Oakland Police Are Still in Trouble

Plus, it's time to legalize pot before the severe recession becomes a depression, a drought, and Armageddon.

Oakland now has no permanent police chief, but there’s a silver
lining for the city with one of the worst crime problems in the nation.
At least we won’t have to read about or listen to ex-Chief Wayne
Tucker’s warped view of reality anymore. Tucker’s last day was on
February 28, but before he cleaned out his desk, he declared —
apparently with a straight face — that the department was the
“healthiest” it’s been in years. Huh? If this is healthy, we’d hate to
see “sick.” It’s hard to remember a time when the department was in
worse shape. Tucker’s tenure has been marked by a historic jump in
violent crime and a department rocked by scandal after scandal. He has
to go down as one of the worst police chiefs the city has ever had.

So what does Mayor Ron Dellums do? He, of course, picked the wrong
guy to replace Tucker. Assistant Police Chief Howard Jordan is now
Oakland’s interim top cop. Jordan is an accomplished veteran who knows
Oakland well, but his unwavering loyalty to everything OPD makes him
the wrong choice to lead the department permanently. OPD needs fresh
ideas, not a police chief who blindly defends incompetence.

Jordan’s bewildering defense of Sgt. Derwin Longmire, the cop who
badly screwed up the murder investigation of slain journalist Chauncey
Bailey, is just one example. After the Chauncey Bailey journalism
project and the San Francisco Chronicle revealed how messed up
Longmire’s investigation was, Jordan put out an official department
statement, maintaining that Longmire had done nothing wrong —
even though Longmire at the time was, and still is, under investigation
by the department’s internal affairs division, the state Attorney
General’s Office, and the FBI. We’re surprised Jordan didn’t also call
Longmire’s work “healthy.”

Legalize Pot Now

High fives all around are in order for San Francisco Assemblyman Tom
Ammiano. The freshman legislator had the guts last week to introduce
legislation that would legalize marijuana in California. It was the
smartest — and bravest — move by a state politician in
years. Experts estimate that legalizing pot and then taxing its sales
could generate more than $1 billion in annual revenues for the state.
Plus, legalization of California’s largest agricultural crop would save
taxpayers from wasting huge amounts of money each year, investigating
marijuana crimes and locking people up on petty drug charges. Moreover,
any serious debate that pot use will escalate if it’s legalized has
been over for years. Buying dope has been easier than getting a
prescription filled for a long time — let’s start making money
off of it.

Hey, and with the Obama administration now bringing some sanity to
our federal government, we might be able to actually pull it off.
Attorney General Eric Holder announced that the feds will no longer
harass medical marijuana dispensaries in the Golden State. It’s about
time. The DEA’s ridiculous, heavy-handed raids during the Bush and
Clinton years made a mockery of California law, and the legitimate use
of pot as medicine. Holder noted that the new policy jibes with the
president’s campaign pledge. Wow, a politician who keeps his promises.
That’s change we can believe in.

Now, Mr. President, there’s this issue of warrantless wiretapping
that we need to talk to you about …

It’s Official: California Is
Screwed

First, there’s the drought. Last Friday, Governor Arnold
Schwarzenegger declared a statewide water crisis, following three years
of below-average rainfall. Despite the recent much-needed rains,
experts say that this spring’s all-important snow melt will only be
about 57 percent of normal. The East Bay Municipal Utility District,
which serves Berkeley, Oakland, and Alameda, said it needs forty more
inches of rain by April 1 in its Sierra watershed. Cities could face up
to 20 percent cuts of water this summer. The feds say that we’re going
to need “some epic, Noah-type storms.”

As if that weren’t scary enough, the state’s unemployment rate
reached double digits in January, jumping to 10.1 percent. The jobless
rate is the highest since the recession of the early 1980s. And that
doesn’t include all the folks who have stopped searching for work or
are seriously underemployed, working part-time gigs. The worst part is
we all know it’s going to get uglier. Maybe those Armageddon
Christianists were on to something after all.

Three-Dot Roundup

Are the Oakland A’s headed to San Jose? South Bay officials sure
want it to happen. But it seems unlikely that the San Francisco Giants
will ever give up their territorial rights to Santa Clara County. …
Alameda City Manager Debra Kurita abruptly quit last week after a
yet-to-be-disclosed run-in with the city council. The city also was
rocked by the news that the head of the police department’s internal
affairs division was arrested on charges of trying to steal people’s
meds. … A suspect was finally nabbed in the Berkeley teen party
murder from three years ago. … State schools Chief Jack O’Connell
plans to take nearly $500,000 from the debt-ridden Oakland public
school system and give it to local charter schools because Oakland
voters rejected his pet parcel tax measure in November. … The Oakland
City Council smartly tabled a misguided plan to raise property taxes
during a steep recession. … State leaders are talking seriously about
reforming how the legislature passes the budget. They should also be
talking about finally killing Proposition 13. … And the San
Francisco Chronicle
, which has been bleeding money for years,
announced last week plans to sell or close the newspaper unless unions
agree to massive cuts.

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