Harassment of Police Commissioners–Another Form of Obstruction
December 1, 2019
Oakland, CA. The Coaltion for Police Accountability which campaigned for and won citizen approval for independent police oversight three years ago and fourteen years into a Negotiated Settlement Agreement–federally mandating changes on how the notorious department is run–has notified the city administration that further interference with the volunteer run Police Commission will not be tolerated.
In this recent incident, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick mishandled an anonymous complaint made against Commissioner Ginale Harris, outspoken critic of OPD and this chief, by passing it onto city administrators, the city attorney and the commission chair, among others. Any complaint of this type falls under the jurisdiction of the Public Ethics Commission.
Rashidah Grinage, chair of the CPA, said of the effect on citizen volunteers, “As one Commissioner put it: “Regardless of the source of the attack, an unwarranted and/or unjust attack on a Commissioner can only be viewed as both an attempt to improperly influence that Commissioner or the Commission in carrying out his/her/its duties, and to weaken the Commission as a whole.”
The Coaltion has issued this statement and forwarded it to the Mayor, City Administrator, City Attorney, Police Chief, City Council members and all of the Police Commissioners-
Oakland City Officials’ Ongoing Campaign to Harass Police Commissioner
Once again, Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick has acted improperly by mishandling a complaint against a member of the independent Oakland Police Commission, which oversees Kirkpatrick. Kirkpatrick’s unprofessional conduct is not inconsequential. As a result of her action, Oakland residents will hesitate to apply to be Police Commissioners if they expect to be targeted—especially if they are members of communities already targeted by police.
The chief has been instructed previously that complaints about the Police Commission are under the jurisdiction of the Public Ethics Commission. It is important that such investigations are done by an external body so that the public can trust the integrity of the process. But instead of just contacting the Ethics Commission, Kirkpatrick chose to notify the city administration, the city attorney, Police Commission Chair Regina Jackson, and possibly others, about an anonymous complaint against Police Commission Vice-Chair Ginale Harris that came from an unknown member of the San Francisco Police Department.
It is worth noting that prior attempts to harass Vice-Chair Harris, an outspoken critic of OPD, have resulted in complaints that were investigated by the Ethics Commission and found to be without merit.
This is part of a larger pattern of attempting to undermine the independence and resources of the Police Commission. It appears that the forces opposed to independent oversight of OPD will exploit every opportunity, regardless of how unethical or inappropriate, to undermine the commission by discrediting its volunteer members.
This behavior is anti-democratic. The residents of Oakland could not have been clearer when they voted in favor of police oversight (Measure LL by 83%) that they are tired of rogue policing, which wastes city resources and makes us less safe. The OPD, the city attorney, and the city administration have blocked the mandated independence and resources of the Police Commission. With nothing but superficial support of the Police Commission, Mayor Schaaf has failed to acknowledge her authority over the city administration and refused to accept responsibility for city administration’s failures.
Chief Kirkpatrick’s latest actions demonstrate why OPD remains under federal oversight after 17 years and further validates the needs for oversight by the Police Commission. Sadly, Chief Kirkpatrick appears to be more interested in self-preservation and ”changing the narrative” than creating a racially equitable police force and building community trust.
At future commission meetings, when OPD reports they have not made progress on matters about which they have been asked repeatedly, Oakland residents will understand that instead of making meaningful and necessary reforms, Chief Kirkpatrick is more focused on discrediting those who criticize her shortcomings than on demonstrating leadership.