OP-ED: Can a Mayor Stop Crime?


By Wilson Riles Jr.

This Mayoral election ought to galvanize community understanding of the best way to utilize taxpayer dollars to achieve a significant crime and violence reduction. Businesses and residents need honesty and clarity about how candidates will change things.


The need for change is undeniable. Unfortunately so many games are played in elections, that voters will hear everything but honesty and clarity. As a former City Council Member and student of government who has focused many hours of study on this issue, I hope that I can be helpful.

Joe Tuman seems to be “the first out of the box” to present his plan. Joe’s top priority is increasing the number of officers from a little over 650 to 900 or 1,000.

Why? Logic would dictate that we must first question assumptions. Tuman’s assumption is false. Let me give you three ways that it has been proven wrong: (1) there is no relationship between crime rates and officers per capita for cities of similar size in the US, (2) there is no relationship between the crime rate in Oakland over the years and the number of officers per capita, and (3) the 1972-73 Kansas City preventive patrol experiment clearly proved that more police in an area makes no difference to the crime rate.

Therefore, Joe Tuman’s and others belief in the first priority need for more cops is not based on evidence.

In addition, Joe’s idea to receive one-time-only money from the sale of land to spend on the On-Going costs of police personnel is outrageous! And irresponsible!

The rest of his payment plan is ass-backwards; a responsible leader does not spend money before he has it! Expand the tax base first before you start spending the money. Everybody wants to expand the tax base, but few will do it by increasing taxes on business as Joe proposes.

Joe Tuman’s second crime priority, which launches an attack on Mayor Quan’s 100 Block Initiative, is poorly aimed. Quan’s tactic of concentrating attention – not just patrols – on particular areas for specific results has demonstrated temporary effectiveness for police departments across the country.

Tuman criticizes a tactic that has some evidence for success and substitutes a tactic – evenly distributed patrols – where there is clear evidence of ineffectiveness.

I echo his concern that “City leaders” have not given proper direction to OPD. But Tuman fails to present how he is going to educate the City Council to govern based on evidence.

Joe Tuman
Joe Tuman

The council is the source of many of the initiatives that Tuman disparages like Measure Y, the temporary use of officers from other jurisdictions, etc. The council is particularly blame worthy for not curtailing the persistent unconstitutional policing that results in millions of dollars in losses every year from lawsuits including the Riders Case which brought about the Negotiated Settlement Agreement.

Tuman wants the council to use evidence while demonstrating his belief in tactics that have no evidence that they will work. How does that work?

Third, his call for special initiatives for specific crimes is uninformative and hackneyed. What does he mean by “reduce the number of potential customers” for child trafficking for prostitution? How? Using what resources?

And his car impoundment and property seizures for illegal dumping and sideshows are inane. Who is going to do those impoundments and seizures? How about providing more affordable dumping sites and advertising them.

How about doing what San Diego did and provide a safe and sane place for sideshows that could lead young folks into detailing, auto mechanics, and automobile racing professions?

Fourth, he talks about working on the root causes of crime and violence offhandedly as if he is “checking a box.”

His fifth point is a reiteration of his call for leadership – a call for his leadership. I will not expect any leadership from Joe Tuman on crime – if he were to get elected – because he has demonstrated only a very thin slice of knowledge about it.

This is the first of a weekly series in which Wilson Riles Jr. will analyze, critique and comment on mayoral candidates’ positions on police, crime and public safety issues. The publisher has asked Mr. Riles to do this series based upon his previous membership on the Oakland City Council and his continued active involvement in local public policy issues.


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