Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan recently got behind the wheel and took ABC7 News reporter Nick Smith on patrol with him. As they traveled up and down International Boulevard, once part of the chief's beat, he spoke candidly about the challenges he and his department face.
"It all sort of comes back to the same issue really," he intimated. Jordan took ABC7 News through the same areas of Oakland he once patrolled as a beat cop. Now, more than 20 years later, he's chief of a department battling urban crime while it spars with city hall, an unpopular consultant, and perhaps most of all, "shortages of staff, which leads to the high incidence of violence in this city," he said.
The tools behind that violence were on display exclusively for ABC7 News. Last week, Oakland police and FBI agents made several arrests, seized illegal assault weapons, ammunition and thousands of dollars' worth of heroin. Jordan said their action was in direct response to a spike in violent crime.
"I talked to officers today at the scene and they go, 'Hey chief, it's pretty rough out here. We don't have enough people,'" Jordan said. As rough as it is now, he says his roughest day came in March of 2009 while as interim chief, when four of his officers were murdered. "I knew all of them personally," he said. "It is the darkest day of my career, but you know, we're still recovering from that."
At the time of the shooting, OPD had more than 830 officers. Now, the number hovers in the low 600s and the stakes are even higher. According to Jordan, today's criminals are willing to turn their firepower on anyone in their path. "I've got to be very, very blunt. You got too many people like that, running around with guns, that wouldn't hesitate to shoot you," he said.
The danger of violence directed at his officers is a daily reality, but the chief is aware of a larger reality -- there are so many who just don't trust OPD. And, one of his biggest challenges may be making everyone feel good about his men and women in blue, as well as Bill Bratton, the man brought on board to help.
"As a chief in a city like this, you need someone like that. You need a Bill Bratton to give you advice because there's probably not a whole lot that I've gone through that he hasn't gone through," Jordan said.