As head of the New York City Police Department”s intelligence division, Daniel Oates protected Bill Clinton, Yassar Arafat, Ehud Barak and Fidel Castro.
But Oates, who accepted the job as Ann Arbor”s chief of police in August, said he doesn”t think this Midwestern town is too different from New York.
“Diversity, tolerance, cosmopolitan view of the world. in many ways this place has a feel much like where I came from,” he said yesterday. “There are parts of the country where there might have been a police chief”s job that fit all the other criteria, but didn”t feel like home the way this place does.”
Oates said he made the move for his family, signing a five-year contract.
“I have two young children and I found that I wasn”t spending enough time with them,” he said. “I really want to be a good parent, and I can work as hard as I did in New York.”
Oates pointed out that during his 21 years with the NYPD, he worked in an area with more than 30 public and private colleges and universities. He said his experience in New York will help him interact with the University of Michigan community.
“This university is very special. It makes Ann Arbor a cultural center,” he said.
Working in a college town isn”t the only challenge Oates faces. The department has been without a permanent head since former chief Carl Ent resigned more than a year ago, and a recent 10 percent staff cut will leave Oates with fewer officers.
“There were some obvious leadership issues here and with the awkward departure of the former chief and the interim,” he said. “This was a place that really could use some organizational change and a change in leadership.”
The community policing division which included police substations around the city was eliminated because of the staff cuts.
But Oates said the substations weren”t essential to maintaining good relations.
“Community policing isn”t a program. It”s a way of policing that focuses on building partnerships between the police and the community,” he said. “The real important thing is to have a department that is so in touch with the community, and so aware of its obligations to provide service, and knows that the best way to provide service is to build trust in the community and develop dialogue. That”s what community policing is.”
Oates hopes to have business leaders, civic leaders and elected officials contribute to problem solving processes. He said his plans also include hiring direct liaisons to the community and a community council of concerned citizens to interact with and advise the police.
“I can”t do all the follow-up that has to be done, he said. “And there”s very pointed and specific follow-up that has to be done to do this job right.”
Oates said he planned on becoming a journalist after graduating from Bucknell University. A job at the Atlantic City Press in New Jersey was interrupted by a move with his wife to Manhattan, where Oates took up a publishing job.
“I wanted to be a writer, I wanted to be a reporter, but I couldn”t crack the New York market,” he said. “I had a tough time as the New York papers seemed to want someone with a journalism degree, which I didn”t have and then I was torn with the idea of going to law school.”
After enrolling in law school, Oates heard an advertisement on the radio for open positions with the NYPD.
“I was 24 years old and never ever thought of being a police officer,” he said. ” I took a test on a whim, and they kept calling me back. I became more intrigued with the idea.”
He made a “quick rise to the executive ranks,” which he attributed to the law degree he earned by attending night school.
“I found that I enjoyed the law and I also found that was particularly good at applying my law degree to police work,” Oates said. “I developed quite a reputation for myself as a good lawyer. So when I reached the rank of captain I had all kinds of opportunity open to me.”