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TALES OF THE TOWN: Part 25

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The Detective and the Councilmember

OPD Detective Roosevelt Wilson Brown—Rosey—and Oakland City Councilmember Devon Camber met for drinks at the Five10 bar, on Fifteenth Street, just a few blocks from City Hall. Rosey was not in a good mood: the Oakland Police Department was under fire from the city’s liberals—again—for an alleged instance of “police brutality”; a young man, armed and resisting arrest, had been shot and killed. Nor was the Councilmember himself all that happy. He was finding himself increasingly frustrated by the Council’s chronic infighting; Oakland politics was proving a difficult game for the ambitious Devon to master. No matter what he said or did, he managed to find himself the object of criticism and scorn, usually from people he found contemptible. He wasn’t used to it; it didn’t fit into his playbook.

They both arrived at the bar on time, found a little table near the pinball machines, and ordered their drinks: a beer for the detective, a glass of red wine for Camber.

“Well, you asked for this meeting, so why don’t you tell me what’s on your mind,” Rosey began. The Councilmember replied, “I understand Chief Kirkpatrick put you in charge of the Homeless Killings case.”

“That’s correct.”

“I have a particular interest in that,” Camber continued. “As you may know, I made homelessness a central issue in my campaign. I promised the voters I would reduce the number of homeless people in Oakland. The people who voted for me expect me to act, and act fast, in that regard. But I’m afraid these killings are disrupting the process. The Council is extremely upset; neighborhood groups, like the Coalition to Shelter the Unhoused, are raising Cain to find the killer, even while they’re demanding the City reduce OPD’s budget and repurpose it for homeless services. It’s a mess. Four of the bodies were found in my district. Nobody, from the Mayor on down, is willing at this point to talk about more funding. Things are only going to get worse, if there are additional murders.”

“And what is it you want from me, Councilmember?”

“I want to know how the case is coming along. Are you doing everything you can? Do you have suspects? Evidence? A profile? How many cops do you have on the case? Can we expect indictments?”

“Councilmember Camber—”

“Call me Devon.”

“Very well. Devon, let me explain how these things work. At this point in the investigation, our work is confidential. I could no more share details with you than I would with a newspaper reporter.”

“I’m not a newspaper reporter, I’m an elected official of the City of Oakland. I should think that entitles me to more information than you’d give to the media.”

“Actually, Councilmember—err, Devon, you’re probably entitled to less. The press has Constitutional rights under our system of law, whereas elected officials are proscribed by statute and law from interfering in the activities of law enforcement agencies.”

“How the hell am I interfering?” Devon was getting hot under the collar. They hadn’t been together for fifteen minutes and already they were  butting heads. “I’m just asking you to bring me up to date, so that when I have conversations about the case with my constituents and other interest groups, I can know what the hell I’m talking about.”

Rosey realized he’d perhaps been a bit too officious with this newby politician. “All right, Devon, I can share a little. But please don’t push me. We have no suspects at this point. We have no profile, except that serial killers are usually white men; they almost always do their work alone. We have precious little evidence. I have four officers working fulltime on the case; I’ve asked the Chief for three more, and she’s asked the Mayor in turn for additional funding. But Schaaf so far isn’t complying, and I seriously doubt if she will.”

Devon took in this sour news with evident disappointment. “I know this isn’t what you wanted to hear,” Rosey added. “But keep in mind, this is still a young investigation. These things can take months, even years; look at the Zodiac killings in San Francisco. Fifty years later, it’s still an open case.”

“Fifty years!” Devon spat out the words. “So in other words, you’re telling me you’ve gotten precisely nowhere, and the murders may continue.”

“I’m afraid that’s true, Devon. Sometimes, serial killers go on hiatus, for a variety of reasons, mainly because they start feeling the heat. Sometimes they don’t. We have no way of knowing.” At that instant, Rosey’s phone began pinging. “Excuse me,” he said, picking up the device. Camber listened in on the one-way conversation, which was brief. “Yeah. Where? What time? Anything else? Okay, thanks, on my way.”

Rosey put the phone back into his pocket. “You’ll have to excuse me, Devon. They found another body. Twelfth and Webster, behind a dumpster.” The latest crime scene once again was in Camber’s district. Moreover, it occurred only blocks from his apartment.


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