Oakland police are doubling down on a tough-on-crime plan. Some activists are skeptical.
The Oakland police chief is set to introduce an ordinance that would allow officers to carry guns, which could lead to the controversial practice of open carry in the public.
Chief Sean Whent, speaking to a packed room of Oakland media this month, also suggested that officers have the authority to remove protesters from public events.
The measures are part of the police department’s plan to address its problems of understaffing and poor morale, which has led to a slew of fatal shootings of unarmed black men over the last two years.
The plans have drawn support from community activists, who have raised concerns about the tactics the police department is using to stoke a hostile, confrontational narrative for minority communities and have criticized the police for “overcriminalizing” the city.
The public may hear about the changes in a meeting scheduled for Tuesday, May 18, at 7 p.m. at City Hall. The event is open to the public.
The police department is implementing a number of policies that were approved by the police community advisory board, which is made up of police officers and civilian leaders in the department.
The policy changes include increased officers being assigned to the most violent areas of town, new training resources, new police body cameras, training for patrol commanders, and a program to increase the number of Oakland police officers who have a bachelor’s degree.
The policy changes were discussed and voted on at the meeting. One of the most contentious points was the introduction of open carry. Whent said open carry, which allows civilians to carry firearms in public, was added to the policy that would “assure officer safety at times when officers are threatened.”
The measure has drawn criticism from some Oakland residents who said it could lead to dangerous circumstances, but Whent defended the decision. He said the policy would give officers more room to defend themselves.
“They are trained to take the defensive posture in an unstable situation,” said Whent. “There are situations where officers are threatened and there would be scenarios where a citizen would have the