Setback to Ending the NSA
On the very same day that a federal judge reinstated three of the tasks that the Oakland Police Department was supposed to have completed as part of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement [NSA] now in its 15th year, the outgoing city council including two lame duck members (the third Desley Brooks was absent) performed a sleight-of-hand vote to re-up the existing city contract [MOU] with the police officers’ union. In other words, though this administration appears to be moving backwards in solving the problems that landed the troubled department in costly federal oversight, the police officers and their commanders were rewarded with a package of pay raises, and more importantly, the ratification of the existing “customs and procedures” at a department that cannot pull itself out of federal oversight.
Calling all Police Commissioner, eh, Nevermind
How ironic that the two council members most responsible for placing Measure LL (citizen oversight-Police Commission) on the ballot, Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo both voted for the new and unimproved MOU without questioning the timing much less the administration’s by-passing of the Police Commission, even to a simple notification of ongoing negotiations. To be precise, it was a complete FU to the concept of oversight and to the commissioners who continue to toil towards it with little city support.
In fact the Coalition for Police Accountability, the group of folks who brought Measure LL to city officials and ran a grassroots campaign which garnered 83% of the vote, have been asking city officials when contract negotiations would begin–because of the number of items in that document which continue to hobble police reform efforts. But they had been stonewalled as to whether negotiations had even begun.
At the council meeting in which the city attempted to slip through this complex agreement, Dan Kalb stated that the Coalition had the mis-impression that the Commission could be involved in contract negotiations. Well yes and no, that statement kind’ve missed the point that many community members were hoping to look those at “customs and procedures” in hopes of amending those most resistant to making police reform possible.
So while the Commission was not granted the ability to be involved in actual labor negotiations, they were given the responsibility of overseeing the policies and procedures that govern how the department treats the community and in fact, this article in Measure LL does seem to imply some engagement with the Commission,
“7. Review the Mayor’s proposed budget to determine whether budgetary allocations for the Department are aligned with the Department’s policies, procedures, customs, and General Orders. The Commission shall conduct at least one public hearing on the Department budget per budget cycle and shall forward to the City Council any recommendations for change.”
Lame Duck Council Rushes to Shore up Police Agreement
That leads us back again to what was the hurry? As activist and council watcher, Tonya Love, retweeted “1. Why is it happening outside the budget process? 2. Why is it happening b4 (swearing in of) new council? 3. Why 7 months b4 previous MOU expires? 4. Why is the Chief who covered for bad officers getting a raise?” Those are some of the questions posed by members of APTP that we didn’t get answered.
Or as Rashidah Grinage, the doyenne of police reform in Oakland, noted, “The real issue is why the rush – why the desperate need to approve before the new Council members were able to engage? And despite the fact that the Commission has no ‘jurisdiction,’ [as described by the city attorney] neither is there in Measure LL any prohibition for the Commission’s being able to weigh in – particularly on the non-financial aspects of the MOU and the ones that do directly impact the ‘policies and practices’ of OPD, a matter which is within their purview.”
Discussion of which policies are-according to city practice-subject to “meet and confer” even when they don’t impact working conditions or pay-these have been problematic since the Measure has passed and almost prevented it from going on the ballot as in fact that prolonged meet and confer process recently succeeded in keeping a Berkeley measure off the ballot. It seems it’s less a matter of being compliant to what the police department wants and more about retaining the power of a given city administration.
If the city felt it had to take this deal which reportedly will eventually result in large savings to the city, there was 1) no reason not to wait until the new council was seated which would surely be interested in the “savings” and 2) absolutely no reason to reject any input, even a cursory acknowledgement of a “successful” negotiation, to the Commission. A little show of respect, even a tiny one, goes a long way.
Fire Fighters Still Waiting for a Contract
So, if these savings are so important why is Local 55 the fire fighters union still working-for over a year-without a contract, and while it was willing to give similar concessions, functioning without a raise for the last 3 years? If there is a city department that is beloved by its residents, the Fire Department is it. Their members noted and here I agree, that police officers deserve good pay-there are other departments to work for in less high crime municipalities- so then so do fire fighters.
In fact as to workforce remuneration, if you want a quality workforce, you need to pay for it. Conversely, if they work in a troubled department in which deep reform has been commanded, the last thing residents want is to let that department continue to operate as business-as-usual.
So why the rush and what did OPOA get in return for giving up some benefits ( I understand it to be for future hires anyway). It seems obvious that an early and decidedly slippery agreement process gave them a lot. As OPOA-friendly council members Guillen and Washington leave and new grassroots CMs are seated, they have now locked in business-as-usual in terms of their old and oft disastrous “customs and procedures” which the new more progressive council might have wanted to study. Jimminy Cricket (not my actual expression) they might’ve wanted to ask what the Commission thought about the old ways of doing things and whether they could be improved.
Those options are gone now for the forseeable future (5 years) and as of today, one of the results of this dire lack of support by the current administration, even to hiring basic staff after one year in operation, is that one of the most progressive and knowledgeable commissioners Andrea Dooley has resigned due to frustration with the many difficulties the Commission has encountered in just getting set up. https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2018/11/29/oakland-police-commissioner-resigns-calling-the-oversight-boards-first-year-a-squandered-opportunity
And beyond that may I remind readers once again that the court overseer has commanded the city to go back and redo some of the tasks required to end the NSA, 15 years with no end in sight! https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2018/11/28/federal-judge-faults-oakland-police-for-not-complying-with-key-reforms
I hope that other commissions are getting better treatment and encountering fewer roadblocks than the Police Commission. I can’t even imagine the Planning Commission being ignored when major projects are proposed but who knows? We have other voter mandated commissions which have encountered problems. Let’s talk to some of them-Sugar Sweetened Beverage Community Advisory Board, Oakland Youth Advisory Board (we still have that? When my daughter was a commissioner they were invited to run a council meeting once a year, wha happened?), Library Commission-how ya doing folks?
Maybe the new council could ask some of these boards to let the CMs know if they are getting the needed support and a modicum of respect. Hmmm, boards and commissions working together to demand respect and support, a novel idea?