When a reporter asked Anthony Batts about his decision to resign from the police force in Oakland, CA last October during a news conference at City Hall on Tuesday, he was quick with a joke.
Pretending he didn’t hear the question, Batts put his hand to his ear and asked: "Did you say Baltimore?"
Batts went on to describe his tenure in Oakland as "gift of love from me."
But news reports from Northern California have raised some issues about his previous job performance that are no laughing matter.
Batts' tenure in Oakland reportedly started heading south after the city laid off eighty police officers when its union refused to increase the portion its members pay toward their pension plan. After the layoffs, Batts announced the department wouldn’t be able to provide some services, and refused to support a tax increase that would have allowed the city to rehire the officers, according to the East Bay Express.
He then applied to be police chief in San Jose, after only serving as the police chief of Oakland for about a year. It was also announced just before his resignation that the Federal Government was threatening to take control of the department because it hadn’t met the terms of a consent decree to reform the department after a scandal involving Oakland cops beating and framing drug suspects in 2000, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
But on Tuesday Batts had a much different take on how his last job ended.
He called his service in Oakland a "gift of love from me."
Batts, who was serving as the police chief in Long Beach, CA at the time, explained he was approached by a headhunter about the job and declined, but reconsidered after four officers were killed in Oakland in a single day.
"As I started looking more into the city of Oakland, I was touched by the sheer carnage, the loss of life of young people in that city, the deaths of people who look more like me," Batts said.
He said that he grew up in South Central Los Angeles, which struggled with the drugs and crime that were hurting Oakland, and that he wanted to help kids who looked like him because he often wondered if anyone cared about those kids.
"Oakland wasn’t done to be a career move. Oakland was done for me to be a gift to try to take my skill base to try to address and make things better, and I think we did have progress that was there," Batts said.
He said his inability to click with Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, who was elected after Batts was hired, was his major reason for leaving Oakland.
"Sometimes styles just don’t match. And it wasn’t anything personal. I don’t have any animosity against the mayor. Sometimes its just business," Batts said.
In a news release announcing Batts being hired, the administration sites his leadership training and law enforcement experience as being two reasons it decided to offer him the job.
"Anthony Batts has what it takes to lead the Baltimore Police Department forward and to continue building on the progress the men and women of the BPD have made reducing crime and violence," Rawlings-Blake said in the news release.