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Monday, November 28, 2011

Emeryville's Outstanding Police Department

Community Policing?  It's Nothing New In Emeryville

If you listen to the public relations hype at the Oakland Police Department, you'd think they're listening to the residents, you'd think they've got their interests at heart and that they're loved by the residents there.  You'd think this because the department there is fond of making loud proclamations about how they're hip to the latest thing at police departments nation-wide:  it's "community policing" and it's the greatest thing since sliced bread.  The problem is in Oakland and most everywhere else, it's just a bunch of hype.

Community policing evolved in response to the breakdown of the traditional model of urban policing where in recent years police increasingly found themselves like an occupying army against a hostile civilian populace.  Police departments wisely realized it was time to involve the citizens more and make the community more stakeholders and feel a sense of ownership in their own police departments.
This is the hype anyway.

In Emeryville however, unlike Oakland, community policing is not any new thing; it's something that's just practiced, not hyped.

The recent Occupy Oakland protests and the reprehensible police response couldn't make it clearer: the Oakland Police Department is broken.  One only needs to look to their community support, or better put, their lack of community support.  It's stark: Oakland residents don't trust and don't like their police department.  Moral is low among the rank and file.  The police are alienated from the community and this unfortunate condition makes everyone lose; the cops and the community.
In Oakland's defence, this scenario is common in urban settings, all the twittering hoopla of "community policing" notwithstanding.

Contrast this with Emeryville, where there's a decided lack of hyperbole emanating from the police department.  The last time residents were polled a couple of years ago, EPD enjoyed more than 85% positive feedback from the community.  It's a result of real community policing; the cops interacting with the residents in a professional and even courteous manner.  It's noteworthy that even groups such as the Green Party, whom one would not normally expect to be big police supporters, sing the praises of our police department.

All the resident's love here directed to the police must be attributed in no small part to our Chief of Police, longtime public servant Ken James.  Mr James has quietly built a quintessentially professional force without macho posturing and shameless playing of politics.  He has kept our police force free from the "badge heavy" type-A personalities so common in Oakland and elsewhere and he's made a force respected by the community.  And Mr James has earned the respect of the rank and file at the same time; not an easy feat.

As Chief James prepares for retirement in the months to come, we must acknowledge a big part Emeryville's livability comes from the high degree of public safety we enjoy, all without feeling like we're living in a repressive police state.  It's not hyperbole to point out that without this kind of police force, Emeryville could degrade into Oakland.  Our envious and palpably collective sense of high civic mindedness could evaporate.

Government in Emeryville is not something normally very praiseworthy.  Let's take the time to say job well done to government employee Ken James and our very professional and outstanding police force.


  1. Maybe the department will hire you as their PR person.

  2. Yes, we've been lucky with our police force; there's definitely a shortage of Neanderthal blowhards. I hope the rumor about the city farming out police services to the Sheriff's dept. is nothing more than a rumor.

    Joe Cohen

  3. every phone call, every email, every time i stopped chief james on the street hounding him with a small problem, he has followed up, returned calls and emails and resolved my minor issues. i will miss you chief. i didn't think you were old enough to retire.

  4. I totally agree. The responsiveness of our police department also deserves special praise. You call them with any issue, no matter how small, and typically you'll see someone looking into it within minutes.

    I've lived in Oakland too and we were hard-pressed to see police if no one was shot or dead.

    Any chance we can talk Chief James out of this?

  5. To the commenter at 2:55-
    If I seem a bit effusive with praise to the department it's probably due to the government ineptitude all around us, from the OPD to our own City Hall and School District. EPD really shines in this setting. As to the PR charge, I'll save my criticisms of Mr James for a follow up opinion piece as he retires in the coming months. He's good but there's been plenty of times I've disagreed with him over the years.

  6. Chief James is a leading proponent of making victims defenseless on behalf of criminals' safety. A petition for his firing was created and signed by law-abiding citizens.

    For the majority of Emeryvillians to support him, they'd all have to be villains, categorically. How dare you propagandize for this criminal hiding behind The Badge.

  7. In any "Occupy" site, the police are not the enemy, give or take a few clueless brutal ones. The Wall Street fat cats are watching on TV and laughing their asses off as police and demonstrators clash on the streets. They know that when the smoke and the tear gas and the pepper spray clear, their dollars will continue to roll in, just as before, protected by our elected representatives who they pay for and keep in their pockets, just as before.

  8. Ahh, the gun kooks are back at the Tattler spreading their special kind of love! We're did you guys go? We miss you! To the gun kook at 5:38, what happened to your petition? It seems to me you'd have no problem at all in getting a boatload of signatures since you're appealing to law abiding citizens and Ken James is obviously a criminal. Why don't you submit your petition to the City Manager and get Mr James fired once and for all? What are you waiting for? Why is this taking so long?

  9. Yes, write defenseless and subsequently-caused-to-be violent crime victims off as "gun kooks". You are a fine propagandist, sir.

  10. Those who support violent criminals and wholesale violations of human rights, whether they hide behind their badges, government desks, or the freedom of the press, are more contemptuous than criminals, themselves.

  11. Well, it looks like the prisons are going to be busting at the seams, filled as they will be with politicians, police and journalists.

  12. I live on the literal border of Emeryville and Oakland and have been burglarized twice in one year. The first time Emeryville arrived in 10 minutes & referred us to Oakland, who took several hours. This time we are still waiting for Oakland a day later & were advised we were low-priority and to file a report online (mind you our laptops were stolen). The same happened to a friend whose Oakland home was ransacked and vandalized with blood and excrement. While I understand Oakland has 'bigger fish to fry', I'm sick of paying taxes for a city who serves only a minority of it's population. Unless I'm shot or committing a traffic violation, I'll never be served and protected by my own city's police department. There's only so much I can champion this underdog of Oakland.