Venus Johnson named Oakland public safety director

On the first business day of her third year in office, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf announced Tuesday¬†that she has appointed former prosecutor and legislative analyst Venus Johnson to be the city’s public safety director.

Schaaf’s office said in a statement that Johnson, who will begin her new role next Monday:

“… will lead the coordinated effort to break cycles of violence in Oakland through effective crime prevention coupled with smart and principled policing.”

Schaaf’s predecessors as mayor, Ron Dellums and Jean Quan, had public safety directors or analysts but Johnson is the first public safety director to be appointed in Schaaf’s administration.

The mayor said the post is a “cabinet-level position” and is part of her “commitment to a holistic public safety approach for Oakland.”

Schaaf said in a statement:

“Venus has been one of Oakland’s finest champions in the legal and public safety community. She brings significant experience with law enforcement at the local and state level, as well having deep roots in communities across Oakland.”

Johnson began her legal career as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney’s Office in January 2006 and spent eight years prosecuting a variety of cases, including robbery, rape, residential burglary, assault with a firearm, and a special circumstance double-murder case.

Johnson also served on the office’s child sexual assault unit and its strike team, a two-person unit that handles Oakland’s most violent and repeat offenders, and its officer-involved shooting team.

More recently, Johnson served as a senior legal and policy advisor to former California Attorney General Kamala Harris, holding the title of an associate attorney general and representing the Department of Justice on legislative matters.

Harris had previously been appointed by Harris to be a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice, which develops solutions to improve access to civil justice for low- and moderate-income people.

Schaaf said Johnson will lead the implementation of her Comprehensive Community Safety Plan and support the Police Department “as it continues to build trust and actively engage with Oakland’s diverse communities.”

Schaaf said strategies include rebuilding police and civilian staffing, early-intervention educational programs to reach youths and having transitional and employment programs for ex-offenders.

Johnson said in a statement:

“As an Oakland native, I share the same vision as the citizens of Oakland to live and work in safe communities. … I am honored to serve my city at this critical time.”