Dellums introduces new police chief

August 17, 2009 6:41:47 PM PDT
Oakland's new police chief was formally introduced on Monday. Anthony Batts came from long beach where he served for nearly 30 years, rising from patrol officer to police chief for the last seven years. He'll be sworn in next month and the 49-year-old wants to focus on Oakland's crime rate first and then some Raider games.

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Long Beach Police Chief Anthony Batts says reducing crime will be his top priority in Oakland. But at his formal City Hall introduction on Monday, he set the record straight about why he decided to move here in the first place.

The life-long Raider fan didn't want the job initially, but after he attended the funeral of the four Oakland officers who were killed in the line of duty, he changed his mind.

"I'm not here to be a politician; I'm not here to be in politics. I'm not here to do any of those things, my drive is to save some young kid's life that's out there on the streets. My focus is going to be crime," he said.

Since Batts became chief in Long Beach, that city's crime rate has dropped to its lowest level since 1975. But Batts takes the helm in Oakland at a time when the department's morale is low over threatened officer layoffs due to budget cuts.

The police union wanted an insider to be promoted.

"I like what I've heard, but it's also wait and see with Oakland. This is a different dynamic here," said Oakland Police Officers Association President Dom Arotzarena.

Acting Chief Howard Jordan was a front runner for the job, but Mayor Ron Dellums says community groups demanded an experienced outsider.

"We need to have an experienced police chief who has been a police chief in an urban environment," said Dellums.

Rashida Grinage runs the police watchdog group People United for a Better Life in Oakland.

"We are hopeful that this new chief will extend himself to the communities in oak that seldom receive much proactive attention," said Grinage.

Chief Batts' salary and employment contract still need to go before the Oakland City Council. In Long Beach, he earned more than $230,000 a year. City Hall officials in Oakland say whatever salary gets approved for the new chief, it won't require him to take a pay cut.

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