Statement from CPA on Recent Firing
Oakland Police Commission Fires the Chief
Passage of Measure LL in 2016 with an 83% support of Oakland residents, resulted in creation of one of the most powerful police oversight bodies in the US. Since its inception, Oakland’s Police Commission has had a profound positive impact on increasing transparency and accountability within the Oakland Police Department (OPD).
Among its notable accomplishments is a revision of the ‘stop and search’ policy that requires evidence of criminal activity-not just the probation/parole status of the driver-which had often resulted in harassment of law abiding residents. And remarkably, the Commission disagreed with the Police Chief’s findings and fired four officers involved in the police officer involved shooting of Mr. Joshua Pawlik who was found asleep in an alley and aroused, only to be killed by OPD’s use of lethal force.
However, it is the Police Commission’s most recent action of terminating Chief Kirkpatrick that has focused a bright light on the commission’s crucial role in holding the City of Oakland accountable for its failure to bring OPD into compliance with the terms of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) that went into effect over 17 years ago. In fact, when questioned by Judge Orrick about the set-backs in compliance, and asked about her greatest challenge, she responded that is was, “the narrative!”
Those who question the reason for the firing should know that, had the Commission taken this action, the ‘cause’ would have had to be publicly disclosed. But because the Mayor joined (she has the ability to fire at will) and declared the firing as not “for cause” it allows her to conceal the failures of the Chief’s leadership.
During her tenure, it became abundantly clear that Chief Kirkpatrick was unable to correct OPD’s deficiencies which have prolonged federal oversight for so long. In fact, OPD’s own Inspector General’s report cited numerous problems-and the plaintiffs’ attorneys-Burris and Chanin have issued repeated citations of the failures of Kirkpatrick’s leadership.
Unfortunately, the Oakland Police Officers’ Association (OPOA) President, Sgt. Barry Donelan’s claim that OPD is “lauded for professionalism and innovation outside of Oakland”, ignores the fact that OPD is the only police department in the country that has remained under federal oversight for 17 years.
But, instead of embracing the need to complete the NSA tasks, he continues to deflect responsibility for problems to the elected City leaders, in effect disputing voters’ awareness, judgment, and intelligence. Mr. Donelan should consider attending Police Commission meetings to gain a firsthand knowledge of the concerns expressed by the people of Oakland and work closely with City Council to formulate viable, enduring, and measurable steps to end OPD’s racially biased practices and bring NSA to a rapid end.
The Coalition for Police Accountability (CPA), working with City Council members, will offer a ballot measure in November to ensure that the Police Commission has independent legal counsel as well as staff that reports to them, not the city administrator.
This body needs the resources it has been denied thus far to carry out its duties and ensure that OPD, whose expenses represent nearly half of the City’s general fund, begins to practice equitable and constitutional policing that utilizes current best practices and earns the trust of all of Oakland’s residents.
Heading Photo: Carlos Avila Gonzalez / The Chronicle 2019