Earlier this month, an Oakland City Council member, Ignacio De La Fuente, fell victim to a crime that afflicted nearly 5,000 Oakland residents last year: a burglary.
The thief opened an unlocked door of De La Fuente’s black Buick sedan, which was parked outside Oakland City Hall, and stole a briefcase that contained more than $1,000 in cash, several paychecks, and 20 Rihanna and Sade concert tickets.
But De La Fuente was able to obtain something that is increasingly unavailable to his constituents: the attention of the police.
For years, residents have bemoaned the Oakland Police Department’s lagging response times. Recent budget cuts have only made matters worse. These days, only about a third of the people who discover their cars or homes have been burglarized see a police officer, and fewer than 10 percent have a detective assigned to their case. Although the police still respond when they can, official department policy is to advise residents to fill out online reports.
But that policy did not apply to De La Fuente. Mere minutes after proposing huge cuts to the police force at a special budget meeting, De La Fuente bypassed 911 and called Assistant Chief Howard Jordan. When no officers were available, according to a police report obtained by The Bay Citizen, Jordan dispatched a sergeant.
Desley Brooks, another council member, received the same special treatment from the police after her car was burglarized three weeks ago.
Brooks was on a walk around Lake Merritt on the morning of June 24 when she returned to her car to find the front right passenger window smashed.
According to another police report, Jordan ordered the dispatch supervisor, via cellphone, to send officers to Brooks. With none available, a sergeant spent two fruitless hours investigating.
Such calls to Jordan might violate a city charter provision barring Council members from breaching the chain of command when interacting with city departments; punishment can include forfeiture of the office. And their actions speak volumes about the diminished state of policing in Oakland, a city of rapidly changing demographics that is struggling to close a big budget deficit and meet a disproportionately high public-safety demand.
When asked to discuss the police response to their respective car break-ins, the two council members said they did not see a connection to the law enforcement crisis facing the city.
Brooks denied even calling Jordan, although police say she did.