Oakland police chief announces his resignation
Oakland Police Chief Anthony W. Batts, who clashed with Mayor Jean Quan and the City Council over staffing and resources amid a rise in violent crime, announced his resignation Tuesday in a letter to Police Department employees.
Batts, who joined the department in 2009 after being recruited away from Long Beach by then-Mayor Ronald V. Dellums, did not say why he was leaving or what he planned to do next.
In his resignation letter, the chief said he believed when taking the job that he was answering “the call for a reform-minded chief; a leader with a focus on community policing and high professional standards.
“I was told Oakland residents were looking for a strong, visible leader to engage the community and reduce violent crime,” he said. “My goal was to help rebuild a once proud, professional department, geared toward crime reduction and community service.”
But, Batts continued, “I found myself with limited control, but full accountability. The landscape has changed radically over the past two years and with new and different challenges.”
Quan took office in January. She and many council members have largely opposed such crime-fighting measures as a youth curfew and gang injunctions. The City Council met last week to consider those measures and an anti-loitering law; Quan cast a tie-breaking vote to send the measures back to committee.
The chief's resignation came a week after half a dozen major Oakland business organizations pleaded with Quan in a letter to use a more versatile array of tools to fight the rising homicide rate.
"We need more police officers and we need to support them," wrote the business leaders, among them the heads of the Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce, Oakland African-American Chamber of Commerce and the Hispanic Chamber of Commerce of Alameda County.
"The time for talking and protesting has passed. We need to come together and solve this problem now."
In addition to gang injunctions, curfews and anti-loitering measures, the leaders also pressed for surveillance cameras, better street lighting and laptop computers in patrol cars.
In an interview Tuesday, Oakland Metropolitan Chamber of Commerce public policy director Paul Junge expressed regret at Batts' resignation and said "it did appear that there was some disconnect between the police chief and the mayor."
Junge added that Quan "does show good energy and interest" in public safety.
An Oakland ballot measure passed years ago is supposed to guarantee a minimal police force of 803 officers, but the numbers have plummeted into the mid-600s.
Junge said Batts had addressed the chamber just six or so weeks ago and "he spoke with a good deal of passion and conviction about curfews and anti-loitering measures."
But at a recent council meeting on the topic he "seemed very muted. We did kind of wonder if he didn’t feel supported at the higher levels of the city."
No departure date was given in Batts' letter, but an accompanying one from City Administrator Deanna J. Santana said he would depart sometime in November.
-- Maria L. La Ganga and Lee Romney in San Francisco
Photo: Anthony Batts answers questions during a news conference in Oakland July 9, 2010. Credit: Eric Risberg / Associated Press