Commentary: Anthony Batts is a welcome pick as Oakland police chief
ON WEDNESDAY, MAYOR Ron Dellums made the much-anticipated announcement: Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts will become Oakland’s new top cop, replacing Wayne Tucker.
Earlier this month, we had called for Dellums to give serious consideration to an outside candidate. We felt that it would have been extremely difficult for a candidate steeped in OPD’s dysfunctional culture, to make the much-needed changes to that culture.
Dellums is to be applauded for resisting pressure from the influential police union to promote from within. That, in our view, would have all but guaranteed an adherence to the status quo, which Oakland, at this critical juncture, simply cannot afford.
In Batts, 49, Dellums has selected a candidate who is well-respected within law enforcement circles and has a demonstrated record of reducing crime as a senior police official. Since Batts became chief in 2002, the crime rate in Long Beach has been at its lowest level since 1975.
He is well-regarded in community policing and he holds a doctorate in public administration.
Oakland and Long Beach have a number of similarities.
Both have diverse, similar-sized populations, though Long Beach is slightly larger: 463,789 residents to Oakland’s 404,155, according to the last census. The big difference, and what will be Batts’ major challenge, is Oakland’s much higher crime rate.
In an interview with the Long Beach Press Telegram, Batts said that he is committed to slowing down that crime rate and improving the department’s reputation in the community — music to our ears.
Batts at first wanted no part of the job. But then he traveled to Oakland to attend the funerals of the four officers killed in March 21 by a parolee. It was then that he began to consider it.
At the memorial, Batts was struck by the disconnect between the department and the community. He saw a city desperate for peace and desiring to move forward economically. It was then that he felt he had to take the job.
Batts will officially assume the post in September.
“When I look on my career, I’ve always taken jobs nobody wanted,” Batts said. “Hopefully this challenge isn’t too overwhelming.”
For Oakland’s sake, and that of the entire region, we hope so too. Oakland is the largest city in the East Bay and a major transit and cargo hub. Reducing crime in Oakland is crucial to controlling violence across the region. Good luck, chief. Welcome to Oakland.