Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, with interim Police Chief Sean Whent and representatives from Youth Uprising, discuss the city's violent crime strategy on Wed, Aug. 8. (Alex Emslie/KQED)
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan, with interim Police Chief Sean Whent and representatives from Youth Uprising, discuss the city’s violent crime strategy on Wed, Aug. 8. (Alex Emslie/KQED)

City officials are reaching out to Oakland youth in an effort to fully implement Operation Ceasefire, which was adopted last year as the police department’s violent crime reduction strategy but is only now getting a dedicated team of officers.

The move comes after the shooting deaths Wednesday of 1½-year-old Drew Jackson and his father, Andrew Thomas, in East Oakland.

Yesterday afternoon, Mayor Jean Quan and interim Police Chief Sean Whent talked violence prevention with young Oakland residents. They announced a partnership with community development and leadership program Youth Uprising, aimed at instilling an investment in public safety among young people.

“The shooting of Andrew and his son, Drew, is another example that no one is coming to East Oakland to save us,” said Olis Simmons, founding CEO of Youth Uprising. “The solution to violence has to be from the young people who live here that are not only the victims but, sadly, often the perpetrators of violence.”

Developed in Boston in the mid-1990s, Operation Ceasefire is a multi-pronged approach to reducing gun and street violence. Under Ceasefire, police put gang members and groups they suspect of violence on notice that they’re cracking down on shootings, while also offering to connect them to city services.

Oakland has already hosted two of these meetings, Quan said, and is working on setting up a third.

“We plan to continue with Ceasefire until we’ve called in the top two and three hundred most violent people in the city,” she said. “It doesn’t happen in one round.”

Whent said a police academy class that recently graduated from field training will free up enough officers to create a full-time Ceasefire enforcement team. Responsibility was previously spread among officers who coordinated the effort part time while also performing other duties, Whent said.

A practice called street-based conflict mediation is another component of the program that’s shown recent success in Baltimore. Street mediators, who are sometimes former gang members, try to diffuse tension before it erupts into violence. They’re sometimes called violence interrupters because they try to break the cycle of shootings and retaliations that can lead to increased homicides.

Quan and Whent said much of the violence in Oakland is retaliatory. Whent said Wednesday morning’s shooting was believed to be a targeted killing, but he did not confirm speculation that an earlier homicide could be related.

Simmons says youth often know when tension will lead to gunshots, and they can help diffuse the situation before it comes to that.

“We’re not asking the young people after a crime has been committed to tell,” she said. “We’re asking the young people before a crime has been committed to be a part of the solution.”

Jamani Williams said he and other young Oakland residents are committed to building a better community.

“Let’s have it grow and continue to be something stronger,” he said. “More recreation centers, more college career counselors and coaches, and more job opportunities and less of the negative.”

  • robthom

    It is what it is.

    I dont think they went all the way in his backyard to kill him just because he was a nice guy.

    And if he’s out doing dirt that could make him that kind of target,
    he shouldn’t have been sleeping in a room with 4 children.

    I know he was young and that kind of irresponsibility was probably never a consideration to him.

    But it is what it is.

    • Erica_JS

      Is that really the point? Or is the point that there are people walking around free today who are capable of putting a bullet in a 16 month old baby?


Alex Emslie

Alex Emslie is a criminal justice reporter at KQED. He covers policing policy, crime and the courts.

He left Colorado and a career as a carpenter in 2008 to study journalism at City College of San Francisco. He then graduated from San Francisco State University's journalism program with a minor in criminal justice studies. Prior to joining KQED in 2013, Alex freelanced for various news outlets including the Huffington Post, San Francisco Chronicle, San Francisco Examiner and Bay Guardian.

Alex is proud of his work at KQED on a spike in fatal officer-involved shootings in Vallejo, which uncovered that a single officer shot and killed three suspects over the course of five months. Alex's work with a team at KQED on police encounters with people in psychiatric crisis was cited in amicus briefs before the U.S. Supreme Court. He received the Northern California Society of Professional Journalists Best Scoop award in 2015 for exposing a series of bigoted text messages swapped by San Francisco police officers. He was honored with 2010 San Francisco Peninsula Press Club and California Newspaper Publishers Association awards for breaking news reporting on the trial following the shooting of Oscar Grant. Email: aemslie@kqed.org. Twitter: @SFNewsReporter.

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