East Bay News
Oakland's new police chief outlines his vision
OAKLAND, Calif. (KGO) -- Two weeks ago, Howard Jordan became Oakland's police chief. He took over a department facing strong criticism for the rise in violence and the department's handling of Occupy Oakland protests. On Wednesday, he outlined his vision for the city and answered questions from his critics.
Jordan is a 24-year veteran of the Oakland Police Department. He says that in his new role as chief, he plans to employ creative policing ideas, taking lessons from those who have held the position before him.
Asked what he though most people's perception of Oakland is Jordan replied, "Unfortunately, I think most people think that Oakland is a violent city." Oakland's top cop is working to change that. "One of the main things that we have to do is we have to get into compliance with our settlement agreement," he said.
Oakland police face the possibility of a federal takeover due to complaints of officers using excessive force. A settlement nine years ago required the city to overhaul the department but just last month, a federal judge said he was frustrated with the pace of improvements and ordered more oversight.
Jordan says he understands the need for the department to make changes more quickly. He calls this the first step to regain the community's trust. "Right now, we're having a big challenge with witnesses coming forward and providing us with information," he said. He says many do not come forward out of fear. He blames gangs in East and West Oakland for most of the 20 shootings in the city in the past week that have left five people dead. Oakland has had 14 homicides so far this year, two more than the same time last year.
Oakland's top cop says he has been forced to do more with less. Citywide budget cuts, a reduction in officers on the street, and Occupy demonstrators have made him a lightning rod for criticism over the way his department has handled protesters. "When we change our tactics, it's because the crowd's mentality, the crowd demeanor, the crowd actions, change," Jordan explained.
Fairly or not, the recent clashes between activists and police have thrust the city into the national spotlight, shaking the confidence of some who call Oakland home and giving businesses second thoughts about operating there. "We do our best with what we have to make the citizens feel safe in Oakland. We want businesses to thrive," Jordan said.
It begs the question would he feel safe walking the trouble spots of Oakland with no uniform and no weapon? "I do that all the time. I do that unbeknownst to anyone because I try to see what people think about Oakland," he said.
Members of Oakland's City Council and Chief Jordan had a great deal of their personal information posted online by the hacker group Anonymous.
"It's unnerving, but I'm not at all dissuaded by it. In the end it's not going to stop me from doing my job," Jordan said.
Smith: A year from now, when we have a conversation, what will be the narrative?
Jordan: The narrative will be that police department reduces violent crime despite many resource challenges. Police chief looks forward to working closer with the community to continue to reduce crime.
Jordan said he will continue to have a conversation with the community and also review practices and procedures that are in place now to determine what does and does not work.
oakland, OPD, crime, howard jordan, east bay news
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