Credit: Courtesy of California Highway Patrol

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf said Wednesday that Gov. Gavin Newsom approved her request to bring in the California Highway Patrol to police city streets and commercial districts. 

The mayor’s announcement came a day after Oakland Chinatown Chamber of Commerce President Carl Chan sent a letter to Newsom urging him to declare a “state of emergency” in Oakland due to escalating crime, and to supply patrol officers to assist the Oakland Police Department.  

No formal proposal has been submitted, but Schaaf’s office said Newsom made a verbal commitment on Wednesday morning, before the officials attended a press conference at an Oakland elementary school. 

The mayor said CHP officers would patrol “commercial corridors” and International Boulevard, which stretches from Lake Merritt to East Oakland. The possible arrival of highway patrol officers drew immediate support from the Oakland police officer union, who say they are overworked and overwhelmed by rising numbers of shootings, homicides, and carjackings. Some are expressing skepticism, however, that CHP will be held to the same high standards regarding stops, use of force, racial profiling, and other policies OPD officers must follow.

“We take this extremely seriously, we are responding to the demands from our residents for more law enforcement safety, and I am going to continue to look at every resource and continue to try and get adequate staffing in the Oakland Police Department, especially for investigations,” Schaaf told reporters Wednesday

“So beware, there is going to be more enforcement,” she added. “The reckless driving that kills people. The robberies that involve vehicles like what happened to our beloved U.S. Senator Barbara Boxer. That is going to really get under control with the help of the state,” Schaaf said.

At Wednesday’s press conference, Newsom acknowledged having a conversation with Schaaf: “I told her she can count on that request being received,” the governor said. 

It is expected that the CHP, an agency known for enforcing the vehicle code, would assist OPD at sideshows and by conducting traffic enforcement. This would not be the first time CHP was called on to enforce laws in Oakland. 

In 2013, the Oakland City Council approved a 60-day “crime suppression assistance” agreement with CHP to have five units of two officers and two supervisors on patrol for two nights a week, usually on weekends. The agreement followed a 120-day period where CHP patrolled for free. The circumstances were similar to today: Oakland leaders said OPD was overwhelmed by an uptick in homicides and robberies.

According to OPD’s most recent crime report, homicides are up 31% this year compared to the three-year average and shootings are up 39%. This year has seen a 5% increase in robberies. Burglaries have fallen by 21% compared to the three-year average. 

Former Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, in an interview Thursday, said back in 2012 he assigned an OPD commander to oversee the CHP units and collect data from them on traffic stops and arrests. He did not recall any complaints against CHP. 

“We were kept abreast of what was happening and not happening,” Jordan said. “They were pretty self-sufficient, they brought their own force, sometimes brought their helicopter or plane.” 

But Jordan acknowledged that OPD does not have the authority to enforce its standards or policies on CHP. 

“There were some reservations from community members because even though [CHP is] coming to work at our request, we had no control over them,” Jordan said. “Their use of force policy is different. They may be allowed to do more things than your OPD officers do. They are not going to follow the OPD manual even though they are working in Oakland.” 

Civil rights attorney John Burris expressed some concern over whether training for CHP officers is consistent with the training Oakland officers receive. Burris questioned whether the agency would have to operate within the framework of the negotiated settlement agreement, the OPD reform effort overseen by a federal monitor and judge. 

“What I don’t want is a two-tier policing system in the city, where you have OPD being held accountable but the CHP officers are not,” Burris said. 

Burris is currently representing the family of Erik Salgado, the 23-year-old man shot and killed by CHP officers in East Oakland last year. Salgado’s step sister, Amanda Majail-Blanco, said CHP does not have a good reputation among Oakland residents. 

“I don’t think it’s a good idea,” she said. “CHP already has a nasty presence in Oakland and a lot of people have had bad experiences.”

The head of the Oakland Police Officers Association, however, said the CHP patrols will help the 704 Oakland police officers who have to respond to the large number of 911 calls the city receives each day. 

“Every Oakland cop welcomes help from the CHP. But it’s a shame that it took Oakland’s crime weary residents pleading to the state for help because the majority of Oakland’s City Council abandoned crime victims and embraced a dangerous defund the police ideology,” OPOA President Sgt. Barry Donelan said in a statement.   

David DeBolt reported on City Hall and policing for The Oaklandside. He spent 12 years working for daily newspapers in the Bay Area, including on the Peninsula and Solano County. He joined the Bay Area News Group in 2012 where he covered a variety of beats, most recently as a senior breaking news reporter. During his time at BANG, DeBolt covered Oakland City Hall, the Raiders stadium saga and the A’s search for a new ballpark, as well as the Oakland Police Department and police reform efforts. He was part of the East Bay Times staff honored with the Pulitzer Prize in Breaking News for coverage of the Ghost Ship warehouse fire.