OPD Chief Anthony Batts to stay in Oakland

Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts

February 4, 2011 6:58:57 PM PST
The city of Oakland doesn't need a new police chief after all. Anthony Batts announced Friday that he intends to stay, despite some frustration about the budget problems that are making his job more difficult.

Three weeks ago, Batts was a finalist for the chief's job in San Jose. Friday, after much turmoil and uncertainty, Batts said he is ready to "roll up his sleeves" and get back to work on the issues facing Oakland.

Presenting a united front, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan and Batts met with West Oakland residents after Batts announced he will stay on as top cop after all.

"The bottom line is the reason that I came to the city is to try to make a difference for the community, and the community responded and asked me to stand by them, so that's what touched my heart," said Batts.

"I'm very happy that Chief Batts is in place and that we can start on some work that we've been waiting on," said Quan.

Residents seemed happy to see the mayor and the chief.

"I'm so glad the chief decided to stay. He's been doing a wonderful job and I really believe that he really cares about the people of Oakland," said Katrina Dowthard of West Oakland who isn't bothered by the fact that Batts was looking to go elsewhere. "You have to do what you have to do."

Asked if he thinks there are some who are going to be doubtful about Batts' commitment to Oakland, Dom Arotzarea of the Oakland Police Officers Association said, "I think there are some that are doubtful all over the city. I think that's going to be his first thing to overcome, some of the issues of whether or not he's really going to stay here."

Batts' decision comes after meetings with top city officials that led to a deal to rehire 10 of 80 officers laid off last summer.

"Mostly we've had a lot of discussions about what we can expect in resources and the kinds of changes we have to make and where I'll be there to support him," said Quan.

The most immediate challenge is fixing Oakland's troublesome radio system -- one that has left officers unable to talk to dispatch or one another during key times. Until it is fixed, the chief has ordered two officers to each patrol car, rather than the usual one.

"Officers have to be able to call for backup," said Batts. "If we're working one-person units and the radio system goes out, they don't have the ability to have backup, so if we have two officers there, at least they have backup there at that point in time."

The city is planning to put in a new state of the art radio system, but needs to first await FCC approval. With fewer cars on the street, Batts did acknowledge Friday that response times may be longer when there are multiple incidents around the city.

As for the 10 rehired officers, they will be back on the streets by the middle of February.