Oakland, CA

Former Richmond police chief takes lead of Customs and Border Protection, Oakland to add additional officers and more

Refugio Garcia

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Former Richmond police chief confirmed as new head of border agency

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Former Richmond Police Chief Chris Magnus was confirmed Tuesday by the U.S. Senate as President Joe Biden’s pick as the new Customs and Border Protection commissioner, CNN reports.

Magnus served as the chief of police in Richmond prior to serving as the chief of police in Tucson, Arizona, and is the first Senate-confirmed leader of Customs and Border Protection since 2019.

“There is no doubt in my mind that Chief Magnus has the right qualifications for this position,” said Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon, chair of the Senate Finance Committee, on the Senate floor Tuesday. “His range of experience in law enforcement all over the country makes him an ideal pick to lead an agency with tens of thousands of employees staffing more than 300 points of entry to the US.”

Magnus gained national notoriety while serving as chief of police in Richmond in 2014 when a picture of him holding a Black Lives Matter sign at a protest went viral.

Magnus has acknowledged the challenges ahead of him saying, “More than a few colleagues, friends and family members have asked me, ‘What are you thinking?’ Why would I choose to take on the important but challenging responsibility of leading CBP at this moment?”

“I want to make a difference,” he added.

Magnus’ confirmation comes after a Senate vote of 50-47 with Republican Sen. Susan Collins of Maine voting in favor of him.

Plan to add additional officers in Oakland approved by City Council

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The Oakland City Council on Tuesday approved a proposed plan to add additional officers to the Oakland Police Department over the next couple of years, East Bay Times reports.

The plan calls for the city to host two additional police academies in an effort to recruit dozens of new officers as police struggle to gain control over a massive spike in violence that’s resulted in 129 homicides in Oakland to date.

The plan was approved for the current two-year budget cycle, with 60 officers projected to join the department which now has 676 sworn officers on staff.

The total cost of recruiting additional officers over the next two years is estimated at $11 million, according to city memos.

“Today’s action will allow us to carry out a holistic vision of public safety to address the tragic surge in crime and violence in our city by increasing Oakland’s police force by 60 more officers,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.

Another plan aimed at bolstering Oakland’s police department includes a proposal by City Councilmember Sheng Thao, which would provide officers who transfer to Oakland from other departments with a $50,000 signing bonus and would also give Oakland residents who graduate from one of Oakland’s training academies with a $20,000 signing bonus.

That plan will be discussed by the city council on Dec. 21.

Piedmont City Council approves Piedmont Safer Streets Plan

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The Piedmont City Council on Monday approved the Piedmont Safer Streets Plan which will add new safeguards for pedestrians, crossing guards, cyclists and drivers, East Bay Times reports.

The plan was approved following the collection of community feedback consisting of 2,500 comments that were submitted through email, a survey, a project website and a pinable map.

According to Niko Letunic of consultants Eisen/Letunic “Residents’ main concerns are speeding and crossing conditions,” adding, “a lot has been done,” but more is needed.”

Reports of erratic driving at certain intersections has resulted in crossing guards and pedestrians having to dodge traffic. A total of 55 collisions were recorded during the third quarter of 2021, up from 36 during the same period last year, according to Police Chief Jeremy Bowers.

“Speed and inattention continue to be the main collision factors associated with the reported collisions,” Bowers said in his report. “The department is procuring a second signage/speed trailer to aid in short-term speed and traffic matters. Residents and visitors need to take individual accountability with respect to driving habits. Maintaining safe roadways for all who use them is an ongoing area of attention for the department. Enforcement cannot be counted on alone to solve all speeding issues and other types of hazardous driving.”

Several methods will be used to calm traffic in the area including speed humps and bumps and “road diets,” similar to the one used on a portion of Grand Ave. consisting of a reconfiguration of the road from two lanes to one in order to slow traffic.

The targeted areas for safety improvements are Oakland, Moraga and Highland avenues. Public Works Director Daniel Gonzales has pointed out the urgency in prioritizing these projects due to a lack of funding. Piedmont’s annual budget for pedestrian and bike projects is $70,000.

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