Mayor Libby Schaaf Announces Venus D. Johnson as Director of Public Safety
Oakland, CA — Mayor Libby Schaaf today announced the appointment of Venus D. Johnson as Director of Public Safety. Ms. Johnson will lead the coordinated effort to break cycles of violence in Oakland through effective crime prevention coupled with smart and principled policing. Ms. Johnson begins in her new role on January 9, 2017.
Most recently, Ms. Johnson served as a senior legal and policy advisor to former California Attorney General Kamala D. Harris in her role as the Associate Attorney General in the California Department of Justice. She joined that office in 2014 as a Deputy Attorney General and California State Legislative Advocate, representing the Department of Justice on legislative matters before the State Legislature. Ms. Johnson was appointed by former Attorney General Harris in 2013 as a member of the California Commission on Access to Justice, which is tasked with developing solutions to improve access to civil justice for low and moderate income Californians.
“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 as deep roots in communities across Oakland,” said Mayor Libby Schaaf. “Like me, Venus is an Oakland native who understands the incredible diversity of our neighborhoods and our city and I am proud to have her join our team.”
A former Alameda County prosecutor with a history of fighting for the rights of crime victims and a track record for implementing innovative efforts to reduce recidivism and address the root causes of crime and violence, Ms. Johnson will lead and implement the Mayor’s Comprehensive Community Safety Plan, acting as liaison for the mayor with all City agencies and relevant County, State, and Federal agencies, the Oakland Unified School District, neighborhood safety councils, non-profit organizations, and other community groups investing in improving community policing.
The Cabinet-level position is a key appointment for Mayor Schaaf as part of her commitment to a holistic public safety approach for Oakland, and Ms. Johnson is the first Public Safety Director to be appointed in the Schaaf administration.
Leading the implementation of Mayor Schaaf’s Comprehensive Community Safety Plan, Ms. Johnson will work to support the police department as it continues to build trust and actively engage with Oakland’s diverse communities. Strategies include rebuilding police and civilian staffing and early intervention educational programs to reach youth, as well as transitional and employment programs for ex-offenders.
Ms. Johnson began her legal career as a prosecutor in the Alameda County District Attorney's Office in January of 2006. She spent eight years as a deputy district attorney prosecuting a wide variety of cases – including robbery, rape, residential burglary, assault with a firearm, and a special circumstance double murder case. She also served as a member of the Child Sexual Assault Unit. Later, she was assigned to the Strike Team, a two-person team charged with handling Oakland’s most violent and repeat offenders, in addition to being a member of her office’s Officer Involved Shooting Team.
Prior to her departure from the office, Ms. Johnson served as a member of the DNA Cold Case Unit, a two-person unit responsible for investigating and taking forward to trial unsolved homicide and sexual assault cases with the use of modern DNA technology. The unit was also tasked with specifically working with the law enforcement agencies throughout Alameda County to reduce the backlog of untested sexual assault kits.
Ms. Johnson earned her bachelor’s degree in Political Science from Loyola Marymount University, and her law degree from the University of the Pacific, McGeorge School of Law. Ms. Johnson previously served as a member of the Board of Directors for Holy Names High School in Oakland, and as a past president of the Charles Houston Bar Association.
“It feels good to be home,” said Ms. Johnson. “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.”
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Erica Terry Derryck