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by Peter Moskos

March 28, 2015

Seven (7!) Percent of Oakland Cops Live in Oakland

I don't know what the right percentage is, regarding cops living where they work. Though I am partial to 100 percent of cops living or having had lived in the city they police. But whatever the right number is, the percentage is larger than friggin' seven percent, which is what you find in Oakland. Now is this why Oakland cops have such troubled community relations? Well... actually, yeah, in part. Maybe not the majority part. But certainly a partial part.


David Squier Jones said...

Peter, I agree with you in part. From an anecdotal perspective, of the 13 people who graduated with met in my SPPD academy, I was the ONLY one who lived in St. Paul. That's a statistic that is similar to OPD. I liked to say that I had a vested interest in the community. On the other hand, most of Oakland is either very poor and dangerous, or extremely expensive. I know many of my brethren in the department I worked in in Silicon Valley cannot afford to live nearby and must commute from the Central Valley. And with the 4 OPD officers murdered a few years ago (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/2009_shootings_of_Oakland_police_officers), many officers may be reticent to live in the community where they are disliked, and where their families could be threatened, even hurt. What is the correct ratio? I don't know, but certainly more than 7%.

Peter Moskos said...

I fully understand why many cops don't want to live where they work.

But also, I have no problem with demanding they do live they work (or in the same city limits, which isn't the same thing).

I think a compromise is "having had lived there."

I mean most cops, especially the white one's didn't live in the city. But many were from there. But those who had never been to the city except as a cop? Those who had never ridden a city bus? Come on now! At some point you simply don't get how working people go about their day.

It leads to hostility. Like if you yell a bunch of people waiting at bus stop, for instance. I've seen it happen.

For some rich suburb that is too expensive for a working person to live? That's another story.

David Squier Jones said...

I think there is something valid to "having had lived there" as you say. I do think that when few officers live in the jurisdictions they serve, there could be a group mentality akin to occupational (location) policing, and a real disconnect with its citizenry. I will say (again from my own experience), while I never lived in the most disadvantaged places I served, I did have experience living in similar areas in another city (Los Angeles), which gave me a better perspective than if I had spent my entire life in a gentrified/affluent community. I believe DC (and other departments) require(d) their officers to live in the city, but this had mixed results. Perhaps another idea is a financial incentive (e.g. 10% pay differential) for officers who choose to live in the city/community they serve?

Anonymous said...

It's like this in a lot of places for police officers, not just Oakland. Cops want to live in affordable, low-crime, family friendly neighbourhoods.

Adam said...

Here's more data courtesy of Nate Silver:

Most Police Don't Live in the Cities They Serve

Peter Moskos said...

Of course cops want to live in affordable, low-crime, family friendly neighborhoods. Don't we all?

What's different is cops are paid by the taxpayers of areas that can, if they choose, make residential demands on public employees.

Andy D said...

Peter, the department I work for DOES require that we live where we work (or within a short specified distance outside it.) While I think it does have a positive impact in some ways (I definitely have an understanding of the people and how they live, for example) it has a very negative impact on me and my family. My kids have been threatened in school, and I never attend community events because of how readily known I am. My kids do not play community sports or participate in community organizations because they have been made uncomfortable. I can tell you for certain that if the option was open to me I would vote with my feet just like Oakland PD cops do. Granted I live in a smaller community than Oakland. Still, there is a big downside. Were I single or if I had no children it would not be the same type of issue. I like your compromise of "having lived" there, or a financial incentive for living in the jurisdiction. I know that in recruiting, DC Metro PD gives hiring preference to applicants living in the District, which isn't a bad idea...you don't have to stay there after you are hired but at least you "have" lived there.

Anonymous said...

Wow, Andy D. I think that it's pretty obvious why you don't want to live in your area AND it's not what you are saying. Anyone can read between the lines and know that you work for an organization full of (and may be yourself) exactly the kind of cop that people hate because you are a**holes. BTW, the Oakland PD is full of a**holes and rife with corruption.

Peter Moskos said...

Yeah, it's pretty obvious that only an asshole would care when his children are threatened at school. Boy. Cops.

Besides did you what Andy's kids were wearing? No doubt they were just asking to be threatened. I can't believe school even let them wear "My Dad is the Man" t-shirts.

It's amazing your expert psychological profile based on a blog comment could be knowledgeable and precise.

But in all seriousness, don't call my commenters assholes. It doesn't become you. And I don't like it.

Anonymous said...

Every cop lives in a town some other cop doesn't want to live in.

Andy D said...

Well Anonymous:
To be honest I actually go out of my way to be decent to everyone as well as I can. However, it is unavoidable that some people will not enjoy the interaction they have with the police, especially when that interaction is repeated multiple times. For the record I'm not saying my community is bad--on the contrary it is a fairly nice place to live. I would just prefer, for the safety of my family, to live in a different place than the one in which I work. Keeping work interactions separate from personal ones would lower the stress level on me and on my family and give us the ability to do what "normal" people do: participate in the community with relative anonymity, go to stores and restaurants and sports games with minimal fear of a dangerous interaction. Returning to the point of the blog post, I still agree whole-heartedly with Peter's assertion that police should at least HAVE lived in the community they patrol, so that they understand the people and places and concerns, and see those people as individuals with legitimate life concerns.

Anonymous said...

But Andy, you have either an unrealistic fear of your community which is a problem OR a real fear. I it is an unrealistic fear then this is a problem that will undoubtedly translate into poor decisions for your community (and you if I thought that cops actually faced real accountability). If it's a realistic fear then I have to wonder what kind of middle class community is so resentful of its police officers that threats can be made in group/community settings without recourse to basic civility or other discouragement. I can only conclude that a community that has that level of hostility must have been dealt unfairly by its police force. I use "asshole" as shorthand for cops who deal unfairly with the public and only a long, sustained history of that kind of action by either you individually or your department would lead to the environment you state exists.

Anonymous said...

Another headline for the same data-set could have been, "Cops Avoid Raising Their Families in Cities with High Rates of Violent Crime."

Among major cities, Oakland has one of the highest rates of violent crime.