Newly appointed Oakland Police Chief John Peek has seen and experienced a lot in his law enforcement career. At times, he said, law enforcement could feel “like shoveling back the ocean, not making a dent.”
But that’s not the case in Oakland.
“Because Oakland is small, we can actually see the difference we are making,” said Chief Peek. “As opposed to my previous experiences, here in Oakland, you are able to see the positive effects and it is very self-satisfying.”
Chief Peek rose through the ranks in operational assignments. He is a cop’s cop. He retired from the Apopka Police Department with nearly 20 years-experience, wearing as many hats as one could wear in law enforcement: Patrol, undercover vice, narcotics, special investigations, detective, and night watch commander, just to name a few.
When he began his second career as a reserve officer in Oakland in 2006, Peek trained their department’s new detective and assisted in various investigations. Peek soon left to serve as a Police Advisor for the U.S. Army in Iraq, where he helped form and train law enforcement agencies in the war-torn country.
When he returned to Oakland in 2008 – a world away from Iraq in just about every way – he worked his way up from the rank of detective and eventually to Deputy Chief under then-Chief Steven Thomas – whom he calls a mentor.
After nine years of service to the Oakland community and more than 40 years in law enforcement, Chief Thomas retired from the Department on Jan. 3, and Chief Peek took the reins on Jan. 4.
“Chief Thomas stabilized the agency at a time we needed structure and leadership,” said Peek of Thomas.
Under the Department’s leadership, and with support from the Commission and Town Manager, the Oakland Police Department has focused heavily on professional development, equipment upgrades and community policing in recent years.
Oakland residents can sleep easier knowing their officers are now better trained than ever. Chief Peek points to a white board in his office, which names various schools of training he expects each officer to complete: this includes instructor techniques, interview and interrogation, field training officer class, supervisor training, and crisis intervention which deals with de-escalation tactics.
Professional development and more direct community involvement, Chief Peek says, is a top priority of his.
“I am proud of the department we have now,” said Chief Peek. “It’s the best group of men and women I’ve ever worked with. The community support is the best I’ve ever seen.”
He also notes that technology continues to improve for the Department, assisting officers to more efficiently do their jobs. One example is a new traffic trailer that will be rolled out in the coming weeks. The trailer will be used to educate residents about speed limits and can also read license plates, which will be particularly helpful in recovering victims of Silver or Amber Alerts, as well as stolen vehicles.
“As the Town of Oakland grows, we will continue to look for better tools to make our community safer,” he said.