New Commissioner Brushes Off Rough Oakland Tenure

Anthony Batts, the mayor’s pick to be the city’s next police commissioner, tenure as Oakland’s police chief ended poorly.

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.

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Mike Ruehle August 28, 2012 at 09:45 PM
Batts likes to say the working conditions changed in Oakland. If so, it was entirely his fault for not being upfront and honest with the people paying his salary. His job in Oakland was doomed the day he publicly lied to the Mayor and Council about his committment to Oakland, despite having already applied for the same job in San Jose.
Mike Ruehle August 28, 2012 at 10:17 PM
Sid P. Smith, a retired police chief and CEO of Systems for Public Safety, came to Long Beach on Wednesday, January 26, as part of the SPS background investigation into Batts’ 27 years with the Long Beach Police Department, the last seven in the position of chief. In less than 24 hours in several interviews, Smith learned about the Lobstergate scandal and Batts’ multiple affairs with women – some of whom were officers at the LBPD under his command – and some of whom filed domestic violence reports against him. http://www.longbeachcomber.com/story.aspx?artID=3365
Mike Ruehle August 28, 2012 at 10:18 PM
At least two of five DV reports involved Congresswoman Laura Richardson, who was married to Batts between 1995 and 2002. The Beachcomber reported one such incident when Richardson and Batts were living together on Vernon St. in Long Beach. A second incident report was taken by the LAPD in San Pedro, where Richardson sometimes stayed at her mother’s home on Parker St. Another reportedly occurred in San Diego more than 15 years ago. Shortly after Richardson was elected to the Long Beach City Council and sworn into office in July 2002 – and before Batts was named chief of police in October 2002 at the age of 42 — an altercation occurred between Richardson and Batts that left her with a black eye. She reportedly sought refuge with co-councilmember Tonia Reyes Uranga and showed up at one council meeting wearing sunglasses to conceal the blemish.
John B. Greet August 28, 2012 at 10:59 PM
Mr. Ruehle has a long and troubled history of contentious difficulty in and with the City of Long Beach, and particularly the police department. Ruehle served for a time as the volunteer president of a residents' association, representing, at its membership peak during his tenure, some 800 people in a neighborhood of Long Beach that, in 2000, had some 30,000 residents. Ruehle's style in dealing with elected and highly-appointed members of City government was, to put it kindly, very contentious and accusatory. So much so that he eventually could not get much in the way of cooperation from people like Chief Batts and many others. Fortunately, Ruehle no longer represents that organization, nor even lives in that neighborhood, and by all reports cooperation between that organization and City Government is now much improved. Yet Ruehle will still take his rhetorical pot-shots at Dr. Batts every single chance he gets. Even, as now, when Dr. Batts no long even works in our city, let alone our State, and is now selected to serve the good people of Baltimore. None of the allegations Ruehle has listed has ever been proven, not even by investigators operating entirely independently of the police department and the City. That's a fact Ruehle always conveniently manages to omit in his habitual Batts-bashing. As for me, I say good luck and best wishes, Dr. Batts! I think Baltimore is fortunate to have you. John B. Greet Long Beach PD, retired
Sean Tully August 29, 2012 at 01:10 AM
I am sure there is more to the story than just the City of Oakland cut police down to almost nothing because the union wouldn't compromise on benefits. The fact is that California was hard hit by the housing crisis and I am sure Oakland saw a high number of foreclosures, etc. I would expect crime to rise when the police force is cut to the bone. I am willing to give Batts a fair hearing. I heard he is tough on crime. That is what is important to me. If he is then Oakland (and Long Beach's) loss will be our gain. If he is just a good "communicator" (as reports state) then we are in for more rough road ahead.
Mike Ruehle August 29, 2012 at 05:24 AM
All I've done is provide links to a story different to the mostly glowing story written by the Patch. The media and most politically influential people don't want to talk about Batts shortcomings as a Police Chief in his previous jobs, nor do they want anyone else to talk about it. And why do you think that is?
John B. Greet August 29, 2012 at 02:38 PM
No one among us, least of Dr. Batts, is perfect, Ruehle. You, no less than anyone else, should be able to attest to that, right? Has Dr. Batts ever been charged with or convicted of any crime? Quite unlike Mr. Beeler -whose spiteful articles you so love to link- and yourself, the obvious answer is "no." Was Dr. Batts the very best Chief Long Beach ever had, I peronsally don't think so. Was he the worst? Not by a long shot. Batts has now moved on, Ruehle. Rather than simply letting him, you trail him about like a spiteful little puppy, nipping at his heels every chance you get, wherever he chooses to go and whatever he chooses to do. Such behavior is petty. That you continue to feel that you need to impugn Dr. Batts, even in Baltimore, where he has a chance to try to do some real good for that City, that Department, and those fine people, is, I think just very, very sad.
Colin August 29, 2012 at 05:52 PM
I'm not sure I'd use the phrase "tough on crime" to describe Dr. Batts, because that phrase is very loaded and means something different to everyone who uses it. But I do know he's smart about enforcement. I think he was surprised at how dysfunctional Oakland's city government and police force are, and wasn't prepared to deal with it. He was quite capable of running the department, though, and was on track to help Oakland deal with it's crime problems. Good, smart guy. I wish he'd stuck with it in Oakland. I wish him and the city of Baltimore the best, and hope he's up to the challenges.
Terry Greene August 29, 2012 at 08:22 PM
Yesterday, The Baltimore Sun said this about Batts: "As police chief of both Oakland and Long Beach, he was charged with reforming departments that had been alienated from the communities they served by claims of excessive force. In both cases, he drove crime rates down by instituting better training for members of the department, rebuilding trust between his officers and local residents, and enforcing a zero-tolerance policy toward corruption in the ranks". As a former crime reporter, I found Chief Batts to be eloquent, community-oriented and accessible as well as a ferocious and courageous crime fighter. He took on the most powerful gangs in Long Beach, making him a walking target for thousands of "bad guys". Yet he remained undeterred and brought down the crime rate in this tough port down every year. He was also hard on police corruption, once vowing that he would "bury {corrupt officers} under the police department myself".
R. J. Steelworth September 20, 2012 at 05:08 AM
The problem in Oakland was really pretty simple. They had a mayor that put her own personal ideology ahead of the public's safety She obstructed Batts from implementing proven crime fighting techniques. You had a bunch of amateurs telling an experienced police chief how to run things. Can't really blame him for getting fed up and leaving.


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