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Oakland residents urge action on crime before latest forum vets police chief candidates

Oakland residents urge action on crime ahead of police chief candidate forum
Oakland residents urge action on crime ahead of police chief candidate forum 03:41

Before the Oakland Police Commission was set to hold its latest public forum to vet a potential new police chief Thursday, residents were voicing concerns over rising crime rates in the city.

Many business owners are being plagued by repeated break-ins and burglaries, while crime in general is discouraging customers from visiting Oakland.

"They break the doors, the locks. They get into the restaurant, you know? They get money, they get liquor," lamented Agave Uptown general manager Osvaldo Sánchez. His restaurant has been targeted with 22 break-ins in less than seven years.

Sánchez, like many other Oakland residents, is closely following the selection process for a new police chief. He urged swift action to hire a new chief to replace former chief LeRonne Armstrong -- who Oakland Mayor Sheng Thao fired in February 2023 -- so the police department can better address the city's safety concerns.

The commission had set a March 1 deadline for sending the mayor another round of possible candidates. The new list includes former San Leandro Police Chief Abdul Pridgen, who also served as the chief of the Seaside Police Department in Monterey County.

Other candidates include current Lubbock, Texas Police Department chief Floyd Mitchell, Cincinnati Assistant Police Chief Lisa Davis, and former Former Commissioner of the New York City Department of Correction and chief of the Las Vegas Department of Public Safety Louis Molina, who is currently as Assistant Deputy Mayor for Public Safety in New York City.   

"We can't wait anymore. We're just wasting time trying to make a decision. And on top of that, the city is unsafe," said Sánchez.

Bishop Bob Jackson, co-founder of Acts Full Gospel Church in Oakland, echoed these sentiments, emphasizing the need to prioritize public safety in the city.

"The crux of the matter is we have to make public safety priority one. All of that is predicated upon the crime that we've been having too much of in the city of Oakland," stated Bishop Jackson.

However, Mayor Sheng Thao's absence from the forums has sparked controversy. In a letter to the Police Commission, Mayor Thao cited concerns about the safety and confidentiality of candidates, as well as the potential for a premature bidding war.

"Oakland's City Charter does not require a public forum to select the Oakland police chief. Hosting a public forum is detrimental to attracting the best candidates. I will not participate in the forum for these reasons," the letter added.    

Despite the mayor's concerns, Bishop Jackson reiterated the urgency of appointing a new police chief.

"Oakland is not even at the table and we have the worst crime in any city in Alameda County. It's sad," he remarked.

Meanwhile, Sánchez expressed frustration with the ongoing delays in the appointment process and called for unified support from city officials.

"All I want is support from the police department, the mayor, whoever it is because we need support. We need to be secure. Businesses around need to be secure," Sánchez explained.

With the public forum scheduled to begin early Thursday evening, residents like Sánchez hope that the discussion will apply pressure on city officials to expedite the appointment of a new police chief and address the pressing safety concerns facing Oakland.

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