Mastodon East Canyon 22X Neighborhood Council: But We Want More Police Officers! Please Organize Your Block

But We Want More Police Officers! Please Organize Your Block

by Jenny Zilliac

I spent Wednesday evening at Oakland City Hall for the Community Policing Advisory Board, of which I am a member. Many things went through my mind as I sat, feeling official, waiting for the meeting to begin. I kept recalling the repeated cry I hear from Oaklanders: “We want more police officers!” 

Why don’t we have more police officers? Police departments throughout the United States are having trouble hiring qualified candidates. And it’s not just police departments! Health care workers nationwide are going on strike, protesting staffing shortages. News headlines report worker shortages in construction, manufacturing, and child care. Teacher shortages in Oakland and across the country have led to stunning problems. The City of Oakland is struggling to find qualified candidates for 911 dispatcher jobs and neighborhood services coordinators. 

I get it! Oaklanders are distressed and they want more police officers to help them. But we’re not getting them any time soon. And it’s not the mayor’s fault. It’s not the fault of city council members. It’s not even the fault of OPD. They are doing the best they can to recruit!

With all of this on my mind, I had a chance to question Deputy Chief Beere at Wednesday night’s meeting. I asked him if he had more information about the shortage of police officers that I could share with the many folks who say they want more police officers. 

DC Beere confirmed my understanding of the problem. It’s not about budgeting or poor decision-making. It’s not that anybody in government is wanting the shortage to continue. It’s simply that they can’t attract enough qualified candidates. He did say, with some pride, two things: OPD is out-recruiting San Francisco, and officers who previously left OPD for other departments are coming back.

My thinking is this: We are in strange times. While we sort out new answers, and we will, we need to look to ourselves to improve safety and quality of life in our neighborhoods. 

How? If I could get you to do one thing, it would be this: Organize your block for prompt, fitting mutual assistance. How do you organize your block? Here’s how in four easy steps: 
  1. Knock on each of your neighbors' doors. You might not find anyone home the first time or even the second time. Just keep going back until you have an opportunity to talk with a neighbor in each home. Catch them when you can. Maybe when they are walking their dog. Leave a note with your number and a good time to reach you. 
  2. Tell them that you want to set up block communications for your neighbors so you can share information and organize gatherings. Record their names, email addresses, and phone numbers.
  3. Ask your neighbors what kind of group communication they’d be comfortable with. An email group? A WhatsApp group? Something else? If you need help setting up the communications group, ask your neighbors. 
  4. Use your new communication group to plan your first block gathering. There’s still time to set something up for Halloween! What a fun way to start! 
The research is clear: Organized blocks are safer blocks. I feel certain that you will find that living on an organized block is something wonderful that you never knew you needed! It’s just human nature. We come together for each other in so many unexpected ways. Organize and enjoy!