Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts is overhauling the way his department investigates major crimes in the city.

Batts said Wednesday the changes are part of a department-wide restructuring brought on by budget cuts, soaring crime rates and an eight-year-old federal court order calling for more officer oversight that grew out of the Riders scandal.

When Batts took over in 2009, the OPD had more than 800 officers. That number is down to 637, and Batts said he expects the force to drop below 600 in coming years due to layoffs and attrition. “So we wanted to build an organization where we can get that under control and get more bang for the buck,” Batts said.

Batts said that under the current structure, the department is inefficient and overloaded. Now, homicide investigators are in charge of 10-16 cases a year, compared to an average of only three in other cities.

To address the imbalance, units investigating robberies, homicides and assaults will be collapsed into one unit that handles the city’s most violent crimes. Property crimes will then be investigated by patrol officers. Batts said the Oakland police force is highly specialized and needs to become an organization of generalists for maximum efficiency.

The city will be broken up into two bureaus—one for East Oakland, another for the rest of the city. The only change residents will see is an increase in police presence, according to Batts. And he’s encouraging officers to get out of their cars and interact with the community.

Some changes are slated for July 9, with the bulk of the plan going into effect in mid-August.

Read a June 30 Batts letter on the restructing here (.pdf).

Oakland Restructuring Police Operations; Batts Expects Force to Drop Further in Coming Years 7 July,2011Caitlin Esch

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