OAKLAND -- Bob Wasserman, of the Strategic Policy Partnership, which has been consulting with the Oakland Police Department, kicked off "The Safe Oakland Speaker Series" at Holy Names University before a full crowd on Sunday.

The six-part speaker series is the brainchild of District 4 Councilmember Libby Schaaf, who continues to build on the momentum created in an effort to improve public safety in Oakland.

Wasserman promised a standing-room-only audience of nearly 300 people that he would not make another report that would sit on a shelf.

"It will be different this time," he said. "I'm creating a living action plan. You will understand what you have to do to make Oakland safe."

Wasserman's comments stressed the importance of community involvement in the policing process.

"There is good stuff going on here, and we need to leverage that and create an action plan that will involve you," Wasserman continued. "Everyone will have a role. It's a unified undertaking."

"The Oakland challenge is that it is one of the most complex policing environments in the United States," he pointed out.

"There is a lack of confidence in the police by some residents. We need to raise up that confidence ... People need to get on board. People are dying," Wasserman said.


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Wasserman proposes to divide the city into five geographical regions in order to enhance community policing efforts. But to make community policing work effectively, officers must be able to stay in their assigned areas. Currently, officers are routinely pulled off their beats to attend to crimes in other areas of the city.

The goal of community policing is to deal with the small things in order to keep them from snowballing into big things. Community collaboration is essential to this process, as the community knows their neighborhood better than anyone. Currently, there are times when there are dozens of "911" calls waiting and no officers available to go to the scene.

"We can't respond to all calls," Wasserman said. "We must move to a system where officers respond to the important calls. This will improve the response time to emergencies."

Appointments can be made with technically trained civilian staff to come and collect evidence for burglaries and police can also intervene over the phone, he said. If a problem can be solved without the physical presence of a sworn officer, money can be saved. This would allow officers that are on the street to be more likely to be able to stay in their assigned neighborhoods.

The Ceasefire crime-prevention plan would once again be implemented.

"The more people understand it, the better it will work," Wasserman said.

Under the Ceasefire model, community leaders would engage suspects in conversation, explaining to them that if they do not cease their activities, they will be prosecuted to the full extent of the law. The model has worked in Boston and New York City.

Wasserman also talked about the pending arrival of fellow consultant William Bratton. Wasserman assured the audience that "stop-and-frisk is not on the agenda."

Wasserman also pointed out that the criticism over "stop-and-frisk" in New York City was due to the tactics of current Police Commissioner Ray Kelly.

Wasserman ended his presentation by asking the audience to ask themselves what they can do to make a difference. Oakland resident John Bey questioned the role of the consultants.

"Why is the chief able to keep his job when he is failing?," Bey asked. "The chief has been part of the decision-making process for the last 10 years. I'm speaking from a businessman's prospective."

But Sandra Pohutsky had a different perspective.

"I am 100 percent enthusiastic," she said. "It's now or never. What's different is that Wasserman emphasized that community involvement is absolutely mandatory. We need to implement this as a city, not a police department."