excellent insurance coverage, he was sad and angry.
A week later Jim got a call from a towing company. His truck had been parked illegally and was towed. The shop ran the VIN number and discovered that Jim was the owner. He drove over to Oakland and found:
His truck was a disaster. The thief had destroyed the dashboard in an effort to hotwire it. The driver’s compartment was littered with beer cans, joints, envelopes containing powder — and a vast number of stolen IDs, credit cards, and driver’s licenses…. including the thief's own waletr, driver’s license, and other ID papers.
In the pickup bed, covered with a tarp, was a huge cache of stolen bicycle parts.
Jim drove his truck home and called the Oakland Police Department. He described what happened and all the bad stuff he found in the truck.
“What should I do with all this stolen property?” he asked the woman o the phone.
“Just dump it,” she said.
Just dump it?
Jim drove to the Oakland police station with the load of stolen goods.
Police official (rude, could not be bothered): “What do you want us to with this stuff?”
Jim: “Well, for starters, how about contacting the people whose credit cards and drivers’ licenses were stolen?”
The official argued with him, then said (imagine the tone of voice): “Fine… just leave the stuff here and we’ll put it in a file.”
We know what that means.
Oakland certainly has many more severe problems to deal with — 81 murders last year. But the indifference of the police (or at least that one official at the front desk) is hard to take. Not only are they unwilling to find and prosecute the criminal: they can’t be bothered with returning stolen property to the victims.
I discovered that Wikipedia has an entire article devoted to the Oakland Police Department. Among its revelations:
Oakland encountered major funding challenges in the years following and the police department became understaffed. Additionally, community activists say too many OPD officers live outside the city and commute, thus separating themselves from Oakland's daily life. By 2012, over 90% of Oakland police officers resided outside of Oakland….Oakland is currently the third-most dangerous city in the United States.
In July 2000, evidence emerged that the respected veteran police officers known as the "Rough Riders" had over the past four years made false arrests, planted evidence, used excessive force, and falsified police reports. Scores of drug cases were dropped because of tainted evidence. The alleged leader of the Riders, Frank Vazquez, fled to Mexico shortly after his criminal indictment and remains a fugitive from justice. The Riders' actions resulted in Oakland settling a federal civil rights case, Allen v. City of Oakland, for nearly $11 million. As part of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, the Oakland Police Department is required to make major reforms to ensure constitutional policing.The court appointed an independent monitor to oversee implementation of these reforms.
Nine years after the Riders case Negotiated Settlement Agreement, the federal court found the Oakland Police Department had failed to fully implement required reforms. To guarantee compliance with the settlement, the U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson appointed former Baltimore Police Department Commissioner Tomas Frazier as Compliance Director in March 2013. The Compliance Director holds unprecedented powers to require corrective action even for conduct not specified in the Negotiated Settlement Agreement…
The salary of Oakland officers is another controversial issue. Police Officer Entry Level current annual salary is $69,912 to $98,088, the second highest in the country. Additional pay increases are granted to higher-ranking officers. Average total compensation for an OPD employee is $162,000. In 2012, 179 Oakland police officers took home over $200,000 in total compensation. Three patrol officers, a sergeant, and a captain each took home over $300,000. In 2011 the Police Department's costs make up 44% of the city's $400 million general budget.
Unfunded police pension liabilities are a separate high cost to the city. In 2010, the Oakland Police and Fire Retirement system granted $70 million in benefits to 1,086 pensioners. In 2012 the city successfully sued the city's pension system to end an estimated $11.5 million in unlawful overpayment to retired police and fire fighters.
To update Gertrude Stein:
It’s not that there’s no there there:
It’s that the foundations of there require retrofitting.