My old friend, Phil Matier of the San Francisco Chronicle duo Matier & Ross, well-known purveyors of political gossip, recently penned a Trumpian piece of xenophobic spin against the city of Oakland’s recruitment effort for the new Police Commission. They signaled their law-and-order point of view by using an ancient and ugly right-out-of-the-Jeff-Sessions-playbook term for the formerly incarcerated, calling those applicants “ex-cons.” Millennials in SF who still read the Chronicle (??) were probably running to their “terms your cranky old Republican uncle would use dictionary” to define “ex-con” for them.
The reason to slander those once convicted, now rehabilitated, paid-their-debt-to-society folks, is that the city charter change which calls for setting up this new, independent model of police accountability will include these community representatives as impaneled members of the future Commission if they apply.
Here in California unlike many Jim Crow states, the formerly incarcerated, rehabilitated members of our community have another name that of–citizens and voters–as opposed to some pejorative term marking them as a permanent underclass. The M&R column, hewing as it does to that terminology, is right out of the Richard Nixon-Lee Atwater playbook. Yeah, you’re gonna have to google that one too or just ask your cranky old Republican uncle.
Oakland is one of the cities with a “ban the box” policy which “by removing the conviction history question on job applications and delaying background check inquiries until later in the hiring, ” according to the National Employment Law Project prevents the stigma of having been incarcerated from discouraging applicants who may still be qualified-so it is no surprise that Oakland would also seek a diverse panel to oversee our troubled police department.
Contrary to Matier’s report on KPIX, no “ex-cons” will be hired as this is a volunteer position requiring many hours of unpaid duties for the work of the commissioners. The solid reasoning for including these Oaklanders is that they are the people who live in the communities most impacted by how police do their jobs.
Eighty-three percent of Oakland voters decided that OPD needed a lot more oversight. These voters felt it was about time someone besides the police officers’ association, as in so many previous decades, would be doing the overseeing. Apparently Matier & Ross have a problem with that or they wouldn’t be working so hard to skew how the Commission is viewed before it is even seated.
There’s not the space here [nor the patience]to go into the structure of our criminal justice system and how biased it is from “stop and frisk” to plea bargaining the innocent out of a jury trial to unfair sentencing for poor, especially Black and Brown people. I should not have to tell this to anyone who writes for the West Coast paper of record but there you go, the alt-right seems to have seeped in with the fog.
As to the reason that former Oakland officers should not be on the panel–OPD like any paramilitary organization is, probably for good reason, very closely knit. It is rare that an officer will turn in another officer for doing a poor job or even becoming a danger to the community, but former officers from other forces who, presumably, have less personal relationships with current Oakland staff can apply to the Commission.
As to promoting the particular point of view of Barry Donelan, president of the local police association, well, Barry’s doing his job, whose job is Phil doing?
Listen to John Jones, a member of the Commission Selection Panel, the folks who will ultimately chose four of the seven Commissioners. He is an advocate for a just Oakland and a representative of what second chances can mean to the Oakland community- https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/dynamo-for-justicejohn-jones-iii/Content?oid=4932842 , “I like to see myself as Oakland, the unglamorous side…….A drop out. Someone who was incarcerated. But no matter who you are, what mistakes you have made, we have the responsibility and duty to ourselves, our families, and community to be the change we seek.”