New interim police chief walks streets of Oakland


Oakland's new chief took to the streets and introduced himself to the residents of the Temescal District in North Oakland and along the way, he got an earful.

For Oakland's new top law enforcement officer having boots on the ground starts at the top.

"Ultimately, we're a customer service organization, so I want to hear what people's concerns are, what can we do better and improve our service to the community," said Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent.

How the department is rated depends on where you are and who you ask.

"We had to call upon your services twice on Saturday night," said Kate Pizzaiolo.

Pizzaiolo is a small business owner with problems not always a high priority, like graffiti and vagrancy.

"I hear response time a lot that, it takes us forever to answer the phone or to get out there," said Whent.

But across town, in East Oakland, it's a different story.

"You obviously hear about the more violent crime. Shootings, you hear gunshots all the time or too frequent of robberies," said Whent.

Shortly after 10 a.m. on Monday, OPD received an alert to their ShotSpotter notification. Officers arrived to the 1200 block of 84th Avenue to find more than 20 shell casings littering the ground. They told ABC7 News they were bullets fired during a drive-by. No one was hit, but the gunfire would force the lockdown of a neighborhood school.

"Oakland's got some special problems with guns," said Oakland City Councilmember Libby Schaaf.

Schaaf serves on the city's Public Safety Committee. She believes one way to address the gun problem in Oakland is through legislation. California Assembly Bill 180 is set for a vote. Sponsored by Assm. Rob Bonta, D-Oakland, the bill would give Oakland the authority to regulate registration of firearms and licensing of gun owners, areas pre-empted by state law.

"While we respect California laws, Oakland clearly needs some extra tools to stop these illegal guns and stop all the gun-related crime," said Schaaf.

"I don't know how much further this is going to go," said Martin, a gun owner.

Martin didn't want to show his face. He says gun owners like him are shunned when they speak out against attempts to push new gun laws and are the only ones to suffer from new regulations.

"I'm really, really perturbed by that because it was a lot of my upbringing. I been with the NRA since I was 9 years old," said Martin.

Whent says it's not about limiting rights, but keeping an entire city safe.

"It's about registering firearms, and stuff like that, and any little tool we get helps," said Whent.

The Assembly Select Committee on Gun Violence will hold its first hearing on Friday -- a subject sure to continue the debate.

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