Letters for the Week of February 12

Readers sound off on Oakland police, cat breeders, and the old Bay Bridge.

“Oakland Cops Think City Is Too Liberal,” News, 1/29

Compassion for Cops

I am writing to express my sincere appreciation for the quality article (although difficult) that you published on the Oakland Police Department. I know that it must be very demanding for the police officers and employees to work under those conditions. And I know how problematic it can be for the community to try to understand the realities of the daily duties of the police officers on the streets.

I was the chief of police for Santa Ana, California for over 23 years and with the police department for over 42 years. I have lived through the great times of employee relations and teamwork at every level of city government, and the very challenging times of the 1980s with labor unrest and conflicts with the administration and the mayor and city council.

Although it can be extremely frustrating dealing with a city and department culture that is so divisive, it certainly helps when you have the media expose the true feelings and frustrations of the employees to the public. Hopefully, the current and future Oakland Police Department leaders will openly accept the employees’ comments and feelings with the best intentions and put themselves above the fray and do the right things to get the city and department back on track to provide quality public safety services.

My wife and I attended the Oakland funeral of four of Oakland’s officers who were killed in one day. (We attend every one possible to show our support to the families left behind.) I am not sure anyone in government service or the community can truly understand what happens to the stress levels and actions of their co-workers when an officer (let alone four in one day) are violently killed in the line of duty. I lived through it when one of our officers in 1977 was killed in a cold-blooded murder and I personally lived with the devastating impact it had on the surviving officers that were engaged in the violent shoot-out with the killers. No one can accurately appreciate what it does long-term to a department, and to the employees and their families, unless you have lived through it.  

My point is the city and police leaders have to really, truly care about their officers and their families and the officers have to know it, and being cops they know when someone is genuine or not. Real compassion can make all the difference in the world to relationships and working together to solve problems. Without it you are destined to be second-rate and remain in a cycle of struggle no matter what you do. It is critically essential to building a supportive culture of trust and service. Thank you again for the well-written article.

Paul M. Walters, Anaheim

Weak Internal Leadership

I sympathize with officers who complain about weak internal leadership and Oakland’s inept and inconsistent elected officials. Department leadership needs to set clear standards and hold everyone accountable. Officers who abuse citizens or neglect their jobs should work elsewhere. Officers committed to working with our community to protect people’s lives, property, and constitutional rights should receive positive recognition within the department and from the residents of Oakland. Oakland must finally satisfy the requirements of the negotiated settlement agreement, end federal court oversight, and stop spending millions of dollars to resolve cases of police abuse.

Dan Siegel, candidate for mayor of Oakland

“Oakland Should Unplug the DAC,” Seven Days, 1/29

Unplug Incumbents

Good piece — well written and to the point. I would only add that what needs to be unplugged are the incumbents downtown who cannot seem to avoid making bad decisions. They never fully justify these bad decisions. They ultimately fail to manage well and monitor the programs they spend our money on. Please, Oakland, vote them out when you next have the chance.

Michele Ocla, Oakland

Vanquish Real Threats

In Robert Gammon’s article, “Oakland Should Unplug the DAC” he noted that “the city can’t even afford to hire enough crime evidence technicians.” He also cited the nearly $11 million of federal taxpayer funds needed to create the DAC and the $1.2 million in annual maintenance costs.

Approximately 160 rapes occurred in Oakland in 2013. In 2012, Alameda County estimated a backlog of 1,900 untested rape kits. De-prioritizing funding for crime evidence technicians in 2014 plays a role in this. There are a very large number of Alameda County residents who have been abandoned because local politicians want a shiny new surveillance edifice where they can play-act Carrie Mathison from Homeland. Let’s invest the million-odd dollars to process the rape kits. Let’s instead insist that federal agencies redirect their $11 million to the entire Bay Area so this obscene backlog of un-investigated, open rape cases are closed. We don’t need phantom threats and dubious, scattershot techniques targeting thousands of innocents for no legitimate purpose. Let us instead demand our law enforcement agencies vanquish real threats using proven techniques we know will result in making everyone truly safer.

When Oakland has zero rapes and no backlog of rape kits, let’s re-examine whether to fritter away millions of dollars annually to more efficiently track, detain, and arrest peaceful protesters the next time BART police shoot some teenager. Until then, let’s demand our elected officials direct enforcement entities to focus on genuine, actual crimes scarring hundreds of women, men, and children each year — even if it means asking a defense contractor executive to miss out on his annual bonus.

Jeffrey Estes, Oakland

“The Cat Trappers,” The Pets Issue, 1/29

Kindness of Trappers

I enjoyed your article on trap-neuter-return (TNR). Years ago, animal control agencies trapped and killed as a way of solving excess cat problems, and what was discovered was that the void left by removing the cats was quickly filled by new cats spreading out, and by females breeding to fill the void. TNR is the only way to control population growth in ferals and your article hit all the key issues, so very nice job. Thank you for writing about this growing problem. We’d be euthanizing far more cats if it were not for the kindness of these trappers.

Gary Hendel, director, Oakland Animal Services, Oakland

Decimating Wildlife

What an unbalanced story you ran in your latest issue about the volunteers who trap feral cats and return them to the wild. Of euthanizing such strays, volunteer ringleader Sarah Rogers says, “It’s still killing a living being.” Well, what of the native wildlife that is savagely destroyed by these killing machines that humans mistake for house pets?

Stray cat populations decimate wildlife. The Audubon Society says, “Cats — particularly feral cats — are a leading cause of bird deaths. National Audubon Society has long supported a ‘Cats Indoors’ campaign urging pet owners to keep their cats indoors for the safety of both their pets and birds.”

Aside from the fact that feral cats are not indoor cats and cannot be trained to be so, why do we value cats and not wildlife? One of these things belongs outdoors, and one does not. People who enable feral cats suck.

David de la Fuente, San Francisco

“Breeders Gone Wild,” The Pets Issue, 1/29

Cruelly Dangerous

Terrific! Now that dog breeders are realizing that vanity breeding is ultimately cruelly dangerous to the dogs, the cat world is taking up the slack. Humans just can’t help but fuck things up, can they?

Mike Bradley, Oakland

Need to Adopt

Kind of sad to see the Express covering exotic cat breeds that sell for $1,000 to $5,000 in this time when so many cats (and dogs) are abandoned, feral, abused, or just trying to stay alive in shelters. A litter of these exotics costing some $25,000 could work wonders in Bay Area shelters in this age of pet overpopulation. And, kitten and puppy mills breed female cats and dogs into exhaustion and early death. Adopt! Adopt! Adopt! As [East Bay SPCA President and CEO] Allison Lindquist said, we should “question anybody who was getting into breeding animals of any kind — period.”

Diane Rooney, El Cerrito

“Preserving the Old Bay Bridge,” Culture Spy, 1/29

Just a Bridge

It’s a bridge. As an employee of bridge engineer T.Y. Lin International for thirteen years, I saw plenty of bridges. This one is not exceptional. Emotions are understood, but should be reserved for our loved ones. It is simply structural steel and rivets — it has no more reverence than a chunk of concrete from the long-past Embarcadero elevated freeway. Let it go its way.

Carl Maletic, Antelope

Practical Use

Re-use would be fine, if there’s some practical, off-site use for the assembly. It’s hard to believe it would be more practical to haul all those tons of steel clear across the Pacific!

On the other hand, in its current location, the relic is an ugly hulk that blocks the expansive views of Oakland and the bay that the new bridge finally opens up for drivers, cyclists, and pedestrians alike. Tear it down!

Mitchell Halberstadt, Oakland

“Fracking During a Drought is Crazy,” Seven Days, 1/22

Corporate Plan

Fracking is not crazy. Fracking is a well thought-out corporate plan to create a new source for oil extraction. It is an indicator that the oil supply is diminishing and corporations are desperate for new sources of oil rather than new sources of energy. Regardless of the risk to the environment, people’s health, and/or the possibility of unleashing an earthquake, they will not be deterred.

Big oil and politicians are not interested in our health, only their wealth. Unfortunately, we have come to depend on nonprofit environmental organizations such as the Sierra Club and Citizens for a Better Environment to look out for our interests. This is a big mistake. Rather than educate and organize against these profit-motivated corporations and capitalism, they lobby politicians, making deals and compromises in our name. They are no different than organized labor, which, rather than organize the rank and file to fight for their rights, lobbies politicians to pass worker-orientated legislation without teeth that will never be enforced because of under-staffed enforcement agencies such as Cal/OSHA.

It is for this reason that the working class suffers ongoing cuts in wages and benefits. It is also the working class that suffers more than any other class as a result of exposure, at work and at home, to unhealthy environments.

If anything is crazy, it is our unfounded belief that things will get better. Nothing will get better unless the economic underpinnings of our society change. The One Percent is still the One Percent. On Wall Street it’s business as usual. None of the Wall Street criminals have any fear of going to prison and it is the working class who has to pay for their crimes, the largest theft of public funds in the history of the world. Now that is crazy!

Charles T. Smith, Richmond

“The Hidden Costs of Oakland’s Surveillance Center,” News, 1/22

Cost-Effective

$1.2 million per year is peanuts, especially if the DAC will have a staff of twelve full-time employees. It actually seems like a relatively cost-effective use of city funds, with potentially high return on investment for Oakland taxpayers.

Andrew Hatch, Oakland

“Nurses Say Kaiser Oakland Is Shortchanging Patients,” News, 1/15

Race to the Bottom

In my opinion, Kaiser Oakland, the flagship mother hospital and place where Kaiser’s corporate policies first get implemented and tested, is the leader of the race to the bottom. Also, Kaiser hospitals located in locations with high numbers of people of color seem to give inferior care compared to places like San Rafael and Walnut Creek. I know because I have experienced this first-hand.

Valerie Eisman, Portland, Oregon

Miscellaneous

PAW Fund

I have just read your Pets Issue. I wanted you to be aware of a small nonprofit called PAW Fund that serves low-income/ homeless pet owners and stray animals in the East Bay. Every month they have a free shot clinic for dogs and cats set up in a parking lot, with local vets donating their services.

PAW Fund helps those who have pets in need by arranging discount veterinary services or pet food donations. They have saved and placed many animals into loving homes that would have otherwise not survived. They do so much good work over here, and receive no city funding whatsoever (unlike similar services in San Francisco). The woman who runs it, Jill, is tireless in her efforts to help animals in need. I know that they desperately need funding, and that PAW Fund operates on a month-to-month basis. Please check out their website, PawFund.org, and Facebook page. I love them and they are largely unheard of. Their omission from your Pets Issue proves this point.

Michelle Castro, Oakland

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