Supporters of Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts have contended this week that he wants to be San Jose’s police chief because of substantial cuts to OPD in the past year. They contend that Batts became frustrated after the city council laid off eighty cops last summer when the police union refused to pay into its pension plans. For his part, Batts has not said publicly why he wants to leave Oakland, but if it’s because of police department budget cuts, then he’s walking into a very similar situation in San Jose.
San Jose is facing a $90 million budget deficit next year, primarily because of spiraling employee pension costs, according to the San Jose Mercury News. San Jose city leaders say that unless public employee unions, particularly the San Jose police union, agree to contribute more to their retirement plans, then there will be massive layoffs. And so far, the San Jose cops’ union isn’t happy. Sound familiar?
So why would Batts trade his alleged frustrations in Oakland for more of the same in San Jose? Well, maybe it’s because Oakland’s budget woes aren’t the real reason behind his plan to jump ship. Instead, it may be about the Riders case. KALW notes that federal Judge Thelton Henderson is not happy with Batts’ efforts in living up to the Riders consent decree, and may follow through on his threat to put OPD into receivership. Such a move would irreparably tarnish Batts’ reputation.
The radio station notes that as of last month, Independent Monitor Robert Warshaw, who is reviewing OPDs compliance with the Riders settlement, was indicating that the department has made unsatisfactory progress under Batts. Moreover, in a written statement last month, Henderson appeared to call out Batts personally for failing to adequately address a police use-of-force allegation that Warshaw uncovered.
Warshaw is scheduled to release his next report on OPD this month, and defense attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin aren’t optimistic that Batts has made sufficient progress in the last few weeks. Henderson isn’t either. And how could Batts have made progress if he was down in San Jose undergoing extensive employee interviews?