The popular and sometimes controversial watch commander of North Oakland’s PSA-2 beat is leaving his post for the department’s central office, leaving regretful North Oakland citizens behind.
Lt. Lawrence Green’s requested transfer to the Oakland Police Department’s Traffic Division and as one of the department’s SWAT team Tactical Commanders is effective this weekend. His North Oakland position will be taken by Lt. Jim Meeks.
“I’m really sad to lose Lt. Green,” Vice Mayor and North Oakland Councilmember Jane Brunner said in a telephone interview. “He was the best officer I’ve ever worked with. He’s creative. He’s honest. He tells you what he’ll do and what he can’t do. He’s always on top of things. That being said, he’s been in North Oakland for five years and he wanted a change so that he could receive the training needed to become the leader of a police force. So I support him in his move.”
That position was echoed by Don Link, chair of the Shattuck Neighborhood Crime Prevention Council, which often coordinated efforts with Green in his capacity as community police liaison in North Oakland.
“The announcement does not come as a surprise,” Link said in an emailed statement to NCPC members, “but as a conclusion to a wonderful partnership with an innovative and courageous police commander and wonderful human being. It is also reason to celebrate the successes of Lawrence Green’s tenure in North Oakland and the fine work of his commanders and colleagues who performed so well for so long. ... We will all miss Lawrence as our PSA lieutenant, but thank him for his stellar work in North Oakland that reverberated throughout the city.”
Green did not return calls for this article.
Green was widely credited with introducing hi-tec innovations into his North Oakland community policing work, establishing first an internet mailing list where residents could discuss police and safety issues and police information could be disseminated, and then later launching a North Oakland police website.
The website he developed included photos and descriptions of suspects sought by OPD, a link to Megan’s Law sex offender list, listings and maps of recent crimes in the North Oakland area, and email contact forms for local police officials.
In addition, Green encouraged residents to call in drug activity tips to his office and then posted the information on the website to alert citizens. The postings included addresses and names of alleged perpetrators, along with such comments as “People smoking crack in the yard,” “Sonny’ selling from inside—Burgundy sedan involved,” and “Hiding drugs in back yard of vacant house.”
Link acknowledged that what he characterized as Green’s “enthusiastic” activities led to some controversy.
“All of this deliberate 2-way communication between OPD and the community policing public was new at the time and radical, so much so that Lawrence was criticized and called on the carpet by some of the stiffer and more traditional command staff,” Link wrote. “At least one other PSA Lt. and probably several did not agree with his strategy and program and resisted following his lead. [Former] Chief [Richard] Word, however, saw the value of what Lawrence had created and how it advanced the cause of the community policing partnership, and ordered other PSA Lts. to follow suit. The process was uneven, but today every PSA Lt. is attempting to meet the basic standards set up by Lawrence Green.”
But there were other controversies that other police lieutenants did not follow.
Last March, Green received criticism when he publicly came to the defense of North Oakland resident Patrick McCullough after McCullough shot and wounded a teenage neighbor after a sidewalk confrontation in front of McCullough’s North Oakland home.
“The reason that Patrick was assaulted by these suspects is that he stands up to drug dealers in a way that normal citizens do not,” Green told the Daily Planet even before the police investigation into the shooting had been completed. Green also told a CNN reporter that “I know Patrick McCullough. I know those—the thugs involved, and I understand what the dynamics are of that neighborhood. So it’s clear to me, after doing a little investigating, that Patrick McCullough was in the right and acted properly.”
Green later mobilized NCPC members through the group’s internet discussion group to pressure the Alameda County District Attorney’s office not to prosecute McCullough for the shooting.
Green’s replacement, James Meeks, most recently served as the head of the Oakland Police Department’s Property Crimes Section, and was the 2002 Community Service Award recipient for the Bay Area Safety Network.
Of his replacement, Green said, “when plans were made for me to leave a couple of months ago, Captain Vierra asked me to find the best possible replacement for North Oakland—and, I did. Jim is actually the original community policing guy around here. He is a wonderful person/role model and I’m sure you will be very pleased with him.”
Vice Mayor Brunner said that while she doesn’t know Meeks “very well,” the incoming lieutenant has already assured her that “he will continue the programs started by Lt. Green, including the website. But he has big shoes to fill.”