E.C. Police Department seeks citizens academy applicants
EAST CHICAGO | The East Chicago Police Department is accepting applications for its citizens academy.
The academy runs from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. on Thursdays, April 24 through May 29, and culminates with a graduation dinner on June 8.
The citizens academy is designed to provide residents with an intimate look into the workings of the department and the law enforcement profession in general.
Applicants must be 18 years old, live or work in East Chicago, be able to pass a limited background inquiry and have no felony convictions.
Some of the topics the academy covers include police administration, community policing, patrol, firearms, detective bureau investigations, crime scene investigations, the canine unit, dispatch and ride-alongs.
Seating is limited. Applicants are encouraged to apply early.
An application form may be obtained at the department or by contacting Lt. Marguerite Wilder at firstname.lastname@example.org
Overrun by Crime, Oakland Looks to Make Allies in Community
by NORIMITSU ONISHI
OAKLAND, Calif. — Over the next several months, this city just across the bay from San Francisco will be partitioned into five police districts from its current two. The smaller districts, according to a new plan, will each be led by a powerful captain who will be held accountable for crime reduction in regular meetings with the police chief.
But equally important will be the captain's focus on community policing. In a smaller area, the theory goes, the captain will be able to reach out to more community leaders in a city with a long, troubled history between its police and residents, especially in black and Hispanic neighborhoods.
“The police cannot do it by themselves,” said Capt. Steven Tull, the commander of one of the first two districts scheduled to be created on March 16, speaking at a station in a high-crime area of East Oakland. “The community must really be engaged because sometimes the community might have solutions, they might have ideas and we need to respect that.”
Late last year, Oakland barely avoided becoming the first city in the nation to lose control of its police force to federal authorities. Understaffed and demoralized, the city's police department is still struggling to quell a crime surge that has angered residents and community leaders and turned Oakland into the most violent city in California.
But city leaders say that changes like the one Captain Tull is overseeing, as well as others ahead, might signal the start of a turnaround. A powerful independent director, who will have the authority to fire the department chief and make budget decisions, is expected to start overseeing the force this month. In addition, a leading authority on urban policing, William J. Bratton, toured Oakland last week as the department's new consultant . Mr. Bratton served as New York City's police commissioner in the mid-1990s and as the Los Angeles police chief in the 2000s.
The independent director and Mr. Bratton will face a department with deep-rooted problems. The force has dwindled to 611 officers from a peak of 837 in 2009 as a result of budget cutting caused by a housing crisis and other financial problems facing the city. Mayor Jean Quan pledged in her recent State of the City address to restore the force to its full strength by hiring 200 officers over the next five years, but acknowledged that would require “an absolutely amazing boom” in the city's coffers.
The city has turned to outside help not only for the department's reorganization but for more basic services, as well. California Highway Patrol officers were deployed late last year by Gov. Jerry Brown to help the beleaguered Oakland Police Department. The officers continue to make the rounds in this city's most troubled neighborhoods and blocks. With little prospect of an immediate increase in its force, Oakland recently also secured help from Alameda, its county sheriff's department, to patrol its streets.
“We're so understaffed we're just going from emergency to emergency,” said Sgt. Christopher Bolton, the chief of staff to Chief Howard Jordan of the Oakland Police Department. “Without the patrol by the C.H.P. and Alameda County, we wouldn't have any presence in many areas.”
Both young and midcareer officers have been leaving for other police departments.
“Morale is at the lowest ebb it's ever been,” said Sgt. Barry Donelan, the president of the Oakland police officers union.
Some homeowners have pooled resources to hire private security firms to patrol neighborhoods. In black and Hispanic neighborhoods, some church leaders, like Bishop Bob Jackson of the Acts Full Gospel Church, have called on the city to declare a state of emergency.
“The perpetrators are aware that the police department is understaffed and that they're not really able to police and patrol the city,” said Mr. Jackson, who keeps a map of Oakland and the latest crime statistics in the office at his sprawling church. “So crime just escalates because you literally can get away with the crime of murder in the city of Oakland.”
In Oakland, a city of 396,000 residents, there were 126 murders in 2012, a 22 percent increase from the year before, according to the department. Rapes rose by 20 percent, robberies by 24 percent, and burglaries by 43 percent. Officers made 10 percent fewer arrests last year than in 2011, and 46 percent fewer compared to 2009, the year before the force began shrinking.
The department has also been struggling for years to carry out court-ordered reforms as part of the settlement of a decade-old civil rights lawsuit. In 2003, 119 residents successfully sued the city for $11 million, accusing four officers known as the Riders of brutalizing suspects and planting evidence. As part of his decision, Judge Thelton Henderson of United States District Court mandated that the department implement a series of changes within five years to prevent future misconduct.
An independent monitor who has been overseeing the changes on behalf of the judge said in a recent report that the department was slipping behind in two critical areas: supervisors' assessment of the use of force by subordinates and officers' cooperation in reporting misconduct by other officers.
Dissatisfied with the pace of progress, however, Judge Henderson threatened last year to put the department under federal receivership. The judge decided instead to create a position that he called independent compliance director, filled by a person who would exercise broad authority over the force until reforms were fully implemented. Last week, Judge Henderson designated as director Thomas Frazier, a police consultant who was Baltimore's police chief and who wrote a critical report last year on the Oakland police's handling of the 2011 Occupy protests.
“A compliance director is as close to a federal receivership as we could get,” said John Burris, a lawyer who was involved in the original lawsuit and who also pushed for a federal takeover last year. “What was important was that the compliance director would have the authority to hire and fire the chief, and move any of his command people if they weren't working up to snuff.”
Robert Wasserman, a police consultant working with Mr. Bratton, said a priority for the department should be to improve relations with the community. In addition to creating districts headed by captains, he has proposed that community representatives become involved in training officers at the academy, as well as in the hiring process.
“You have to have a lot of interaction and dialogue, and these things have not happened in Oakland,” Mr. Wasserman said.
At his first news conference here last week, Mr. Bratton said he would immediately focus on improving the department's crime data collection system. Declaring that “this is a very winnable situation here in Oakland,” he said he wanted crime reduction within three months, especially in homicides, robberies and burglaries.
Mayor Quan and Chief Jordan have said that the appointment of the independent director and the arrival of high-profile consultants were a step in the right direction. Others like Lynette McElhaney, a city councilwoman, were more skeptical, saying that the increasing layers of authority would sow confusion.
“Average citizens have been asking me,” she said, “ ‘How many chiefs does it take to arrest a thug?' ”
Thomas Frazier: Oakland's new police leader has iron will
by Matthew Artz
OAKLAND -- Thomas Frazier is scheduled to report for duty at Oakland police headquarters Monday with unprecedented power and a reputation for shaking up the status quo.
The former Baltimore police commissioner, who rose up the ranks in San Jose, is accountable only to the federal judge who last week appointed him to ram through reforms that Oakland police were supposed to have completed five years ago.
Despite the modest title of compliance director, Frazier, 68, will have authority to overrule top commanders, spend city funds and even oust Chief Howard Jordan and demote his deputies if he determines they are obstacles to the decade-old reform drive.
"I don't think anyone has ever had this kind of power over a police department," said Sam Walker a criminologist at the University of Nebraska Omaha, who has studied Oakland's failed police reforms.
The man critics in Baltimore derided as "TV Tom" for his love of the spotlight refused interview requests this week. But those familiar with him say Oakland is getting a strong-willed progressive who is unafraid to make enemies or stand up to politicians.
As Baltimore's top cop from 1994 to 1999, Frazier referred to himself as a "social worker with a gun." He built up the city's police athletic league and resisted cries from the rank-and-file and council members to adopt the "zero-tolerance" policies that Oakland's newest police consultant, William Bratton, had engineered to stunning success in New York City.
"He won't be intimidated by any outcry from the rank-and-file or the public," said Gary McLhinney, the former head of Baltimore's police union and a staunch Frazier critic. "When he gets an idea in his head, he'll run with it. He doesn't care if it's popular."
Oakland officials got a taste of Frazier's independent streak last year when they hired him to review the botched police handling of the first Occupy Oakland protest. Frazier painted a damning portrait of an understaffed department in disarray and then successfully fought what he considered to be an attempt by city leaders to censor some of his most serious findings.
The report appeared to have impressed U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson, who rejected three nominees for the compliance director post before turning to Frazier.
Frazier's job will be to do what four police chiefs and three mayors have failed to accomplish: comply with court-ordered reforms aimed at making police more accountable and helping the department to better police itself.
The reforms stem from the 2003 settlement of a civil case against four police officers known as the Riders, who were accused of framing and beating drug suspects in West Oakland. Several cities have agreed to similar reform mandates; Oakland is the first that failed to comply.
If Frazier also fails, Henderson could order a full federal takeover making Oakland the first U.S. city to lose total control of its police department.
Those who have served with Frazier and studied the departments he has led called him an inspired choice for the Oakland job.
"I think the judge picked the perfect person because he knows Oakland and he has a record of winning community support everywhere he's gone," said former San Jose police Chief Joseph McNamara, who promoted Frazier to the rank of deputy chief.
After 27 years in San Jose, Frazier was named police commissioner in Baltimore, where he set out to reform the department and give it a focus on community policing.
Despite doubters who said a West Coast chief couldn't handle an East Coast department, Frazier left Baltimore's police force in much better shape than he found it, said Sheldon Greenberg, who heads Johns Hopkins University's Police Executive Leadership Program.
"I thought he did an exceptional job," said Greenberg, who credited Frazier with developing a homegrown command staff and winning community support. "He did more for young people in Baltimore than most chiefs ever get to do for young people in their jurisdiction."
But Frazier also was dogged by claims of racial bias within the department and faced stiff opposition to his policy of rotating officers in and out of assignments, which broke up well-established units.
"Academics loved Tom; rank-and-file cops despised him" McLhinney said. "Tom was into the community policing model really to the extreme. He wasn't really interested in locking up bad guys. That wasn't his focus."
Frazier refused to target minor drug crimes despite mounting pressure from politicians angry that Baltimore hadn't seen anywhere close to the crime reductions New York City had tallied first under Bratton.
After Frazier left to take a leading community policing post with the Justice Department, Baltimore's new mayor brought in two of Bratton's top confidants, who wrote a report critical of Frazier's leadership.
In Oakland, Frazier will get to review any recommendation that Bratton makes as a consultant seeking to help the department reduce soaring rates of robberies, burglaries and homicides.
McLhinney said the two strong-willed chiefs "come from policing philosophies that don't fit," but several law enforcement experts said they actually have a lot in common. "I know that Bratton and Tom are on the same page," McNamara said. "They are both advocates of winning community support, especially in minority communities."
As compliance director, Frazier will have to reform how police investigate themselves and document their work. His report last year criticized internal affairs investigators for being "reluctant to aggressively seek the truth" and said the unit needed to be reorganized to improve efficiency.
To succeed where others have failed, Walker said, Frazier will also need a deft political touch, putting commanders on notice that they have risked demotion if they ignore his orders while molding a new generation of leaders and not undercutting an already weak chief.
"He has to show (the commanders) that there is a positive side to his being there," Walker said. "I think he's smart enough to figure that out."