Oakland police chief finalist for top SJPD position

January 17, 2011 11:58:34 PM PST
A major change may be coming to the Oakland Police Department. The chief has only been on the force there for a little more than a year, but he is already looking for greener pastures.

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts has confirmed that he is a finalist for the chief's job in the Bay Area's largest city, San Jose. Batts is very popular and that possibility is not going over very well at city hall. However, it is not a done deal. There is another candidate in the running for the San Jose job.

Chief Batts is not saying much about why he might be wanting to leave the Oakland Police Department, but he did tell one city council member he feels micromanaged and is frustrated about all the cuts to the OPD.

It turns out, Batts has been a candidate for the top cop job in San Jose since October, but Oakland city officials just found out about it days ago. At a Martin Luther King celebration in East Oakland Monday, Batts received a standing ovation. He talked about his job, but not the fact that he might be leaving.

"I don't do this job because I want to lock people up. I do this job because I want to make a difference," he said.

Away from the fanfare, Batts confirmed he was recruited for the San Jose post.

"Right now, I'm just focused on being in Oakland and I think it would be very presumptuous of me to talk about something else," he added.

Batts went to Oakland from Long Beach, brought in by Mayor Ron Dellums.

"Frustrated," "disappointed," and even "mad" were some of city council President Larry Reid's reactions to Batts' possible departure. Reid said just a few months ago that the chief reassured city officials he planned to stay in Oakland.

"I'm going to try to remind him what he said and the reasoning for him coming here, and hope that at least I can appeal to him in that sense," Reid told ABC7.

Reid said Batts is frustrated about layoffs last summer that left the department with 80 fewer officers. Mayor Jean Quan said she wants Batts to stay, but if he does leave, there will be a national search for his replacement.

"I was surprised he didn't tell me earlier," Quan said.

Despite the smiles between the pair Monday, the police force has had a rocky start with the new mayor. The police union supported her opponent during the campaign. On Monday, Quan struggled to find the right words when asked what kind of job Batts has done as chief.

"Um, I think he has been very good with the community," she said. "I think he's done... decently."

The other finalist for the San Jose chief job is current acting chief, Chris Moore. Just one of the differences between the two cities is that last year, Oakland had 95 homicides. San Jose had just 20.

San Jose's city manager is expected to make a decision in the coming weeks.