Tell the Oakland City Council-Time for a Fair Contract!

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Oakland City workers are headed into a 5th day of a strike for a fair contract; a contract that includes wages that keep up with the cost of living and working conditions that don’t threaten their health. The city acknowledges its revenues have gone up and that these workers gave back and lost considerable ground during the Great Recession but claims it can only afford small wage increases at this time. Where did the increased revenues go?

How did the Police Department Budget Grow so Fast?

Beyond three new departments with well paid directors under this mayor plus a plumped up staff in her office, last December the council voted, with the exception of Brooks and Kaplan, to accept a grant from the Obama led DOJ for a little less than $2 million which in turn required the city to commit more than $10 million in taxpayer funds-outside of the 2 year budget process. Add that to OPD’s unauthorized overtime costs and we can see how easily increased revenues disappear before the average city worker’s needs are even considered.

But there are more issues being discussed than just pay and in fact, the city and the unions had agreed to wage increases in the first year of the contract. However, the city made second year wages dependent on revenues, which may seem reasonable until you account for the administration’s, like all administrations, ability to hide revenues or to slide them under the table to the police department.

Beyond Wages

The unions have been in negotiations for 8 months without a serious contract offer, there’s been a spike since the Great Recession in maintaining employees permanently as temporary part time workers, and that working conditions have deteriorated in understaffed departments with massive new demands such as attending to homeless encampments and the health and safety risks involved. These all add up.

But the biggie is the attitude of this administration despite the face that Oakland “cheer leaders” show outside the negotiating room. When the mayor declares that your walkout is illegal, “She said the city would file a labor complaint if workers walk off the job. But leaders for Service Employees International Union Local 1021 dismissed Schaaf’s concerns.

“The mayor is incorrect,” said Rob Szykowny, Local 1021’s chief negotiator. “It’s an unfair labor practices strike, which is lawful, protected activity.”   http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Labor-negotiations-end-Oakland-workers-prepare-12404995.php

When the poorest workers like Head Start employees, many of whom have had to move out of Oakland to afford rent, were moved to strike weeks before Christmas in hopes of pushing the city to see the seriousness of the their situation, should the city response be to increase the distrust?

Negotiation in Good Faith?

Last Wednesday when the city council met in closed session to consider the union’s proposal, it was hoped that a settlement would be reached that day but the council was split and the strike entered a 3rd day.  When on Thursday afternoon the mayor offered her “last best final offer” which included a “slight tweak” from the previous offer, the unions had expected that negotiations would continue into the night as so often happens in these dire situations-but that’s not what happened.

According to Kimberly Veklerov at the Chronicle, “Union leaders said they were working on crafting a counteroffer late Thursday. They asked the city’s negotiators to stay on call through the evening.

“We actually thought they were going to come in and we were going to talk all night if necessary to reach a compromise, and they just gave us the end,” Szykowny said. “It seems the city has just decided to be intransigent and try to beat the union down, and that is not going to happen.”

Mayor Libby Schaaf seemed to dismiss the union’s counteroffer, saying just before 10 p.m. the city would accept nothing less than a yes.” http://www.sfgate.com/bayarea/article/Negotiations-in-Oakland-worker-strike-end-without-12414230.php

As of today, Sunday, December 10th, ” City leaders said they expect the strike to continue Sunday, Monday and “until further notice.” http://sanfrancisco.cbslocal.com/2017/12/09/city-of-oakland-unions-agree-to-mediation-but-strike-continues/

The mayor declared an impasse on Friday morning and threw the city into a deeper divide and long term disaffection between the city and its workers. Although the strike may end sometime next week and a contract will eventually be signed, the attitude of city leadership, the mayor and the city council, shows an inability to bargain well and little interest in what the lowest level employees need to continue to live in and work for the city many grew up in.  20171206_172445

Some council members have been admittedly more interested in coming to agreement, In statements Rebecca Kaplan, Noel Gallo and Desley Brooks have made it clear they are willing to work on solving this fairly. All the other council members have been what one union rep called “squishy.” If you are represented by one of these other council members, call or email them today!

And here I have to get personal. I was one of the committee members who worked with the city council to put a proposal on last year’s ballot establishing a police commission, a body which, ironically, is set to meet for the first time [it was approved by 83% of the voters]on December 13th [if the strike is settled.]

Three of us sat in meeting after meeting with Council Members Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo thrashing out the details of what we all knew was going to be ground breaking legislation. We had almost reached agreement on most of the important items when we got word from the 2 CMs that Mayor Schaaf wanted to change the innovative structure the coalition designed of using a selection committee, picked from the community, to search out commissioners who would then be another step removed from political influence.

We had been warned that she would not agree to putting it on the ballot unless she had one or two direct appointments to the commission which will have the power to implement discipline over our officers. We argued and fought for a less political process and then we got the word, she would accept no less than 3 appointments out of 7 and it was non-negotiable. As you may know, ultimately we had to agree to this change but it left such a sour taste in my mouth, I could barely speak in favor of it at the time.

[Though our coalition victory was huge, we are setting up a committee to “oversee the oversight board” and make sure that the voters who demanded change get what they fought for.] Now, of course, the mayor doesn’t get to write legislation, that’s up to the council but we knew we wouldn’t have the votes we needed if she had objected and she was clear, her point of view was non-negotiable.

A mayor who does not understand that compromise is the essence of the political process is not only not a good politician, she is not really engaged in politics but in dictating terms which she believes are best for the rest of us.  Her demand that “yes,” is the only answer she’ll accept after which the administration discontinues talks is setting up for Armageddon.

We are in for tough times as it is when our federal government is opposed to the well-being of most Californians (and most Americans) but it seems under this administration our city has taken the same tack to its own workers and dirtied, possibly poisoned the waters we have to navigate in for many years to come. 20171206_172337

Oh and by the way, for all those who read this and say, city services are horrible so who cares, prove it to me! I have worked with our public union members as a council aide and as director of a retail district and almost always found them willing to help when presented with a reasonable request. I honor them as sister and brother Oaklanders who care about our city and do what they can to make it better despite being understaffed and disrespected.

Call Your Council Member, Call the Mayor!

Oaklanders, in the spirit of the season, demand that Mayor Schaaf and your council members-you have 2, a district rep and the at-large member-get this settled fairly and do it now! www2.oaklandnet.com

 

 

Notice: New Information–Join our Complaint–No Complicity with ICE in this Sanctuary City

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Breaking: Although the complaint has been removed from next Tuesday’s agenda  by Council Members Annie Campbell Washington and Abel Guillen with no new date, we plan on packing the chambers and speaking during Open Forum. Be sure to sign up for Open Forum and/or item 2, Determination of Scheduling Outstanding items, on the link in the article.

From the Supplemental Meeting Agenda: “The Item Regarding “HSI/ICE Raid In West Oakland On August 16, 2017” Was Moved To The Pending List No Date Specific By The November 9, 2017 Rules And Legislation
Committee.

The situation is untenable for paperless immigrants who live in fear of being ripped from their lives and creates more distrust among Oaklanders when the department issues conflicting or false reports. This cannot and should not have to wait for a lengthy investigation, and until the Police Commission is seated this December, the department will continue to investigate itself.

Let us know if you still wish to join the complaint–the more the merrier politically speaking. You can email pamelaadrake@gmail.com. See you on Tuesday.

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On an August morning I awoke to find that Oakland twitter was freaking out over what many supposed was an ICE raid in West Oakland. It turns out they were right. The DHS, Department of Homeland Security and ICE, Immigration and Customs Enforcement, was in the process of hauling several members of a Guatemalan family out of their homes with the assistance of the Oakland Police Department. One was detained and another was returned to the home, purportedly a male teenager who was in no danger of being trafficked by anyone in that home.

I am a member of a group called the California Sanctuary Campaign. We’ve pushed the city to enact ordinances to prevent the local administration including our police department from becoming complicit in the harassment and removal of  hardworking but paperless residents from the city they call home. The Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission led by attorney Brian Hofer has taken the lead in proposing legislation to protect residents from the predatory folks in DC.

But this particular morning OPD soon sent out a press advisory that they were assisting ICE in detaining suspects in a sex trafficking operation involving youth. So I suspended judgement because I never want to find myself on the wrong side of protecting children, mostly young women, from the horrors of that trade. I trusted the OPD’s Media Relations folks not to lie on something this important, even given that they have done this many times before. See the Celeste Guap case, etc. http://reason.com/blog/2017/07/13/oakland-police-corruption-comes-out

Here is what has been documented so far on  the issue of youth sex trafficking — “But there is no evidence that the raid was conducted pursuant to any sex trafficking allegations. OPD later deleted the notification and issued a different one stating it was a “human trafficking” investigation instead.

However, there is no evidence of human trafficking in the case. At last week’s hearing, Hofer said, “The chief repeatedly supplied false information.”  Here’s more about the hearing the Privacy Advisory Commission held into the case and their findings so far– https://www.eastbayexpress.com/SevenDays/archives/2017/10/12/oakland-city-council-to-hold-hearing-on-controversial-ice-raid-and-oakland-police-misinformation

The one person who was arrested by HSI or ICE is now awaiting deportation proceedings. So here we have a situation in which the people of Oakland’s reps voted to withdraw our city from assisting ICE in enforcing civil immigration laws but they continue to do so. Did ICE lie to OPD to get their assistance when it was not a criminal pursuit? That’s entirely possible but we don’t know as Chief Kirkpatrick insists that OPD had to assist, using whatever reasoning is available, depending on the day the department is asked.

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Photo by Darwin BondGraham

To make matters worse, the City Council passed two ordinances that deal with how we react when the Feds say jump–one that eliminates MOUs in which OPD can join federal task forces and operate within them with impunity-and another that requires public hearings when new agreements are even being considered. OPD’s actions seem to have violated both these progressive policies.

I know that when Chief Kirkpatrick came to town, most folks were open to giving her a chance to pull together our demoralized and disgraced police force. We wanted and needed that to happen. I was a member of at least two groups that met with and are still meeting with her but I think I’ve seen and heard enough.

As Privacy Chair Brian Hofer said, “The Oakland Police Department will never change if those at the top are not held accountable for their actions. When she was hired, Chief Kirkpatrick raised the issue of accountability, yet since her hiring she has promoted officers suspected of covering up the Jasmin [Celeste Guap] scandal https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/oakland-police-chief-doubles-down-on-promoting-the-cops-who-covered-up-the-celeste-guap-case/Content?oid=7922863, issued a ‘fake discipline’ report about the cover up, and attempted to derail two federal task force proposals earlier this summer.

Hofer continues, “It’s this last issue that is motivating me to hold her accountable – by attempting to maintain the ICE MOU, and attempting to derail a federal task-force transparency ordinance, the Chief has twice chosen the feds over the people of Oakland. We do not share the same values, and in the era of Trump and Sessions, this is dangerous for the people of Oakland.”

As a result of these actions, Chair Hofer has filed a complaint against OPD that is now being investigated by Internal Affairs, not the new police commission since it has not been seated yet, that accuses the chief of making numerous false statements to the public about the need to assist ICE in a civil detainment plus of asserting that the new city policy had not gone into effect at that time. I have joined that complaint along with Pastor J Alfred Smith Jr, Margaret Cunningham, Judith Stacey, Sharon Rose and Linda Olvera, all of the California Sanctuary Campaign and Tracy Rosenberg of Media Alliance.

We would be happy to have you or your organization join us in signing the complaint. John Jones III of CURYJ has already joined us and we are expecting others, many others. Notify me by responding to this blog and then please attend the Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee Meeting, November 14th, 6 pm, agenda Item no. 4 fill out a speaker card online.

If we want sanctuary to mean something, if we want an accountable police department–and humane policies for all our residents–we have to back up our stated goals with actions. Join us. 

 

“The Force” & the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition: A Story Untold

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Many members of the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition, some of whom have worked on police reform for decades, have struggled to reconcile the portrayal of the Oakland community, its police department and the fight for police reform which ultimately led to the passage of Measure LL–an independent police commission-with the power to impose discipline and passed by 83% of the voters last fall with the film, the Force. The final product was more significant for what it left out than what it described.

First off, the filmmakers were embedded with the department and that shows in its point-of-view. And even within that access the emphasis was very narrow, following one officer whose community engagement was shallow, to say the least. The film itself came off like an episode of Cops when it came to its portrayal of the Black community, showing only the most dysfunctional interactions with individuals who were experiencing life threatening stress.

The thesis as told by The Force is an old cliche, a cop’s life is tough-he has to deal with difficult even dangerous people. That may be a part of the story but it’s not the whole story, certainly not the one that has yet to be told.

For instance the film took pains to explain away a rash of police killings, showing video from police cameras that purported to hold them blameless. But there was no mention of the shooting death of an unconscious man on the Lakeshore Avenue off ramp that same summer at the hands of a rookie officer. A huge peaceful vigil was held near where he died yet somehow a year later the DA found the killing “justifiable.” The police had video which former Chief Sean Whent IMG_20150612_212616promised to share with the community but never did.  Thirteen months later the city paid out a $1.2 million wrongful death suit on behalf of the dead man’s family. Once again, there was  no mention of this incident or its aftermath in the film which perhaps did not fit the already established narrative.

Peter Nicks and his crew probably thought their film was almost in the can when the news on OPD and its trajectory toward reform blew up. At that point the filmmakers had an opportunity to fully explore what had gone so wrong that a department under a Negotiated Settlement Agreement, that is court oversight of its reform measures for over a decade, could have jumped the tracks once again and found itself in the middle of a national scandal; but it was an opportunity lost. It appeared that Nicks and his crew had run out of steam and then decided to run out the clock just as wave after wave of ugly revelation hit Oakland and the Bay Area police community.

Since then many officers who were involved in the cover-up of this OPD-underage pimping/youth-sex-trafficking scandal have been promoted to OPD command and at the same time the initial charge that led to the NSA so many years ago, that of racial profiling continues to require the court’s oversight.

While all this was going on, the Oakland community, never willing to accept the dangerous status quo, continued to organize against police aggression. There is a story to be told here that would rival any drama now in theaters but alas it remains almost completely untold. The absence of even a mention of People United for a Better Oakland, PUEBLO, the organization that doggedly worked on police accountability for decades  is  particularly galling.

There are some illuminating scenes of powerful Black Lives Matter demonstrations and discussions of tactics and goals at Anti Police Terror Project meetings, one of the groups working toward ending police brutality, but there is not one scene of any of the 30 community organizations which wrote and passed the Police Commission initiative, Measure LL. One member of APTP is seen suggesting a police commission as a path to change but ultimately, that group decided against supporting the measure as “reformist.”

18839239_307755119662088_2859169411652791691_nFor all that, many members of the Anti Police Terror Project continue to apply pressure in the streets and at city council meetings for reduced police budgets and the abolition of policing as we know it. There is no doubt that their efforts have made a difference and some of us continue to show up for those calls. We see no contradiction in taking to the streets while lobbying at the ballot box, because we believe that the broadest strategy continues to be necessary in this struggle.

But to have altogether left out the band of dedicated community representatives who pulled off a huge electoral victory with almost no cash and no paid consultants in favor of hours of rookie cops riding around in police cars, is to downplay, at best, the story of the creativity, tenacity and community dedication that are at the heart of transforming police community relations. We continue to wait for that history to be told but please don’t expect to find it in Peter Nicks the Force.  14523289_1794031850880854_5149506198094883856_n

Further references: https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/the-force-is-a-methodological-failure/Content?oid=9073235

https://hyphenatedrepublic.wordpress.com/2017/09/16/policing-history-peter-nicks-ahistorical-the-force-erases-context-and-facts-about-opd/

https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/oakland-police-chief-doubles-down-on-promoting-the-cops-who-covered-up-the-celeste-guap-case/Content?oid=7922863

Matier & Ross on the Oakland Police Commission, Breitbart Lite?

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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 stock-vector-grumpy-old-man-vector-clip-art-illustration-with-simple-gradients-all-in-a-single-layer-132297044“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.”

 

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Thank You Oakland City Government!

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I know the headline of this blog is shocking-and if you’re one of those people who believes government can’t do anything right-you might want to stop now. To paraphrase a friend-intelligent and radical young leader, Dannette Lambert, I believe in government-it gives us things like schools, hospitals, healthcare and-regulations against harm.

I’ve written a lot on the current Oakland City Council, that they can’t build coalitions, that they don’t want to step out and lead. I’m not rescinding those critiques, not yet. They are overall a moderate group but they have heard the roar of our communities and coalitions for change-well, you’d have to be deaf not to but-wait!

Wait-I’m doing it again when I want to thank them for stepping out of their comfort zones to struggle around the police accountability measure, ultimately placing a really unique proposal for the voters to decide on this November’s ballot.[PS.the measures for renters’ protections are no chopped liver either-they are real change.]

Time to Correct the Record-

Last night quite a few folks denounced the measure and said they wouldn’t support it because they found it deficient. Some of their conclusions were correct and some were incorrect but I can’t agree that it won’t make some people’s lives better because it will. It may even save some lives and that counts as worthy of doing to me and the folks I’m working with.

Some of us have been in so many meetings with council members in the last couple of weeks that perhaps we were a bit shell shocked last night after the roller coaster ride of change, compromise, and confusion. We forgot how much we won and why it is so important.

Writing and Researching the Measure-

We should have acknowledged the importance of the moment and spent more time thanking everyone involved so let’s do it now. I especially want to thank the folks who researched and wrote this unique measure, by which I mean the Coalition’s version-Larry White, an attorney and more recent arrival to Oakland, of course Rashidah Grinage, Mary Vail, long time police accountability stalwart, Paula Hawthorn MOBN member, Susan Shawl Wellstone and CPRB member, Nate Dewart of Black Men/White Men (in addition to writing and posting the petition!), and Saied Karamooz.

More thank yous

Jason Pfeifle did yeoman’s graphic and web work along with Sandra Tasic, quite pregnant at the time. Joel Tena contributed heavily to messaging. Len Raphael was our financial wiz who along with Jose Luis Fuentes set up our official organization with the state. Allene Warren, Ann Janks, and Sheryl Walton worked hard to recruit other organizations and to relay the nuances to them. Carroll Fife supported us with the Oakland Justice Coalition as did April Thomas, Nicole Dean, and Deb Avery , and Millie Cleveland(Cat Brooks was there for us also but I believe she is unable to support the current iteration.) Tonya Love is a communications’ treasure in her own right.

Josie Camacho, head of the Alameda Labor Council, joined SEIU leaders Gabriel Haaland, Gary Jimenez and Rachel Richman-Local 21- who worked long hours to help us make this right with Labor with special notice to their union, Local 1021, long time Coalition members who showed up en masse to speak at council meetings.

As for me I want to acknowledge the tremendous support the Coalition and I personally received from The Block By Block  Organizing Network and the Wellstone Democratic Club-so many members, in addition to those listed above showed up to every  council meeting and waited hours to speak-Sharon Rose, Floyd Huen, Margaret Cunningham, Gen Katz, Mike Davis, Rich Johnson, Kit Vaq, Cathy Leonard, Eileen Benevides, Jean Quan, and Berkeleyite Jack Kurzweil-Wellstone also funded snacks for all participants at the council meetings-no small thing. Sorry, if this list is too long but that’s how it’s done in coalition work. There will be many not listed and for that I’m sorry, truly.

Brief summary of what this measure will do from Ms. Grinage-

“This proposal changes the City Charter, transferring the authority to impose discipline on police officers from the City Administrator (who reports to the Mayor) to a Police Commission made up of Oakland residents. This is a fundamental change in power.

The Commission will also be able to influence policies and practices that will include the issues raised by video footage of incidents, privacy and surveillance, use of force, racial profiling, and so on. They will be able to make recommendations on the budget request submitted by the Police Department to make sure that resources are used in a way that is consistent with the priorities of the community.

The investigative agency director does have access to the personnel records of officers accused of misconduct and can take that history into account when deciding on appropriate discipline. These are all major shifts.

As Larry White said, “I think a lot of confusion was caused by the format of the text that was voted on.  There were two sections (g). One was the deleted text.  Both were in gray and if you didn’t look closely you might think that all of it was in strikethrough. In fact only the second (g) was deleted text.”

More from Mr. White-“The Agency Director will have access to the personnel records but can only share them as permitted by law. As a practical matter, this is access. The disciplinary part was not struck in the final version. One big thing is that the City Administrator’s role as final arbiter of discipline is eliminated.”

Just the beginning

More from Rashidah Grinage, “This proposal is more than good, but it is not everything we had envisioned. That being said, as we know, every journey begins with a single step. This is a journey to justice for those who have suffered the abuses of the Oakland Police Department for decades, and the Police Commission will be one giant step in this journey.

We are not dismayed and we are not discouraged: we are committed to continuing to challenge the City to alter its relationship with the OPOA so that further changes can be implemented without facing a Court battle. So, for those who seek justice, join us, let’s get this Commission established, and let’s continue with the work that lies ahead!”

The City Council Struggles to Find Consensus-

Council Member Noel Gallo came out early to support the community-driven measure, a surprise, as he had always been seen as a law’n order CM, but he has a big heart and uses it to listen to his constituents. Then Dan Kalb got involved and threw himself and his staffer, Oliver Luby, into it with hours and hours of researching, checking and rechecking what would work and what would get him the votes to put it on the ballot. Without their attention to detail, this measure wouldn’t have made it onto the agenda much less the ballot.

Other CMs who had been skeptical but then began to meet assiduously-Rebecca Kaplan threw herself into it. Annie Campbell Washington went line by line working on what each one meant and how to clarify it. Abel Guillen checked in frequently and Lynette McElhaney held numerous workshops with our folks, eventually becoming a co-sponsor. Desley Brooks lent us her expertise and unique voice from her position as chair of Public Safety, and Larry Reid, long time police advocate, welcomed us into his office, too.

City Attorney Barbara Parker may have gotten a bad rap in a previous blog, as we understand she personally AND her staff worked long and hard on the details. We’re not even sure she did advise removing the pivotal provisions at all. To be honest, our sessions included- confusion, a little back-biting, and yes, some shouting matches as we made our way up and down the halls of city power. But ultimately, everyone including Mayor Schaaf, supported our efforts in some way. Thank You!

Driving home after the vote at 11:30 pm, I couldn’t help but imagine our CMs as characters from the Wizard of Oz. You can decide for yourselves who is which character hmm. And sometimes I think, we the residents who love Oakland so passionately, are both Dorothy and the Wiz, trying to find our way home all the while hiding behind a curtain of our own inability to move ahead together. Maybe we won’t make it to the Emerald City but we can and shall build a better Oakland.

Join the CoalitionforPoliceAccountability.org now!

 

Press Advisory Independent Police Commission Ballot Measure

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Press Advisory

Independent Police Commission Ballot Measure-Sponsored by Oakland City Council Members Kalb and Gallo, Goes to Public Safety Committee on Tuesday

 

Oakland, CA– Oakland Council Members Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo will join the Coalition for Police Accountability [coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org] at a press event, Tuesday, June 14th, at 12:30 pm on the steps of Oakland City Hall. Council Member Kalb, a member of the Public Safety Committee where the measure will be unveiled at 4 pm, said, “We are bringing this community-vetted measure to the ballot to enhance the process for structural reform–reform that cannot come soon enough to OPD. We must assure the public that we are responding to the problems and challenges within OPD with a proposal that is not mere window dressing-setting up an independent Police Commission with real authority-along with effective reforms in the police discipline process to make it more just.”

Council Member Gallo, also a sponsor of the measure and member of the Public Safety Committee added, “My job is to listen to the community I represent and get them what they need. I’m proud of our work with the coalition.”

Berkeley City Council Member Jesse Arreguin will attend the press conference and noted that “We will be voting on a similar proposal Tuesday night at the Berkeley Council meeting.”

A partial list of Oakland community leaders joining the elected officials to speak at the press conference is as follows: Linda Handy, Peralta Trustee, Ben McBride, Director of City Team Oakland and Clergy with PICO, CA, Gwen Hardy with PUEBLO, Carroll Fife, Oakland Alliance, Marilyn Lawson and Allene Warren, Block By Block Organizing Network, Sokhom Mao, former CPRB member, Anne Weills, the National Lawyers Guild, Pastor George Cummings, Imani Church, civil rights attorney Walter Riley, and Trish Gorham of the Oakland Education Association.

The next step in the Oakland process is to push the measure forward to a full council discussion in time to place the initiative on the November ballot. For more information and updates, see Coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org

Contact: Pamela Drake, 510-593-3721pamelaadrake@gmail.com

Rashidah Grinage, 510-306-0253rashidah@earthlink.net

 

 

 

We Want Real Police Reform, Not Faux Fixes

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The Coalition for Police Accountability, a group of community organizations, individuals, and unions [coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org] for police reform, has been working with Oakland City Council Members Dan Kalb, Noel Gallo, and Rebecca Kaplan for months on a measure developed by the coalition over two plus years through research with experts throughout the country, to set up a police commission that is truly independent of political influence while providing community engagement in police policies and transparency in police discipline.

The hard work of these council members has sharpened the work of the coalition and we are very grateful for their leadership.

More recently, Council Members Guillen, Campbell Washington and Reid wrote a separate initiative, and presented it to the coalition last week. Their measure would put the mayor squarely in charge of police accountability and reduce the role of a “commission” to a rubber stamp of the new “independent police monitor”, an additional city administrator hired directly by the mayor and responsible only to the mayor. This new “commission” would have a role similar to the existing Citizen Police Review Board, which despite its best intentions, can do little to discipline any “bad apples”, much less influence police policies.

The measure sponsored by Kalb, Gallo and Kaplan institutes a commission two steps removed from political influence with the power to discipline officers, hire and fire the chief, and research and develop policies on public safety issues and police operations.

In contrast the Guillen/Washington/Reid approach would have the mayor and council directly appoint the “commission” and stipulates that they come from certain professions such as human resources, and surprise, law enforcement. The Citizens’ Police Review Board, weak as it now is, is composed of Oaklanders from all walks of life. Of course, this new “commission” would have no power so perhaps its composition is irrelevant.

There are programmatic elements in the Guillen/Washington approach that the coalition would be willing to include in [enabling legislation for ]the charter change measure, and we are considering those in the lead up to next week’s committee meeting. We cannot, however, compromise the structure of an independent body, a position which has been reaffirmed by three council members.

After 13 years, $30 million in oversight, over $65 million more in lawsuits, it’s time for a serious attempt at reform. Every city that has experienced the kinds of problems Oakland has been through, is now looking to institute a less political, more citizen-oriented approach whereas some of our CMs seem to want to go backwards.

In fact the City of Berkeley has scheduled a review of our measure to consider whether it would work for them and San Francisco is also looking at ways to strengthen the independence of their existing commission. Our next Wellstone Democratic Club meeting on June 23rd, discussion starting about 7:15pm, will focus on these three efforts.

The Coalition for Police Accountability’s measure sponsored by CMs Kalb, Gallo, and Kaplan can be placed on the November ballot by the Oakland City Council. Please sign onto our letter if you would like to see that happen: you can send the letter yourself, call or email your council members to ask that they join the above progressive members on this vote, notify me that you wish to sign, or respond directly to this blog. Pamela Drake-pamelaadrake@gmail.com. But do it soon.

Both measures come before the Public Safety Committee at 4 pm on Tuesday, June 14th  where Chair Desley Brooks will give them a hearing and add her comments-press conference at 11:45 am in front of City Hall in advance of the meeting.

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Dear Council Member____________

Oakland has spent more than 30 million dollars monitoring the Negotiated Settlement Agreement over the Oakland Police Department since 2003 and over 65 million dollars on wrongful death and police brutality lawsuits. How many affordable housing units or police academies could those funds have provided for our city?

As you know, a group of concerned citizens and [30] organizations, known as the Oakland Police Accountability Coalition including the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, the League of Women Voters, SEIU Local 1021, ACCE, the Oakland Alliance, and the Block by Block Organizing Network have discussed the need for a truly independent police commission that could be set up when the current federal oversight ends. The Coalition has researched existing versions, interviewed attorneys, police specialists and sitting commissioners in other cities and come up with a unique new model of police oversight.

Since an independent commission requires a charter change and a citywide election, we are requesting that you join with Council Members Kalb, Gallo, and Kaplan to put this carefully wrought measure on the November ballot rather than substituting a weaker ordinance that does not provide true citizen accountability. A measure that continues to give the mayor or a city administrator the option of declining to impose discipline, for instance, would restrict true police department reform and leave us open for more abuse and additional lawsuits in the future.

This is a good government measure that provides transparency and real community engagement with police operations for all Oakland residents. As progressives, we expect no less from our representatives. We hope you will join with progressive council colleagues to place it on the ballot.

Sincerely,

 

I Am an An Occupy Oakland Survivor & I am Voting to Reelect Mayor Jean Quan-Guest Blog by Joy Newhart

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To my Friends and former Occupiers, please forward this letter,

I am an Occupy Oakland Survivor. I regularly attended the meetings, even caught a cold sitting for long hours on the chilled cement stairs listening to debates about the use of a “diversity of tactics.” I brought food, blankets, and refreshments to the residents of the Tent City, and I attended a huge rally at Laney College that Mayor Quan spoke at supporting the Occupy movement. Then only days later at 4am I got a phone call from a friend telling me the raid was starting.

Armed with my video camera I stood on the front lines as we, the unarmed citizens, watched hundreds of police from all over the region arrive in full riot gear ready for a fight. I was not arrested and managed to avoid the teargas, but I was furious-the friend who called me at 4am still is. Only a few days earlier the mayor and several other city council members had said they supported Occupy. Now people were getting beat up. I blamed Mayor Quan and-though I had voted for her- when I was later asked to help fight the recall I declined. One word “Occupy.”

[Editor’s note: the attempted recall was initiated before the Occupy Oakland eviction by parties who objected to a port commission change and the lack of funding for hundreds more police. It was a combination of more conservative groups who ironically, called for more development at the Oakland Army Base, which Mayor Quan has moved forward. It was not connected with events at Occupy Oakland.]

Then I saw that Mayor Quan was just as furious as I was that Police Chief Jordan had authorized the use of tear gas while she was in the air and out of reach-returning from a trip to D.C. to secure funds for port development. This needs to be re-stated-Chief Jordan authorized the use of tear gas without first getting approval from his boss, and as soon as she landed she ordered the tear gas stopped, but the damage had been done. She ordered an investigation into the department’s actions. This is the first thing Mayor Quan did to “fix the problem.”

The next thing she did had never happened in the history of the Oakland Police Department. Forty four police officers were either fired or disciplined. She made these 44 officers suffer the consequences of their illegal behavior. This is why the Oakland Police Department is resentful and will not endorse Mayor Quan.

Finally, she replaced those officers with recruits trained in the many new police academies she has funded. These new officers reflect the diversity and values of Oakland. I am a West Oakland resident and proud that the new captain of the West Oakland district was raised in West Oakland and is the first woman commander in the department.

The next thing she did was meet with the federal regulator overseeing the federally mandated police reforms, as neither Jerry Brown nor Ron Dellums had bothered to do. She re-invigorated the community policing reorganization model that previous mayors had allowed to stagnate. In many ways these two previous mayors hold a lot of the responsibility for what happened with Occupy because they did not focus on implementing these mandated reforms.

The next thing Mayor Quan did was select Police Chief Whent to head the Oakland Police Department. Prior to Chief Whent’s appointment as chief he was the supervisor of the Internal Affairs Division. Chief Whent was in charge of policing the police and with that background and experience, who better to rebuild the department?

As a result of these reforms and others, violent crime is down over 30% across the city and murders are down almost 50% from 2012. While violent crime is down all over, the decrease is greater in Oakland than other cities.

This is why I am voting for Mayor Quan. She analyzed the problems with the Oakland Police Department and addressed them at their root. She approaches this city’s problems from a socio-economic perspective, not a Law & Order perspective and she’s done all this with four balanced budgets.

You can’t argue with success.

Sincerely, Joy Newhart

Time to Listen to Each Other

From the General Strike, photo by Pamela DrakeEveryone is gearing up for a rough city council meeting tonight; and as a result of last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting, some council members have been sending out notices to their constituents to pack the hall with supporters for 4 public safety measures.

Those council members who have called their constituents to come on down, have failed to explain why they support the Bratton contract with specifics. I’m calling on them to be clear about what Bratton will be asked to do and what he will not be asked to do. I would like someone to explain the interface between the Bratton/Wasserman folks, and what Judge Henderson and his compliance managers will allow given the Negotiated Settlement Agreement which may be the key to this controversy. Is Stop and Frisk equal to racial profiling? If it is, how is it possible Henderson would allow it?

But no one can deny that Oakland as well as some of our surrounding communities is in a public safety crisis. People who live in formerly “safe” neighborhoods have discovered some of the dangers that people who live in East and West Oakland have lived with for a long time.

More people are afraid now than I can ever remember and the list of the dead is growing at an alarming rate. Still, this is not the time to rush into half-baked solutions or to demand  gimmicks-state of emergency, curfews-instead of well-thought out policies.

There is evidence that Bratton and his compatriots have accomplished some good things re crime and community complaints in Los Angeles. But there is also lots of evidence that many Oaklanders continue to experience brutality and harassment at the hands of our police force. Regardless of how one acts at a meeting, or whether the aggrieved parties are making these demands, our local citizenry has every right to demand reassurance when it comes to how new crime-cutting strategies  will affect all members of the community.

We all deserve a real conversation about these issues. We owe it to one another to listen and be given time to change our minds and even change them again. This is an ongoing crisis that demands both long and short term solutions. What it doesn’t demand is dueling crowds, shouting matches, threats of arrest for hecklers or fear mongering by any of us.

I will see you at the Council meeting tonight. I will be demanding answers to these questions and really listening to the responses I get before coming to a conclusion. I hope you will do the same.

Guest Post–We the Policed–by Jan Gilbrecht

Jan Gilbrecht is an Oakland activist who recently attended the Citizens’ Police Academy and worked with other activists to request that the Oakland City Council consider setting up a police commission, a request the  council failed to take action on. In this column, she explains the reasons that the creation of such a commission or body of public oversight has become ever more essential.

                                                                 We, the Policed

Declaration of Independence, United States of America, 1776

“We hold these truths to be self-evident, that all men are created equal, that they are endowed by their Creator with certain unalienable Rights, that among these are Life, Liberty and the pursuit of Happiness. That to secure these rights, Governments are instituted among Men, deriving their just Powers from the Consent of the Governed…”

One of the fundamental premises of our political culture is the idea that government exists to secure the rights of the people and must be based on the consent of the governed.  In our system of representative democracy, our elected leaders stand in for us, there to insure that our government exercises its powers – especially police powers – fairly, justly, lawfully and in the interests of the citizenry.

Events of the past few weeks have shown again that that things work backward in Oakland. Our rights and interests are being subordinated to those of a well-organized, well financed (and well armed) group of Oakland city employees, the vast majority of whom don’t even live among us.  Our police department is out of control, and virtually running the city from the narrow perspective of their own group interest.

To me it’s clear:  The council must act now to address our current police and political crisis by putting operational authority in hands of a special interim civilian police commission.  This commission must be given sufficient resources and a strong mandate:  to get us on track to an effective law enforcement program that is equally committed to protecting the civil rights and liberties of Oakland residents.

I attended the Oakland City Council on September 18 to support the grieving family of a young man named Alan Blueford, shot to death last May just weeks before high school graduation by OPD Officer Miguel Masso as part of a “stop and frisk” gone bad.  His family members are pushing for answers in the face of a total stonewall by the Oakland Police Department and the Alameda County District Attorney’s office.

The Bluefords were there with a large and diverse group of community and religious supporters. They told the council that the recently obtained Coroner’s report contradicted OPD’s changing versions of events. They also noted that Masso had been hired by Oakland while he was named in a federal civil rights action charging police brutality while he was an NYPD officer. Finally, they demanded that the city provide them with a copy of the police report in Alan’s shooting, which had been promised to them months ago.

With the family at the podium, Larry Reid (in whose District the shooting took place) and City Administrator Deanna Santana said that Chief Jordan was on his way over with a copy of the report. The meeting was adjourned to await Jordan’s arrival, but the break stretched on and on.  Council members circulated through the audience, speaking with the family and supporters, expressing empathy in this horrific situation.  Jordan never showed. The council meeting was re-convened briefly before jeers broke out when councilmember De La Fuente was unable or unwilling to explain why there was no report, no Chief Jordan. [For an account of the meeting and background on the case: http://www.counterpunch.org/2012/09/19/searching-for-answers-to-a-police-killing/]

I was astounded. What a snub by Jordan and Santana to the family, the community members who were present, and to the council members who had just publicly promised the report.  But then it got worse.

A few days later – still no report for the family – OPD leaked to the media a rumor that, improbable as it seems given the Coroner’s finding that there was no gun shot residue on his hands, Alan’s fingerprints were found on a gun located twenty feet from where his body lay. [http://www.sfgate.com/default/article/Oakland-police-Victim-s-prints-on-gun-3886366.php].  This after the mayor and council had promised the Bluefords that their son would not be slandered in the press.

Then, just when I thought that the OPD leaders couldn’t make themselves look any more like an arrogant, out of control gang of thugs, I read that members of the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) are now publicly attacking a city council member currently running for re-election, over remarks she allegedly made that night to family members and supporters.  An OPD Sergeant and OPOA officer says he heard Rebecca Kaplan compare the hiring of Masso by Oakland after the incident in New York to the practice by the Catholic Church of transferring pedophile priests from one parish to another.

Actually, I find that to be a fair comparison. Masso’s actions and the horrible nature of the incident were well documented [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/oakland-police-officer-involved-shooting-of-alan-blueford-raises-questions/Content?oid=3295686] .  Whether or not he was acting lawfully when shot and killed Alan Blueford, the question remains: why would OPD would hire an officer who was involved in a case like that?

According to the head of the OPOA, Kaplan’s reported comments were “extremely offensive to all those who wear the blue uniform,” and that OPOA had withheld an endorsement of Kaplan as a result. Sadly, Kaplan is backpedaling and apologizing as fast as she can.  What does it mean that a councilmember can be so easily muzzled? Who will put their foot down when it comes to hiring practices like these?

What a travesty – police officers heavy handedly injecting themselves into our local election in a nasty attempt to shield a questionable cop and a possible murderer.  It’s one thing when a public sector union uses money or muscle to advance its members collective bargaining rights, it’s another thing entirely when they do it to shield an allegedly violent, abusive cop, or to obstruct an honest and open investigation into the police homicide of this young man, thereby increasing the rift between the community and the OPD.  [http://www.mercurynews.com/top-stories/ci_21630899/opd-accuses-rebecca-kaplan-smearing-officers]

Despite the constant cheerleading efforts on the part of the department and the city, public confidence in the OPD is at an all time low. Oakland is far from homogeneous, but there’s something there for everyone to dislike.  In the OPD we have one of the most highly compensated, poorly administered, and least effective police departments in California [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/the-high-costs-of-outsourcing-policeandnbsp/Content?oid=3306199] Contrary to OPD propaganda, the recent Frazier Report confirms it is far from the leanest staffed department in the area [http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/cityadministrator/documents/webcontent/oak036236.pdf ; see page 113].  Yet OPD has one of the worst crime clearance rates for homicides and other violent crimes.  And you can forget about even getting an officer to respond to a property crime.

Ten years into a Federal Court monitored negotiated settlement agreement stemming from the horrific systematic police abuses perpetrated over the course of years in West Oakland and brought to light by the Riders lawsuit, the OPD has cost the taxpayers more than $58 million in judgments and settlements because of gross and repeated civil rights violations against members of our own community. Depending on the outcome of a December hearing before Federal District Court Judge Henderson, Oakland could become the first city in the country with a police department placed in federal receivership, even after the millions that have been spent on a raft of outside police consultants and contractors.  The legacy of this is with us now: lawless disregard for our citizenry by the police only breeds disregard for the law among our young people.

Instead of taking seriously the fiscal responsibility that should come with using up 40% of our collective resources, the police budget is wasted on inadequately researched, ineffective technology boondoggles, through-the-roof workers compensation costs, featherbedding that is rampant in Internal Affairs and elsewhere, selected officers who are raking in the highest overtime payments in the state, positions which could be better performed by lower paid civilians that are filled by sworn officers. Instead of siding with the community and making police effectiveness a priority, OPD and OPOA petulantly demand unquestioning support, full control and are constantly lobbying for even more resources. History makes it clear – the OPD cannot reform itself.

That brings us to the subject of City Administrator Deanna Santana, who currently has full authority over the OPD.  Her role has been highlighted recently, both by revelations in the press [http://www.eastbayexpress.com/ebx/deanna-santana-tried-to-alter-damning-report/Content?oid=3341245] , and by her efforts to have federal monitor Robert Warshaw removed by the court based on charges of sexual harassment.  The bottom line is this: whatever the merits of her harassment allegations against Warshaw, Judge Henderson refused to replace him.  This alone should have lead Santana to step down from her role with OPD, given the obvious conflict of interest. In spite of the devastating financial burden it would impose, it appears that no one in city government is making an effort to avoid trusteeship through compliance.

The Police Commission I envision would deal with far more than issues related to complaints against officers and individual discipline, supposedly the purview of our current, badly broken, ineffective Citizens Police Review Board-overhaul of which should also be on the agenda.  We need and have a right to meaningful oversight and input into a whole host of issues, like: curriculum content for the police academy and other training; policing policies and directives, such as crowd control, use of force, stop and frisk and community policing; terms of agreements between OPD and other police agencies; conditions of federal and other grants and their obligations; decisions on major equipment and systems purchases; efforts to cut costs by civilianizing positions, and other means; effective human resources management, including contract negotiations to keep compensation, progressive discipline and working conditions at but not above area standards and intelligence gathering and surveillance activities within our community.  These are the range and types of issues that are addressed by civilian police commissions in Berkeley, San Francisco and a host of other cities.

According to the Oakland City Charter, Section 601. Boards and Commissions: “The Council may create by ordinance such operational, advisory, appellate or rule-making boards and commissions as may be required for the proper operation of any function or agency of the City and prescribe their function, duties, powers, jurisdiction …”  Some may say that the timing is bad given the upcoming elections.  Some on the Council may just be sitting on their hands and hoping that Judge Henderson will take the problem away through trusteeship.  How about members stepping forward to demonstrate that they aren’t the captives of the OPOA they sometimes appear to be?

It’s not that hard.  Draft an ordinance creating a special commission.  Give it four missions: to increase police effectiveness and maximize resource utilization; to create a culture in which the respect and protection of the civil rights of all our citizens is central to the OPD mission; to develop a permanent model for effective civilian oversight and control of policing in Oakland and to aggressively attempt to find alternatives to the institution of federal receivership over the OPD.

Dive in and recruit five to seven well qualified and committed citizens who can bring expertise in constitutional law, public administration, technology and communications, labor relations or other areas, and who are willing to roll up their sleeves and work hard for this city – they are out there.  Empower them to hire a civilian Inspector General to oversee, audit and inspect any aspect of the department’s operations and report back to the commission.  Bring the community to the table by holding hearings and soliciting input. Cities like Los Angeles and Detroit have emerged from situations as bad as ours by taking similar paths.

The Blueford family is headed back to City Council on Tuesday, October 2, once again looking for answers.  I’ll be there too, ready to ask our democratically elected council members to take a real stand for change, for Alan and his family, for the crime victims in the hills and the flatlands, for the plaintiffs in the Riders case, for all of us in Oakland, to put our interests first.  I hope that everyone else who cares about the future of Oakland will be there as well.