Exclusive Interview: EPD Chief Tejada talks Community Outreach, “Militarization” & the future of policing

27 mins read

Jennifer Tejada officially took the reigns as Emeryville Chief of Police on September 16th after sixteen year Chief Ken James retired last June. Tejada was chosen among a deep pool of applicants and hired to oversee the force of 38 sworn police officers, 16 staff positions and a budget of roughly $10.5 million. Tejada previously served as the Chief of police of Sausalito and was a captain with Novato PD prior to that. Chief Tejada’s husband Eric is also in law enforcement and currently is a lieutenant with the University of California Police Department. They have two children.

Tejada’s leadership will be put to the test immediately as she looks to guide the force in wake of the city’s first officer-involved shooting in 10 years and subsequent scrutiny and “demilitarization” discussion. It is a tenuous time for not only the EPD, but police agencies across the country. We sat down with Chief Tejada for an exclusive interview with her candid responses to her approach to community policing as well as a slate of controversial topics including “Militarization” and Bullying within our community.

Exclusive Interview: Emeryville Police Chief Jennifer Tejada

EE: The E’ville Eye here with new Emeryville police chief Jennifer Tejada at her office at the EPD headquarters on Powell. Chief Tejada of course took the helm from former chief Ken James and interim Chief Dave Hall back on September 15th. Emeryville’s first new police chief in 16 years, and I’m assuming our first female Chief. I sent Chief Tejada 15 questions to get your perspective and insight. Chief Tejada, welcome to Emeryville.

JT: Thank you. It’s great to be here.

EE: You identified yourself as originally from Ireland when you were sworn in last month which I found fascinating. It’s a long way from “home”. Tell us a little bit about your background and how you ended up calling the East Bay home.

JT: I did grow up in Ireland and my family is all still back there. I went to UC Berkeley and graduated from there. After that, the East Bay was my home. I was in Berkeley for about seven years and then went into law enforcement. I started in Walnut Creek, went to Novato, Sausalito, and now I’m here. I’ve been commuting to Marin county for over 20 years and now I’m excited to be back home in the East Bay.

EE: So there was a window there where you were doing something else after graduating from Cal. Did you have a life before “policing”, and what lured you in to the field?

JT: So during my last year at UC Berkeley from 92 to 93, there were a lot of riots. Small riots. Telegraph Avenue, where I worked in property management, became like a war zone. We had the basketball court riots in People’s Park, the Free Bin riots, the Salman Rushdie riots, the Rodney King riots … in a 12-month period, we had something like 18 small riots. They were burning cars, knocking over trash cans, breaking store windows.

The result of that was all the store windows were boarded up. The merchants stopped replacing the glass. Telegraph Avenue looked like a war zone. The street vendors were absent. It was not a place where people felt safe. Because I was in property management, myself and other property managers & property owners formed a non-profit organization called the Telegraph Area Association. Our goal was to rebuild community spirit in the south campus area, with funding from UC Berkeley and the City of Berkeley.

I was very involved in the recruitment of our executive director and program coordinator. While we were waiting to fill those two positions, I worked both of the positions and carried 16 units at Cal. It was a great time in my life but as a consequence of that focus on public safety, I worked with the administrations of both the Berkeley City Police Department and UC Police Department.

I went through the very first Berkeley citizen academy and I became very familiar with police work. Dash Butler was the Chief of Berkeley at the time. During a conversation one day, he said “you should become a police officer. You’re the policing of the future” meaning I was bringing all these interested groups, all the stakeholders to the table to collaborate on how to rebuild that community spirit in the area. Once I graduated, I was pretty certain this was a good move for me.

The work I was doing with the Telegraph Area Association really sparked my passion for being a public servant and helping communities. That’s when I decided to become a police officer. I started in Walnut Creek, went over to Novato where I worked under the leadership of Chief Brian Brady who supported and expected and set the stage for his staff to be connected to community, to serve with that sense of duty, to be collaborative with community members, to address community issues and quality of life issues and crime.

I grew up in a climate of this collaborative law enforcement practice. It speaks to my passion about helping people and being involved and becoming the fabric of the community.

EE: It sounds like Mr. Brady was one of your early mentors. That he set the stage for your policing philosophy and community policing is really part of your DNA.

JT: He did. I remember when domestic violence advocates wanted to be part of the post incident victim support and offender prosecution. He opened the doors of the police department to them. To work with them when other agencies were saying “No, what we do with victims of domestic violence is confidential. We can’t work with you”. He had a different approach “let’s work with them, because we’re all trying to get the same end result here.” That is to protect and support the victims and hold offenders accountable. It was really a great time in my professional career where I learned what it is to be transparent, accountable. Work with the community. Just be part of the fabric of the community that you serve. It’s who I am. I’m passionate about what I do. Passionate about being a public servant and living up to those expectations.

EE: I’m sure this decision to leave Sausalito was a difficult one but we know you’ll be a lot closer to home. Tell us some other things that went into your decision to leave Sausalito for Emeryville, California.

JT: Sausalito is a great community and I was very sad to leave because the community really embraced my style of leadership and allowed me to do what I wanted to do. I was there for almost five years. I gave them a three to five year commitment and in my fifth year I decided. Do I want to stay in Marin and have this commute until I retire? Or if there’s an opportunity to move closer to home, should I be looking there?

I did start looking. I actually tested with the City of Martinez when the opportunity came up in May and I ended up being offered the job. I was their number one candidate. While it was closer to home, it just wasn’t a good fit for me. I just felt it wasn’t the right move. I was looking to move to a department where they were ready for my style of leadership, and the community would be supportive having me as their Chief. I withdrew from Martinez, and the following week Emeryville opened up.

EE: So it was “in the stars”!

JT: It was in the stars. The moral of the story is, be true to yourself. I knew something else was there that was going to speak to me in a way that Martinez couldn’t in terms of what I was looking for. I couldn’t believe it when Emeryville opened up. Here I am, and I feel like I’ve won the jackpot in law enforcement agencies and communities.

EE: Your knowledge and experience with community policing and outreach were big factors in your hiring. Is community policing the same everywhere, or is it going to translate differently in a town like Emeryville?

JT: Community policing, traditionally, is working with the community to identify problems, to develop solutions together. It’s really partnering with the community members. Whether it’s graffiti abatement or traffic issues or burglaries. Whatever the issue is, it’s working with community members, with other departments within the city like Public Works or Community Services.

When it comes to crime prevention through environmental design, we want to make sure we’re part of the dialogue with the planning department. When it comes to graffiti abatement and traffic safety, we want to make sure we’re working with the city traffic engineers, with the department of public works for graffiti abatement and nuisance abatement and all of that. Then working with community members and understanding what their expectations are and figuring out how we meet those expectations.

Every community is different. The one thing I think that is very important to community policing is the dialogue today is having legitimacy as a police agency. If you don’t have legitimacy, you can’t achieve the things you need to in terms of making your community feel safe. Actually having a safe community, a place where people want to be, where there’s dialogue with the police department, where there is trust.

My job is to make sure we continue to build our legitimacy which we get only from the trust, respect, open lines of communication, inclusiveness, bringing in the community to look at our policies. Do our policies reflect community expectations? The only place we can get that answer is asking the community members. Gaining police legitimacy is hugely important in the context of the dialogue that’s going on today.

There’s a rhetoric out there that is anti-police. We represent the fine line between order and chaos. You take police out of the equation, what do you have? We are necessary. How we do that is important. It’s important that we’re all on the same page. Building dialogue, relationships … I’m an open book and I have an open door policy and I love working out in the community, meeting the community and working with groups identifying what it is we can do to better serve them.

EE: Going down your previous endeavors, Walnut Creek, Novato, Sausalito … Emeryville. We probably have more of what some call “urban” problems than the other areas you’ve worked. Does this change your approach to policing at all?

JT: No. Because those other agencies also had urban crime. It’s all a matter of scale. What we have here are mostly property crimes. So we are experiencing a rash of auto burglaries, and have been for quite a while. That’s because, one reason is where we’re situated, right off a freeway, both sides. They can get into Emeryville and back onto the freeway really fast. Thieves are using wireless technology to identify cars that have valuable items. Is there something with a bluetooth in that car? Smash. Grab. Go. That’s how quick it happens. If we could get people to stop leaving valuables in their cars, and in plain sight. Our burglary stats would plummet.

What I had in Sausalito and will ask the community to do here, is “see something say something”. If you see something that doesn’t look right, this is the place to call. It doesn’t matter if when we get there, there is nothing to investigate. There’s no crime, that’s a good day for us. If you see something that sets off that little voice in your head. Something’s not right, it’s your instinct telling you this is not right.

Call us, let us look at it, come to the scene, be a presence in the neighborhood. Help us help you by identifying where I need to put my resources. That assistance comes from the philosophy of see something say something.

EE: It sounds like recruiting more “eyes and ears” and reminding people that this is not Mayberry.

So Emeryville has been labeled “The most violent city in the Bay Area” based on data provided by the FBI. Obviously you were aware of this before you took the job. A lot of it is based on our high rates of petty theft and car burglaries which we discussed. Talk to us about data and statistics, and how this can be used effectively to combat crime in a small city like Emeryville.

JT: Right now I’m looking at our crime analysis process. Our crime analyst Adrienne Robinson does a great job with the technology she has. I’m looking to improve that technology so that we can elevate the predictive policing that we are doing to a much more reliable level. What we are able to do today with some accuracy is predict, based on the data we have, when and where a particular crime will occur. The software she’s using is cumbersome. It’s not modern, so I’m looking to change that so we can have a much more reliable data analysis software system here to help us with that. Because really, predictive policing is the wave of the future.

EE: It’s not just Minority Report. It’s for small agencies. It freaks some people out, but why not utilize data to give agencies the best chance of catching “the bad guys”.

JT: It really is a helpful tool for us in resource deployments. When I look at how my shifts are staffed, I’ll be looking at data of when and where crimes occur to help me determine how many, when & where I will put my officers.

Then working with neighboring agencies. We will be working with several neighboring agencies on the auto burglaries. We’ll work with our agencies on other things, like human trafficking, alcohol violations. We partner. The crime that occurs in Emeryville is not unique to Emeryville. The people who come here to commit crime are doing it in Fremont, Richmond, Berkeley, Oakland … they move around. So partnering with neighboring agencies is really important, because combining our resources gives us that advantage of having a bigger impact on crime.

EE: I’m sure when the FBI comes out with their next crime report, you’d love for Emeryville to go a couple notches down, right? We don’t want to be number one, even though we know it’s a statistical anomaly.

JT: One of the programs we’ll be doing is reaching out to the hotels to make sure that at the points of registration they remind their guests. Please don’t leave valuables in your car. We’ll have a little card for them to hand to their guests to remind them. Do not leave valuables in your car. We have our auto burglary prevention program that Captain Diotalevi is about to roll out.

Then we have another program we’ve just started. Each of our patrol sergeants has been assigned an area of the city they are responsible for. The city is divided into I think six sectors. Each sergeant has a sector. Their phone number, email has been published in the newsletter. It should be up on the website so that if you know which sergeant to call for an issue in your sector. So if you’re seeing speeding vehicles, suspicious persons, suspicious activity, whatever it is … even if you just want to invite us over for a cup of tea or cup of coffee. Do that. Bring us into your neighborhood.

Sgts Neighborhood Maps

EE: Back in 2013 I wrote a piece titled Public Market shooting exposes E’ville’s lack of press exposure, need for better use of Social Media.” I felt like it was really hard to find out what crimes were happening in the city. They were buried in the PDF in an obscure part of the website. We started posting monthly crime stats and spotlighting other criminal trends and activity with some success. I’d also complain that the EPD’s use of Nixle has been … inconsistent at best and other Social Media channels have been mostly silent. Will improving this form of outreach through social media be a priority for the Jennifer Tejada led EPD? I’ve already noticed that you’re fairly active on Twitter.

JT: Yes it will. Nixle is generally reserved for emergency notifications. Alerts, streets are closed, there’s police action here or there, avoid that area. That’s one area of social media that is important. My goal is to do a tweet a day and I’m falling short of that because I feel like I’m running a marathon every day since I got here [laughter]. Sitting down and taking a break is elusive, but that’s my goal.

I also have taken a look at our website and you’re gonna see updated information on the website. You’ll see more information about community programs. More information for victims of crime to find services such as domestic violence victims. This month is domestic violence month. Domestic violence is probably the number one unreported crime in the country. Probably one of the top felonies that occurs in Alameda county and we need to make sure victims of domestic violence have at their fingertips links to services. Because it is unreported, that’s one area of our website I’ll be focused on. Same with sexual assault services. I want to make sure those crimes where people are hesitant to call the police, that when they go to our website they can find help there.

Also because we have a tech savvy community, we want to look at opportunities on our website for people to file an online police report. A lot of reports are what we call “cold reports”. You come home from work and there’s a scratch along the side of your car and you want to report it? I would like to see an option for you going online and filling out a form. Because there’s no suspect information or evidence at the scene, you certainly don’t want to spend your evening coming down here nor do you want to have to wait at home for an officer to come. Then my officer has to come back to the department, write up the report, the supervisor has to approve it … you’re talking several hours for a report where the value of it is purely in your insurance claim. The value for me is a statistic that lets me know what’s happening in our neighborhood. I want that report. I need to know. One incident is OK but if I have several, now I know I need to devote resources to that neighborhood. Something’s going on.

We might get more information if we are accessible online. Cold reports are a great opportunity with the tech savvy community and help us capture data of what’s happening in the community.

EE: The Engage Emeryville App for Public Works I’d like to think is making a difference, at least at helping prioritize these nuisances like graffiti, litter, etc.

JT: It is. Not really the channel for police reports though. We want to have that separate for people so only the police eyes see it because we want victims to have confidentiality. My goal is to look at how can we do something like that and have it serve our community. The software is already out there.

The other piece of the enhancing access by the community to us is looking at that crime analysis software. Having people be able to get daily alerts on what’s happened in their neighborhood in the past 24 hours. What we have now is suitable for that, but I had something similar in Sausalito. You just log on and say, I want to know every 12 hours what’s happening in the neighborhood, and it’ll generate a report for you.

Based on the statistics that the department has, we need to do some in-house enhancements and replacement of systems in order to get there. That’s my end goal.

EE: I think the EPD subscribes to crimereports.com, but I feel the technology has fallen behind.

JT: I started Crimereports.com when we were in Novato. We had it for years, we unfortunately always had issues. When I got to Sausalito I said no, we’re gonna get something new. So we got RAIDS Online from BAIR analytics. It’s fabulous. You get a map, and then you get the crimes that occurred in the last 24 hours.

EE: It sound like I have your commitment that the EPD will keep open these lines of communication with the “media”. So what we could we do to help police do their job more effectively?

JT: I see you as a partner. I’ve never viewed media as an adversary. I’ve always worked well with media outlets because I feel like our responsibility is to get the truth out. This is the source of the truth. If I don’t communicate with you and media outlets, you’re gonna hear it from somebody on the street who might not know the truth, who’s giving you an opinion.

From me, you’ll get a commitment that you can expect to hear the facts as much as I can share with you at the point in time that you come and ask me. I’ll keep you informed. That’s my philosophy. I feel like the media is our friend. You can partner with us to help us get information out to the public. You can help us with pleas for information. You can enhance that communication and that trust issue as well. I think it’s quite good now, and we’ll continue to maintain open communication and work together.

EE: It’s gotten easier for me but there’s always room for improvement and I’m encouraged hearing you that the commitment from you is there.

So surveillance, militarization, racial profiling … all these are headlines we’re reading over and over. As you noted when you were sworn in, police agencies are under more scrutiny than ever before in history. The EPD has in fact been a target of protests following the officer-involved shooting of Yuvette Henderson. How is this scrutiny going to change policing not just in Emeryville, but policing in general?

JT: I think it’s more important than ever to have that trust and dialog with community. When something tragic happens, some major incident, that the dialog  and trust is already established. So the questions asked are questions to gain understanding. It’s not finger pointing, it’s not, “you must have done something wrong here, or you’re going to do something wrong” that the community understands why we do what we do. Citizen Academies are great places for that understanding to be fostered. 21st century policing does require law enforcement leaders to take a look at how we are delivering service. To self reflect on ourselves as leaders and what we’re bringing to the table. I think you’ll see a lot of that across the nation in law enforcement agencies.

A lot of self reflection and a lot of questioning. “Are we as transparent as we ought to be?” Really, what do we have to hide? We don’t have a lot to hide. We have confidentiality issues with victims of crimes. We have some other areas where our operations have to be confidential because we don’t want the criminals to know what our tactics are to catch them and prevent them from committing crimes. Other than that, there are not a lot of areas that need to be closed door.

I think, moving forward you’re going to see a lot of community engagement, see a lot of effort to get that external legitimacy. You’re also going to see a lot of effort to build internal legitimacy, meaning that leaders will be seeking input from everybody in the organization. On policy, community engagement, training, hiring. There’s a lot of work to be done. It’s not that we haven’t been doing some of that already, but there’s more need to showcase what we’re doing and to be transparent and work with communities.

And not be territorial. Look to see how other agencies can help us do some shared service models. I think 21st century policing, what we’re going to see in law enforcement that we haven’t seen is an emphasis on officer wellness. More cops die from suicide than on the job injury. That’s a sad fact. We need to look at why that’s happening. We need to take care or our people. Things like peer support programs in organizations. Chaplain programs. Wellness programs. Making sure our staff are getting exercise, eating healthy, have stress reduction classes, access to employee counseling, assistance programs. We need to take care of our people so that they can take care of others. Take care of themselves so they can take care of others. You’re going to see an emphasis. That’s one of the pillars of report in President Obama’s 21st century policing task force report.

We’re going to see advances in technology. Biometrics and equipment we use. Researching what are better, less lethal options for us. Body worn cameras, another area of technology. Opportunity to be accountable and use those so we can educate people on what it is the officer’s actually seeing and addressing. What is the nature of the incident the officer is out on. So that we have more information to assess. Did we do well, what could we do better?

EE: There’s clearly a tie there between the intense scrutiny that officers are under and their personal level of stress, their lifespans, and their own job performance.

So going back to surveillance and the term “demilitarization” It might not be a 100% accurate term, but it’s one that’s being discussed. We don’t exactly have a tank like San Jose [laughter].

JT: We don’t have a tank. We don’t have any military grade weapons. I believe we equip our officers with the tools they need to address the threats that we know exist in the community and in their day-to-day patrols. This is a more violent time. There are guns on the street. We had an incident with a gun this week in fact. An incident last week, so we know the guns are out there. We want to make sure our officers have the tools to do their job so they can survive an incident to save lives, protect lives.

EE: There are some people who are anti-surveillance and then there’s other people who are demanding equal access to the video so they can see it with their own two eyes. They’re not going to believe anyone unless they see it with their own two eyes and then they still disagree with what happened. Are you convinced that body cams will help here?

EE: I believe so. I think you have almost every law enforcement agency in the country either has body cameras, is in the process of getting body cameras, or is in the process of considering them. The majority opinion and even the president is of that opinion. Every task force that’s looked at police accountability says body worn cameras really give us that ability to look at what law enforcement officers are doing and why they’re doing it.

When that footage is made available for public viewing is also a question. There are things to consider in the public records act. What do we make available, what don’t we. The bottom line is if it’s part of an investigation, we can’t give it out until the investigation is concluded. Because it’s not prudent to do that.

EE: You can’t make an arrest these days without someone sticking a smartphone in your face and recording it. We’ve caught some bad guys … and caught some bad police as a result of this. Body cams will ensure that both perspectives are captured.

JT: You’re absolutely right. It’s a good tool to educate the community on what it is we’re doing and why we’re doing it and how we do it.

EE: The encampment behind Target, technically in Oakland, has been an ongoing issue. Me and my neighbors, not just in Emeryville but on the Oakland side of the border. Small businesses there. I heard a report of a stabbing recently, someone had a gun pulled on them. There appears to be a bicycle chop shop there. I see cars pull up and leave in what appears to be some sort of drug dealing going on. There’s rodent infestation that is impacting the businesses there … many I’ve spoken with no longer feel comfortable having clients over. Neighbors of mine no longer feel comfortable walking to Target at night. Now I know this is more than a police problem and really a reflection of our broken social safety net … but ignoring it is not helping anybody including the homeless that reside there. Can we get your commitment to work across agencies with Oakland and also identify resources to tackle this really complex problem?

JT: The answer is yes. We will look to work with social service agencies as well as other law enforcement agencies on the issue behind Target. It is as you say, technically in Oakland. But if it impacts us, it’s our problem. When you look at a homeless population, you’re not just looking at people who are down on their luck. When you are addressing homeless issues, you’ve got to keep in mind. Is it youth? Kids who have horrible situations at home so their only place to be is out on the street? Are their mental health issues? Is it adults who have drug abuse issues? alcoholism? Is it somebody who just lost their job and has no place to live? Is it a domestic violence victim who’s fleeing from an abusive home? There’s so many categories that homeless people fall into. When we look to address that issue, we’ve got to be aware that not every homeless person has the same issue. That’s why we have to bring in other disciplines and people from a wide range of service providers.

I do believe we have an element of criminal behavior over there. My response to it is, at the moment to designate a homeless liaison officer here to work with the homeless services person in the city planning department. I want to have a point person in the department who is the conduit for issues around homelessness. In fact, I met with somebody yesterday about the Target issue. And next week or the week after I’m gonna dress down and walk the whole area with this person so I can see for myself and not be identified as a cop. I can just go there, have conversations. Just see for myself what’s going on there.

I’m very invested in quality of life issues but I also believe we can’t arrest our way out of crime. We have to look at underlying causes.

EE: You can’t continue to kick the can down the road. I think some people would like that and it might temporarily make things a little better.

JT: Someone else is pushing them our way if we’re pushing them another way. You’ve gotta have another approach. I guess that area has Cal Trans, Oakland, Emeryville. Multi-jurisdictional and several layers of social issues there and criminal issues.

EE: I’m delighted to hear you say if it’s affecting Emeryville than it is our problem. Just saying, “that’s in Oakland”, and pointing your finger is not the answer I personally want to hear. “It’s in their jurisdiction!”. This is not the DMV or the post office, this is policing. I’d like to think you could establish a rapport with the OPD and some of the neighboring administrators to work together. We’ve been neighbors for awhile now, right? [laughter]

JT: It’s complex. It’s not just a police issue. It’s a multi-jurisdictional, multi-agency issue.

EE: There’s been an ongoing issue of harassment in our town by certain individuals. Intimidation of small businesses, bullying residents and voters, cyber bullying, disruption of council meetings. It’s okay to have strong opinions, but I feel like there’s a line that needs to be preserved. It’s my opinion that this behavior discourages engagement and participation in our town. I know there’s a gray area here with the law but I feel a statement needs to be made to say this won’t be tolerated, and nobody can act with impunity. Will you take a stand on this?

JT: I’ll always take a stand on bullying. Bullying is not an acceptable behavior. Whether it becomes a criminal matter is another discussion. Allowing bullying to exist in city government, in our workplaces. Community members need to feel safe. I would encourage people to report instances where they feel unsafe. Bullying and intimidation can lead to other things if it goes unchecked.

We’re certainly not going to tolerate people crossing the line. While it’s not a crime in some cases, we certainly will be keeping an open eye to where it does cross the line and it is a crime. We shouldn’t have citizens who feel intimidated or unsafe. We shouldn’t have business people who feel intimidated or unsafe. My job is to make sure our entire community feels safe and enjoys where they work, where they live, where they play. Be free from intimidation, harassment, and bullying.

I encourage people to call us if there are incidents that require our presence in order to keep the peace.

EE: Two of the council members effectively came out and said the same thing. “it might not be illegal but it’s not something I can condone”. I think that dialog should also come from the police to remind people that there is a line and if you cross it we’re gonna be there.

JT: You cannot cross that line.

EE: Chief James was pretty outspoken about gun control. It was something that he clearly had an opinion on. Have you thought of anything you’d like to make the hallmark of your administration? This is only your first month here so you’ve got some time to decide.

JT: I’m not entirely new to the issue of legislating things in the interest of public safety. I serve on the California police Chiefs law and legislative committee, and I’m the incoming chair of that committee. Chief James was also on a committee, the firearms committee for the California police Chief s association. In the course of my work on that committee, I’ve been very fortunate to have an opportunity to interact with Nancy Skinner and Lonnie Hancock.

Look at legislation in other areas. I was involved in prop 47, and spoke on behalf of Cal Chiefs in opposition to that. It’s a whole another conversation we can have. Speaking about the unintended consequences of that, and also on AB-109. I’ve been in that arena for a while. What I feel passionately about is that when you ask me where is my attention right now in the bigger picture.

It’s two areas. One is that we need to make sure that we have local funding to address the quality of life issues. The crime rate. Rather than have funding go to the county or to some state agency. We need to have local control of funding. In other words, it should go to municipalities to deal with the issues within that municipality. Police Chief s know what’s going on in their communities. They know what the issues are, what they need to address those issues.

When money is funneled down through the county offices, municipalities don’t always see it. One of the areas of concern for me moving forward is that we put pressure on the legislators to make sure that funding goes to the municipalities for issues that we know exist.

EE: Instead of it going through Sacramento and waiting for it to “trickle down” to the local level?

JT: By the time it trickles down, we don’t see it. There’s no impact on the community. An example is the extra dollar on vehicle registration fee. Where did that go? I haven’t seen a reduction in car thefts. I think it mostly went into task force money. The other area is keeping an eye on legislation to make sure that we don’t lose local control. That’s hugely important for issues like massage parlors, alcohol licensing, gun licensing, whatever.

We need to make sure that we have local control, so the Emeryville community has the ability to have standards, within how things are legislated, that affect their community. What their community standards are. So the legislation reflects what Emeryville wants, not what somebody else decides might be good for us. Let us have local control over things like marijuana, massage parlors, alcohol licensing, gun licensing, all of that.

That’s another area I pay attention to. The third area speaks to my passion around helping people, for lack of a better. It does sound corny. I do like to help people, that’s why I’m in this business. How we address drug abuse, currently is by criminalizing it. Drug abuse is an addiction. An addiction is a health issue. By addressing drug addiction as a criminal issue, we are not making any impact on the incidence of drug addiction.

It’s a revolving door. With alcohol consumption, we decriminalized that in the penal code with 647-G, which requires a law enforcement agency to take people under the influence of alcohol to a detox center if one is available in their county. Working with Lonnie Hancock, Cal Chief s is looking at ways to decriminalize drug abuse and treat it as a health issue so that someone who is contacted by a police officer, and is under the influence of drugs. Nothing else exists, there’s no other serious crime.

We can take them to a facility where they can get the help they need to get off the drugs. With prop 47, less and fewer people are going through the court system. Where once the court system would mandate you who’s been arrested for drug related offense, you need to go into treatment. Because they’re not going through the court system, that’s not happening. There are several models of that sort of response to drug abuse.

Portland is doing it. It’s more of a collaborative effort between mental health workers and law enforcement and other social service providers. I really feel like that’s how we are going to make a change in the incidence of drug abuse in this country.

EE: And hopefully on our prison population. Are there any metrics that you’ll look at to gauge your ultimate effectiveness and impact in your tenure as Emeryville Chief of police? However long it is, it could be five years, it could be 20 years like Chief James. How are you ultimately going to step back and say “I did a good job”. What is your metric?

JT: Ultimately it’s community satisfaction. It comes down to, did we meet the community’s expectations. I would hope our rating is very high, and I want it to be higher than 85%. I want to have a professional work force. I want people to feel pride in Emeryville police department. To feel that we’re the fabric of the community. Before I left Sausalito people were quite upset that I was leaving. I got several emails and notes and phone calls.

That made me feel proud. Because they said the police department was more accessible, the officers were more professional. They felt safe, that the doors had been opened up and all of these positive things. So the community rating was incredibly high. That’s what I want. I want this community to feel safe and like we meet the expectation of service.

EE: Improving on 85% is gonna be tough. We know that.

JT: In this climate, it’s going to be insanely tough.

EE: So is there anything you’d like to say to the workers, visitors, and residents of Emeryville on how we can work together to make Emeryville a safer place?

JT: Four words. See something, say something. I would also say be our friend and our neighbor. Invite us over. If there’s a meeting in your neighborhood, invite us in. If you want to come and have a cup of coffee, call up and say. I’ll make myself as available as I can to people. Help us help you by communicating with us. I can only improve and understand the issues, then improve if I know what they are. I depend on the community to tell me what their experience is.

EE: Thanks again Chief Jennifer Tejada for agreeing to this interview. We’re really optimistic and feel fortunate to have you as our new police Chief.

JT: Thank You.

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Rob Arias

is a third generation Californian and East Bay native who lived in Emeryville from 2003 to 2021. Rob founded The E'ville Eye in 2011 after being robbed at gunpoint and lamenting the lack of local news coverage. Rob's "day job" is as a creative professional.


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