By Millie Cleveland
In 2018, after Oakland police officers, guns, and cruisers amassed to respond to a “dark-skinned” homeless man asleep with a gun nearby, Joshua Pawlik was shot as he stirred. In the aftermath, Oaklanders began advocating for an alternative to police for certain 911 calls.
The Mobile Assistance Community Responders of Oakland (MACRO) Program is designed to provide a more appropriate, non-police response to non-violent/non-felony calls; a model unique to Oakland; a model that Improves OPD response time to urgent calls; a model based on community members helping their own communities; and, a program that can save the City money and lives, web sources say.
Many Oaklanders supported the development of MACRO utilizing community members who could provide support and de-escalate crises.
At the same time, officers wanted relief from low-level calls so they could focus on high-priority calls and serious crimes. With fanfare and press releases, the City Council passed a resolution to begin a pilot program to demonstrate that this approach could save money by redirecting police resources and providing more effective community support for low-level crises.
After 2020, other cities also implemented non-police crisis programs that are now responding to thousands of 911 calls, instead of police. Tragically, MACRO is not.
As the 18-month pilot ends, MACRO is being dispatched to only three or four 911 calls per day!
MACRO responds to approximately 10% of the emergency calls sent to similar programs in other jurisdictions. Why? Here are some of the reasons.
- There is no separate number to request a MACRO response.
- MACRO responders have not received adequate training, support, or supervision.
- Oaklanders selected for the MACRO Advisory Board because of their expertise in community resources, referrals, and education have been sidelined. The meetings are not open to the public, despite promises.
- There has been no community education and engagement campaign. The community excitement that created MACRO has never been harnessed – indeed it is actively rejected.
- There is no pilot evaluation plan.
The Coalition for Police Accountability hears from residents who associate CPA with the community advocacy and development of MACRO and are disappointed and concerned.
We hear from MACRO responders who feel voiceless and frustrated. We hear from City employees who see obstacles unaddressed. We receive calls from people who hope that CPA can help them get an elusive MACRO response to a crisis because the only phone number they can find in connection to MACRO is ours!
Although Oakland politicians highlight MACRO while campaigning or discussing public safety, they have done little to oversee MACRO, require answers to residents’ concerns, or keep campaign promises on specific steps so MACRO succeeds.
We thank city leaders for increasing funding to MACRO in the new budget but to use that money effectively, responsible governance is needed. MACRO is easily fixable if politicians stop treating it as a campaign talking point and instead as a real program that begs for committed attention and problem-solving.
We urge city leadership to:
- Assign senior-level staff to convene a working group of all city departments involved with MACRO implementation to ensure effective collaboration.
- Require regular reports to the City Council and the public safety committee including tracking of data and issues, how to increase dispatched referrals, and instituting a meaningful program evaluation.
- Consider moving MACRO directly under the city administrator for comprehensive management.
- Make the Community Advisory Board a regular city commission, appointed by the City Council and with public meetings under the Brown Act.
- Hundreds of Oaklanders worked to develop MACRO and stand ready to help. Currently, they are locked out.
If city leaders engage to ensure MACRO’s success, it can become the program that Oaklanders remain excited and hopeful for.
The post OPINION: MACRO, Oakland’s Civilian Policing Unit, Is Underutilized. Why? first appeared on Post News Group. This article originally appeared in Post News Group.