Oakland PD threatens public to avoid layoffs

Earlier last week, Oakland’s chief of police directed a thinly veiled threat to the public regarding the layoffs of 80 police officers from the Oakland Police Department.  The police union recently asked for a guarantee of no layoffs for three years.  City Council refused.  City Council President Jane Brunner said, “We wish we could offer them a three-year no layoff protection. We just can’t financially.  It would be irresponsible of us.”

In response, Chief Anthony Batts listed 44 situations officers will stop responding to if the layoffs continue as planned (see full story here).

It does not appear that a full list of these 44 situations has been released yet.  Only a partial list is currently available.  For a department that alleges to protect and serve the public, it is interesting to note the situations currently listed by Batts include a variety of crimes against property and people, and involve situations where people are actually harmed.  None of the currently listed situations include victimless crimes, or “vice” crimes such as underage drinking, marijuana possession, prostitution, gambling, jay walking and other traffic offenses.  The partial list includes the following:

  • Burglary
  • Theft
  • Embezzlement
  • Grand theft
  • Grand theft: dog
  • Identity theft
  • Dumping waste or offensive matter
  • Passing fictitious check
  • Obtaining money by false voucher
  • Fraudulent use of access cards
  • Stolen license plate
  • Embezzlement by employee
  • Extortion
  • Attempted extortion
  • False personification of another

To view more potentially ignored crimes, read here.

While the police department could easily come up with 44 victimless crimes they could choose to ignore in the event of layoffs (prostitution, gambling, underage drinking, jaywalking, speeding, rolling stop signs, disorderly conduct, possession of marijuana, possession of other controlled substances, sale of controlled substances, smoking in public, drinking in public, urinating in public, an endless number of parking violations, loitering, etc.), they have chosen to ignore many property crimes, thefts and other crimes that actually harm people directly, such as burglary, theft and grand theft.

Further, self-help in these matters is discouraged.  In February, Oakland’s City Council made it more difficult for ordinary citizens to own guns. In addition, it is very telling that Batts made this announcement at all. An agency truly committed to the protection of people would not announce to the public, and indeed the criminals-at-large, that certain crimes will now be ignored by the police.

As such, this can only be viewed as the act of extortion that it is.  “We have informed the criminals and they are coming for you.  Give us the funding, or you can fend for yourselves – oh wait, but you really can’t because we have a complete monopoly over law enforcement.”

This is not surprising, coming from an organization that coerces funds through taxes and has almost a complete monopoly over security.  This can easily be explained. While police departments and the government continue to rake in plenty of revenue from ticketing people for minor or harmless actions, burglary and other actual crimes take more effort and are probably less lucrative.

In addition, continuing to enforce drug violations allows police departments to continue to steal people’s property and sell it for profit with civil forfeiture laws. If police have probable cause to suspect that a car, or some other valuable piece of property is connected to drug crime, they can seize it and keep it for themselves, even if the owner is completely innocent.   This means that if your car is taken or borrowed for the purpose of a drug crime, it can be permanently seized and sold for profit by the government, even if you had nothing to do with the crime. More about civil forfeiture here.

This NBC article mentioned that most of the 80 officers who would be laid off were on the streets of Oakland when the Johannes Mehserle conviction caused riots recently. NBC may have added this bit to garner sympathy for officers, but this is ludicrous.

Oakland PD had to send out Oakland PD to stop riots because BART police killed an innocent man. Wow, now there’s a reason to be thankful for police. They kill innocent people and then their comrades help clean up the mess and make us feel beholden for it. Here’s a brilliant idea – don’t get trigger happy, or “negligently” mistake your taser for a gun, kill an innocent man, and people won’t get mad.

In these hard economic times, the police only think of themselves, their pay and their jobs. And you can’t blame them, because they are human.

While Batt’s use of threats is completely heinous and unacceptable, which human being isn’t concerned for their own well-being, their paycheck and their career? Herein lies the problem with leaving security to the government. The problem is not that police are self-interested; indeed, everyone is self-interested, as they should be.

But when a group of self-interested people have a politically cemented monopoly, guaranteed funding and no check on their power, accountability will diminish and the public will suffer.  The problem is police have complete control. They have access to our funds through taxpayer money, and as a monopoly, they can decide which crimes to go after, and which ones not to. The lack of competition provides little or no incentive for them to provide good service, or listen to customer complaints because we have little ability, as individuals, to fire them or take away funding.

We are left at the mercy of monopolistic police departments that apparently can shoot innocent people or demand more money with various threats.


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Georgia Sand

Georgia (George) Sand is an attorney located in sunny California. She enjoys beer, jogging, the beach, music, and chatting with her cats in her spare time.