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Oakland mayor names interim police chief

October 13, 2011 |  6:03 pm

Interim chief Howard Jordan at swearing-in ceremony with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan swore in an interim police chief Thursday, just days after Chief Anthony W. Batts abruptly announced that he would step down from leading the crime-beleaguered city's department.

The change in command comes as the Oakland Police Department -- which has operated under a federal consent decree imposed in 2003 after a scandal that involved officers beating and framing suspects -- is struggling  with an understaffed force and a soaring homicide rate.

As a line of officers looked on, Quan administered the oath to Assistant Chief Howard Jordan. The 23-year department veteran is a longtime political ally of the mayor and has been leading the team charged with bringing the force into compliance with the federal settlement.

Calling Jordan a "cop's cop," Quan said that his selection promises continuity, rank-and-file support and the best shot at changing the department's culture.

Jordan was interim chief in 2009 when the department saw four officers killed in one day -- a tragedy that ultimately drew Batts to Oakland. As the police chief in Long Beach, Batts had rebuffed recruiting efforts from Oakland. But when he attended the officers' funeral, Batts said he saw the face of a department in need.

This year, Batts increasingly had chaffed under micromanagement from Quan and some City Council members. He had pressed the city to approve a youth curfew, crack down on loitering and expand gang injunctions. But Quan largely opposed the measures.

Last week, the mayor cast a tie-breaking vote to send the ideas back to the public safety committee for further consideration.

The tactics are opposed by community members who fear police will misuse them to harass youth. Quan has advocated instead for community involvement and greater opportunities as a way to solve crime. The mayor said Thursday that she would unveil her plan at a safety summit Saturday.

Batts will remain on board to brief Jordan and city officials over the next month. In announcing his resignation, he complained of having full accountability but only "20% control" of the department. He sat in the packed audience Thursday with a fixed smile.

His exit has proved bruising to Quan. A KPIX-TV CBS 5 poll conducted Wednesday showed that 69% of Oakland residents said they had little or no confidence in her ability to reduce the crime problem. It also found that her approval rating had plummeted to 28% from 57% six months ago. Asked to comment on the poll Thursday, Quan said telephone polls are "notoriously bad" and that being mayor is "a hard job."


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-- Lee Romney in Oakland

Photo: Interim Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan at his swearing-in with Mayor Jean Quan.

Credit: Paul Sakuma / Associated Press