A Comprehensive Public Safety Plan to Build a Safer Oakland for Us All
Oakland is in an acute public safety crisis. This moment requires real urgency – too many of our neighbors, friends, and fellow Oaklanders have suffered the pain of loss or have been traumatized by the weight of fear. To bring change, we must put forth smart policing policies, not revert to the same, old approaches that haven’t worked.
Public safety will be Sheng Thao’s top priority as Mayor of Oakland. That’s why she has a comprehensive public safety plan focused on increasing investments in violence prevention, more community-oriented policing, and community building. This holistic strategy will make our city safer, address the root causes of crime, and help heal our neighborhoods and communities that have been ignored for far too long.
Sheng Thao is honored to be endorsed for Mayor by a broad coalition of public safety, small business, community, and criminal justice reform leaders and organizations including Attorney General Rob Bonta, Oakland Firefighters Union, Pastor Billy Dixon Jr., the co-chair of Oakland’s anti-gang violence Ceasefire program, the 9-1-1 dispatchers who are part of IFPTE, Local 21, numerous Oakland Neighborhood Council chairs and members, including Creighton Davis and Jose Dorado, and many others. Thao has also been recognized as a 2022 Gun Sense Candidate by Moms Demand Action for her leadership in the fight against gun violence and for safer communities.
Guiding Principles Under a Sheng Thao Administration:
Prevention, Enforcement, and Justice
Preventing crime and violence in Oakland will be the number one priority of Sheng Thao’s administration. We must both improve how our police department functions and expand on the violence prevention work we have already started to effect real change.
Education, Training and Jobs
Public safety begins with great schools, programs that provide pathways to educational and economic mobility, and jobs that offer more than just a living wage. Opportunities like these create the foundation for safe communities – that’s why these investments are a critical part of Sheng Thao’s plan.
Holistic Community Building and Investment
We can and will make Oakland safer by delivering services to the community in a timely manner. We must make robust and equitable investments and activate our public spaces in neighborhoods across Oakland.
Equity and Reform
We must rebuild trust and better relationships between our police department and the Oaklanders they serve. That requires us to invest in and promote community engagement in our Neighborhood Councils and make sure the police are adhering to constitutional policing and there is strong oversight in place.
The Plan In-Depth:
1. Prevention, Enforcement and Justice.
Double down on the violence prevention programs which we know help reduce violent crime
In 2021, Sheng voted for an unprecedented $18 million investment in violence prevention programs for Oakland, the only candidate in this race to have done so. Sheng will continue supporting proven strategies that prevent violence and as Mayor she will:
- Double the budget for the Department of Violence Prevention (DVP), which oversees a suite of the city’s violence prevention programs. Sheng will also launch new Department of Violence Prevention satellite offices in each of the 7 City Council districts to ensure there is an on-the-ground presence with deep connections to every neighborhood, to help prevent and interrupt violence.
- Reinvest in and expand Ceasefire. During the height of the COVID pandemic, the City administration cut Ceasefire, a proven gang violence prevention, intervention, and community-mobilization program that is led, in part, by the faith community. While the other Councilmembers running for Mayor tried to block her, in 2021 Sheng worked with other colleagues to restore the program.
- Invest in social workers, counselors, and restorative justice programs in our schools and communities. Our communities need more investment in alternatives to incarceration. Sheng will provide the Department of Violence Prevention with the resources it needs to expand this programming to more schools and more neighborhoods.
Re-orient our police to focus more on violent crime and re-strategize how we deploy our beat cops to stop crime before it starts
Recent data on service calls to OPD shows that our officers are overwhelmingly responding to non-emergencies. Increasingly, armed officers have been deployed in response to non-violent calls, to non-threatening mental health episodes, or sent to homeless encampment cleanups, pulling them away from the critical work of preventing and responding to violent crime. Re-focusing our priorities on violent offenses, as well as taking a fresh look at how we deploy our beat cops can make a big difference in improving response times, making all Oaklanders safer.
- Expand the Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO) program and develop additional community resources to shift armed officers away from answering non-violent mental health and non-criminal calls. Sheng is proud to have helped champion the MACRO program, providing real alternatives to an armed police response for those in mental health crisis or with non-criminal issues. As Mayor, she will ensure the program is successfully scaled up and work with the County to ensure they are fulfilling their responsibility in providing public and mental health support.
- Take a more strategic approach to how our beat cops and foot patrol officers are assigned. The geography and positioning of Oakland’s police beats currently require individual officers to travel relatively long distances to converge and coordinate when a crisis occurs. With a fresh approach, we can make adjustments that will improve coordination and response times.
- Provide more beat cops to create a visible presence and deter the kinds of crime we are seeing more and more, especially in business corridors and Lake Merritt.
Fill police vacancies with experienced, diverse officers from our community and provide them with adequate resources.
Oakland’s police force is shrinking due to attrition and retirements. With fewer officers on the street and fewer 9-1-1 operators, we’re also at risk of losing vital Measure Z dollars for violence prevention programs, Crime Reduction Teams, and the Fire Department.
For this year’s budget, Sheng voted to increase funding for the police department by $38 million over the previous year. Over the last four years, no one on the City Council has allocated more money for public safety than Sheng, because she believes that violence prevention must be the cornerstone of a safe community. Sheng was also proud to broker an agreement between OPD, the Mayor, and City Council to fund three new police academies. However, our academies can take over a year to graduate officers and produce results. That’s why Sheng is the only mayoral candidate who has advocated for alternatives to fill vacancies.
As Mayor, she will continue to work to reduce police department vacancies, bring diverse, experienced officers to Oakland, and keep them here while saving taxpayers money. Here’s how:
- A police department that looks like Oakland. Building trust between the community and the police is critical. As Mayor, Sheng will recruit a force that represents Oakland. First, with an emphasis on hiring Oakland residents, more women, people of color, LGBTQ+ officers, and officers who live in Oakland, to more deeply root our police department in the community. This will both improve the relationship between our police department and our neighborhoods and increase officer retention.
- Launch a nationwide search for experienced, talented, community-focused patrol officers and investigators with diverse backgrounds and no history of misconduct. OPD can offer hiring and retention incentives to recruit officers to come to Oakland from other departments. Given that police academy graduates need time before they can become active patrol officers, to address the urgent need resulting from existing vacancies, Sheng's administration will offer "lateral officers" a hiring bonus to come to Oakland so they can provide immediate support as patrol officers or investigators. Lateral officers also cost significantly less.
- Hire more 9-1-1 dispatchers. People want someone to answer when they call 9-1-1. The vacancies crisis in our police department is also impacting 9-1-1 response. As Mayor, Sheng will hire more bi-lingual 9-1-1 dispatchers so more residents’ calls are answered and routed to either OPD or the appropriate community resource for response, so they get the help they need. 9-1-1 operators will receive extensive additional training to make these routing decisions. Sheng has earned the trust and endorsement of the 9-1-1 operators who are a part of the International Federation of Technical and Professional Engineers (IFPTE), Local 21. And as Mayor, Sheng will have our 9-1-1 dispatchers’ backs. She will also shadow our operators during her earliest weeks in office to hear their challenges and concerns.
- Expand Sheng’s OPD and Merritt College partnership. Previously, Merritt College ran a successful feeder program that sent new officers to the California Highway Patrol. Sheng expanded the program to bring in new recruits to the Oakland Police Department as well. As Mayor, Sheng will expand the program further and make local recruitment a priority not just for the police department but for all City jobs.
- Invest in internship/job-training pipeline programs at OPD for Oakland students and community members. Investing in internship and job training programs for high school students and community members with pathways to recruitment will improve OPD’s long term recruitment from within Oakland.
Work with State, County and local leaders to get guns off our streets
Cities can and must be a part of solving our national gun violence epidemic. As a mom, an American, an Oaklander, and a City Councilmember, Sheng Thao is more determined than ever to fight gun violence, gun trafficking, and all those who enable it and profit off it with everything she has.
In Oakland, we have already made progress. Sheng has helped pass legislation requiring better security and storage of weapons by gun owners. We banned untraceable ghost guns and pushed for the same policy which Governor Newsom recently signed at the state level. But there is more we can and must do now.
As Mayor, Sheng will work with our Police Department, with local partners like the leaders of Ceasefire, and with state leaders, like California’s chief law enforcement officer, Rob Bonta (who has endorsed Sheng for Mayor) to get guns off our streets. Sheng Thao has also been recognized as a 2022 Gun Sense Candidate by Moms Demand Action for her leadership in the fight against gun violence and for safer communities.
- Create a Mayor’s Office of Gun Violence Prevention. Sheng will make ending gun violence the urgent policy and public health priority it must be.
- Implement an on-going gun buyback program. It’s overdue that the City implement Sheng’s proposed gun buyback program to get more guns off the streets.
- Work regionally to stop the flow of illegal guns into Oakland and Alameda County. Like she is currently doing with wildfire prevention, Sheng will focus on working closely with the County and other municipalities on this critical issue, because gun violence crosses city lines.
- Ensure OPD is utilizing state of the art gun tracing programs. We must ensure that OPD is using all tools available to get illegal guns off of Oakland’s streets.
- Work to broaden the city and state’s ban on ghost guns. Sheng will work to establish stiffer penalties for those who traffic and use these untraceable weapons.
- Support and increase OPD’s efforts to investigate and prevent gun violence. Sheng will work with Chief Armstrong to prioritize efforts like his recent reassignment of officers to the Criminal Investigation Division and will continue to support OPD’s efforts to prevent and arrest those who would commit gun violence in Oakland.
Increase our efforts to prevent property crimes and provide needed support for victims
Over the past year, we saw a spike in property crimes, from home and car break-ins, to catalytic converter thefts, to robberies and burglaries of our local businesses. These crimes increased in every neighborhood, making Oaklanders feel less safe, and leaving many folks unable to replace or unable to afford to replace what was lost. Sheng Thao gets it. Her own home was broken into, while her then-12 year old son was home alone. He was physically unharmed but traumatized, as was Sheng. To reduce property crime and protect victims, Sheng Thao will:
- Bring more foot patrol officers as deterrents in our commercial corridors. While Oakland absolutely needs sufficient police resources in the neighborhoods where the most violent crime occurs, when we place the overwhelming majority of our officers in those communities, it leaves other neighborhoods vulnerable to increases in property and other crimes. This more strategic approach can make a difference.
- Expand the Community Ambassadors program citywide to other commercial corridors and communities like Little Saigon, the Fruitvale, and Deep East Oakland. We need more non-police community mobilization efforts like this present in our communities, which will act as a deterrent.
- Enforcement matters. Sheng will work with OPD to enforce our laws, so Oakland will no longer be perceived as a place where theft is tolerated and illegal dumping is allowed. Sheng will work with Chief Armstrong on strategic measures to get OPD out from under federal oversight and to initiate strategic sting operations aimed at preventing illegal dumping and rampant property crime.
- Take preventive measures to stop catalytic converter theft. Sheng was the author of a City Resolution pushing the State to implement a paper trail system for sales of catalytic converters, which the Governor has just signed into law, and which can help deter catalytic converter theft. She will bring this same problem-solving approach to the Mayor’s office.
- Create a fund to support low-income people who can’t afford to replace their catalytic converters. Catalytic converters can cost several thousand dollars to replace, a price many families simply can’t manage. Sheng has heard more than one story about a family deciding to move out of Oakland because they can’t afford to keep replacing their catalytic converters.
- Provide financial relief to impacted businesses. Sheng will work to create a fund to help make local businesses who have had their windows broken or their stores burglarized whole.
- Eliminate towing fees for owners of stolen cars. Currently, when someone has their car stolen in Oakland, if it shows up somewhere else, the victim themself has to pay for towing, an added indignity and additional cost that many can’t afford. As Mayor, Sheng will work to eliminate this unfair practice.
- Ensure OPD responds promptly when homes and businesses are broken into. We must adequately staff OPD to respond to Oaklanders who have experienced a break-in. We will not tolerate a police force that does not respond to our families and businesses who have been victimized. Sheng will work with the Chief to rehire retired officers, who have the legal authority to take police reports, so we have adequate staff who can respond and take reports, even when a crime is not in progress.
Protect and support victims of violent crime
As a survivor of domestic violence, crime victims’ rights are personal for Sheng Thao. As Mayor, she will:
- Create three new independent victims’ rights staffing positions in City Hall to provide victims with the support they need. These new staff members will report directly to the City Administrator, and work with the Department of Violence Prevention, Oakland Police Department, District Attorney’s office, and with the members of our legal system who advocate for missing children, families of homicide victims, and domestic violence survivors. The Department of Violence Prevention has already been doing excellent work providing victims services and relocation service for families impacted by violence and Sheng is the only mayoral candidate who voted for these programs.
- Empower a hate crime victims unit to crack down on intolerable hate crimes against Asian Americans and any other victims of hate crimes in our city.
- Expand the OPD Homicide Unit to solve more murders. Families deserve answers and getting the worst criminals off our streets reduces retaliatory violence and other types of crime. It also improves community trust in the police while sending the message that crime will not go unpunished.
Create safer streets and highways
The Oakland Police Department is stretched too thin to sufficiently monitor and manage vehicular issues. As a result, street racing and sideshows, speeding, and reckless driving in Oakland is increasing, impacting all neighborhoods. But there are smart strategies we can employ to make a difference. As Mayor, Sheng will:
- Partner with the Highway Patrol. An increased presence of CHP on freeways like 880 and 580 can be effective to calm speeding and reckless driving.
- Work with the City’s Department of Transportation to create more street calming measures. Oakland needs to add more BOTS dots and speed bumps, and cut through the red tape to make sure this happens as quickly as possible. Sheng was the first to pilot this program in her Council district and it has made a real difference in reducing sideshows and preventing speeding.
- Create safer bike and pedestrian pathways. Sheng will increase investment in bike lanes throughout the city, and increase the amount of painted and flashing pedestrian crosswalks across Oakland, including creating roundabouts and barriers like those on Telegraph in Temescal. Filling vacancies in the City administration will also provide much needed staff to create safer streets for pedestrians.
2. Education, Training and Jobs.
Address the root causes of crime by creating more educational and employment opportunities
Safe communities are built on strong foundations that provide young people and those looking for help with a range of resources and opportunities to take steps forward and achieve success, rather than a one-size-fits-all strategy. As Mayor, Sheng Thao will:
- Invest in job training programs. We will work closely with our K-12 schools and community colleges to establish professional internship and trade apprenticeship programs that create pathways to careers, including working for the City of Oakland, which will help reduce our high number of vacancies at City Hall and improve delivery of services to residents.
- Creating an Oakland Neighborhood Ambassador Program. With a focus on our young people, particularly those at the highest risk of contact with the criminal justice system, and in partnership with local businesses, nonprofits, community organizations, and corporations, we will work to establish a Neighborhood Ambassador Program that provides youth with skills-based training and a paid opportunity to build and serve within their own communities, with the goal of creating a pipeline to longer term educational, employment, or service positions.
- Bring back Oakland’s summer youth jobs programs. We will invest real dollars to get youth off the streets and into meaningful employment and network opportunities with local businesses, community organizations, and nonprofits so that we are reinvesting in our community, in our youth, and young adults.
- Tap into cutting-edge programs that teach kids computing and IT skills. We will work with OUSD to prioritize Science, Technology, Engineering, Arts, Math training and partner with companies and nonprofits to deliver resources and training for our young people.
- Partner with re-entry and transitional housing programs to create pathways that provide job training and support and employment opportunities with local businesses for the formerly incarcerated to create meaningful futures for those in need.
3. Holistic Community Building and Investment.
A holistic approach to public safety includes investments in our community centers, playgrounds, after-school activities, cultural and public spaces, local businesses, and public and community health programs because each plays a role in improving the overall health of our community.
We can also do better at creating the Oakland we all deserve, by removing blight, such as abandoned cars, trash, and illegal dumping when it occurs and by providing better services to fix roads and rampant potholes across Oakland. Strong City services, in partnership with other strong public and private institutions can help create a more vibrant and healthier community, which will ultimately help prevent and reduce crime.
Prioritize community-oriented policing, to rebuild trust between our neighborhoods and our Police Department
Sheng Thao knows you can’t build trust overnight, but she also knows that Chief Armstrong, a West Oakland native himself, is committed to strengthening the relationship between our community and our officers. As Mayor, Sheng will work with OPD to prioritize community-oriented policing.
- Support and fund Neighborhood Council and block organizations. To improve trust, increase community engagement and support neighborhood empowerment, we need to have robust resident participation in our Neighborhood Councils. That means Neighborhood Councils should be easily accessible to a broad swath of residents and equipped with the resources and funding so that residents (1) can effectively organize around issues and community objectives, (2) share feedback on how public safety departments, including OPD, OFD, and MACRO, and other City departments, support and deliver services to their community, and (3) have a venue for their voices to be heard so leaders and departments can more effectively respond.
- Increase block and neighborhood support positions. Community Resource Officers and Neighborhood Service Coordinators need to be doing outreach to develop block-by-block leaders who can be trained and supported, to create real relationships between the public safety departments, City government, and our community. Real community-oriented policing means our neighborhood and community leaders are communicating, cooperating, and coordinating with public safety departments and each other, so that each department, including OPD, and City staff can better serve Oakland.
- Launch a series of OPD open houses to bring in the public and build community. Welcome Oakland youth and community members to pay a visit to their local substation or OPD headquarters so our officers can better know the community they serve and our community can put faces and names to the badge.
- Increase public education and outreach about Neighborhood Crime Prevention Councils (NCPCs). Sheng will work to get more Oaklanders involved in and connected in their communities. We can make NCPCs a place for hyper-local community-led initiatives to problem solve and address all kinds of challenges in our communities, which will ultimately prevent crime and blight before it happens.
Expand training. Community-oriented policing requires officers to receive training in restorative justice, cultural diversity, active listening and de-escalation strategies as well as effective community engagement. Community Resource Officers will receive further training to establish working relationships with formal and informal community leaders in their assigned beats.
Activate our public spaces and equitably invest to create healthier communities
As someone who grew up in public housing and in disadvantaged neighborhoods, Sheng knows that equitably investing in and prioritizing our public spaces alone helps create a healthier, safer Oakland. Communities in West and East Oakland deserve robust City services, parks, and other community resources. Sheng recently secured $2M in state funds to invest in parks in Deep East Oakland, including updates to Verdese Center Park, Tassafaronga Park, and Arroyo Viejo Park.
- Invest in and support our diverse communities. We need vibrant community centers, playgrounds and parks, after-school and summer programs, cultural and public spaces and local businesses, to support active and vibrant neighborhoods across Oakland. Sheng will set the tone at the top, so we reevaluate how we invest across the City through a lens of racial and economic equity and justice.
- Re-assess service delivery throughout the City of Oakland. Sheng knows that we need to improve service delivery in all of our neighborhoods with strategic and preventive actions aimed at removing abandoned cars, trash, and other blight. By reducing vacancies in City departments, we can have better City services. When our beautiful City looks as neglected and dirty as it does now, it begets more dumping and other illegal behavior. We need to show our community that we can care for and create a better Oakland for everyone.
- Invest in addressing healthcare needs and challenges in Oakland, including disparities attributable to increased pollution in West and East Oakland. Other neighborhoods are facing critical deficits, such as insufficient resources to address the opioid crisis. Sheng will work with County and State officials to ensure more resources are directed to address these critical health needs and disparities.
Prioritize emergency preparedness and expand wildfire prevention efforts
Sheng has been City Hall’s leader on making Oakland more prepared for wildfires and other potential emergencies. Immediately after she was sworn in to the City Council, Sheng got to work addressing a critical wildfire prevention issue that had gone unaddressed for decades in the Piedmont Pines neighborhood in her district. She went to the California Public Utilities Commission and got the body to finally approve the undergrounding of utility lines in that neighborhood. She then passed legislation through the City Council that made wildfire prevention a top City priority and also established an interdepartmental wildfire prevention working group. Sheng’s work on wildfire prevention is why she has the sole endorsement of Oakland Firefighters and the support of important wildfire prevention leaders like Councilmember Dan Kalb and Sue Piper, immediate past Chair of the Oakland Firesafe Council.
As your next Mayor, Sheng will fight to protect Oakland from wildfire dangers by:
- Passing a comprehensive Vegetation Management Plan
- Fully funding vegetation management on public land
- Improving regional coordination through a Regional Wildfire Prevention Joint Powers Agency
- Hiring dedicated staff to secure more grants for vegetation management and utility undergrounding
- Working with EBMUD to ensure fire hydrant compliance is maintained
- Developing new strategies to reduce the impact of Public Safety Power Shutoffs
- Expanding open space supervisor roles to help manage large public land plots like Joaquin Miller Park
Defend a woman’s right to reproductive freedom, because this is a public safety issue
When the Supreme Court opinion on Roe v. Wade leaked in May, other candidates for Mayor simply released a symbolic statement, and some even stayed silent. Sheng took action, authoring emergency legislation that passed the Council and made Oakland the first sanctuary city for abortion rights in California. Oakland’s abortion sanctuary city status declares that our clinics will remain open, safe, and accessible, not just for women locally but also for women living in repressive states like Texas who seek to come to Oakland for reproductive healthcare needs, and that anyone who seeks to use our clinics will be free from harassment by anti-choice extremists. Since its adoption in Oakland, sanctuary city legislation has been enacted in other cities across the country such as Seattle, Chicago, Washington D.C., and more.
Now that Roe v Wade is gone, the demand for abortion access will not change, making cities like Oakland a destination and safe haven for individuals seeking care that has been made illegal in their own states.
- As Mayor, Sheng will expand and protect the City’s bubble ordinance, which provides protection for those attempting to access family planning clinics like Planned Parenthood. In the recent past, Oakland has been a target of anti-abortion extremists who harassed and intimidated those seeking abortions, or other healthcare services, at these clinics.
- Sheng is a strong supporter of Proposition 1, on the statewide ballot this November, which will make California a sanctuary state for abortion rights as well. Please vote Yes on Prop 1!
- In the years to come, a Mayor Sheng Thao will never hesitate to protect the privacy and reproductive rights of those seeking care in Oakland, even if a Republican president, House, and Senate attempt to ban abortion nationwide.
4. Equity and Reform.
Reform the Police
We can fund our police while also increasing accountability and holding them to a higher standard for equity, justice, and transparency. And we can do so while funding violence prevention programs, investing in our people, and building strong communities. Sheng Thao has an excellent relationship with Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong. He knows she wants to hold the department accountable, for getting results, for stamping out bad behavior, and keeping overtime costs down. As Mayor, Sheng will:
- Implement key accountability metrics for her own administration, City agencies, and the police department to ensure a culture of transparency in every corner of Oakland City government.
- Invest in our Neighborhood Councils. As set forth above, we must make our communities the cornerstone of our safety, by investing in our Neighborhood Councils so they can be the platforms for hyperlocal civic participation in our City and mouthpieces for our neighborhoods to ensure you are being heard and we are responding appropriately.
- Ensure equitable distribution of OPD resources. We will ensure that the Department’s resources are spent in a way that benefits all communities, but especially those most in need of services.
- Provide adequate oversight resources. We must provide the Police Commission, the Community Police Review Agency and the City Auditor’s office with sufficient resources to ensure that OPD is adhering to constitutional policing practices.
- Hold OPD accountable for overtime costs. We must ensure the City is using all resources well. When it comes to OPD, that means ensuring we are using valuable tax dollars to
- provide sufficient officers on the beat and improve police response times.
- Support a zero tolerance policy for sexual harrasment within the police department and by members of the police department.
Implementing the Plan:
First, listen. Then, get to work.
We have to change how we are doing things now because what we’re doing on public safety isn’t working.
Holding Listening Sessions in Every Neighborhood
Every neighborhood in Oakland is different. What is needed in Rockridge may be different than what is needed in West Oakland. In her first year as Mayor, Sheng will hold meetings in every neighborhood across Oakland. These livestreamed, public meetings will be designed to allow Mayor Thao, Police Chief Armstrong, Fire Chief Freeman, Department of Violence Prevention Chief Cespedes, and other City Departments to tailor neighborhood specific public safety strategies based on the actual, real time needs of each community.
Internal Assessments and Feedback
Sheng will also meet with rank and file police officers, 9-1-1 dispatchers, crime technicians and other public safety personnel to incorporate their feedback and expertise into keeping our people safe, while being effective and efficient with taxpayers’ dollars.
Sheng Thao is ready to hit the ground running and tackle the urgent public safety crisis we face in Oakland. Together, we can make Oakland the model for a safe, thriving, and vibrant city we know it can be.
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