Media Advisory: Oakland Holds 1st Police Commission Meeting since passage of Measure LL

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City of Oakland Holds Inaugural Police Commission Meeting

Oakland, CA.-On Wednesday, December 13 at 6:30 pm in the City Council Chambers, the Oakland Police Commission will hold its inaugural meeting and the Commissioners, picked by an innovative process, a Selection Committee drawn from the community, who in turn nominated four of the Commissioners with three chosen by the Mayor directly, will elect a chair and vice chair and begin setting procedures and time tables including developing unique procedures toward implementing police oversight and reform.

Members of the Coalition for Police Accountability, consisting of almost thirty organizations, will be on hand to celebrate the electoral victory and to ensure that the new board is able to provide the oversight that the voters demanded when they said yes to Measure LL by an astounding 83%.

The Reverend George Cummings of the Imani Community Church in East Oakland and Executive Director of Oakland Community Organizations said this about today’s momentous event, “The establishment of a Police Commission in the city of Oakland, after so many years, sends a powerful message to the Oakland Police Department, that its residents are prepared to act to ensure that fair and just procedures are followed by those who have been tasked with providing for the safety of our city.

In addition, the Coalition for Police Accountability has demonstrated that the people can be agents of change, and ultimately, must define what ” law enforcement ” means for us. Oakland Community Organizations is honored to be a part of a coalition that was successful in creating a pathway for residents to participate in the oversight of law enforcement services in Oakland.”

file:///C:/Users/Owner/Downloads/Police%20Commission%20Meeting%20Agenda%2012.13.17.pdf

Contact Rashidah Grinage, 510-306-0253 or Pamela Drake, 510-593-3721

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The Upside Down, Welcome to Oakland

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If you haven’t heard of the series, Stranger Things, you’re missing out but you can attend Oakland City Council meetings, no subscription required, and find yourself in another dimension – The Upside Down- in which one thing may mean its opposite but not always…..there often is no logical explanation for how our city plays fast and loose with their stated goals and even their lawful resolutions. But don’t worry, unlike the evil critters in Stranger Things, they don’t mean anything by it.

Item 7.13 Oak Knoll final Vote

On the agenda tonight are some interesting discussions/votes. The City Council will finally dispense with the Oak Knoll property, a large parcel of formerly publicly owned land that the city managed to lose long ago. They had one final chance to make it work for more than the 2% of Oaklanders (that’s a generous estimate) who got their way. But no, with a vote of 5 to 3-Kalb, Guillen, and Gallo voting no- they are sending it to the cheerful world of wealthy Nimbiism. Never forget-not one unit of affordable housing will be built in this project.

Item 17–Stop ICE Complicity

Please sign up to speak or just listen to the mind boggling excuses our Chief of Police, Anne Kirkpatrick, has given that allowed OPD to assist ICE and Homeland Security Investigations while they arrested a Guatemalan refugee last August. He awaits deportation hearings now as a result of this activity.

Here’s an op-ed Seven Days” Robert Gammon in the East Bay Express:

https://www.eastbayexpress.com/oakland/why-oakland-should-cut-off-ice/Content?oid=11028169

In the agenda packet for tonight, you can view this report from the city administrator which contains a copy of one of the council’s resolutions against assisting ICE in civil investigations or apprehensions. Civil in this case means, immigration laws rather than criminal, which means the person or persons may be engaged in criminal activities that have nothing to do with immigration violations-got it?

“Further Resolved: That, in accordance with state and federal laws, City employees
including members of the Oakland Police Department shall not enforce federal civil
immigration laws and shall not use city monies, resources, or personnel to investigate, question, detect or apprehend persons whose only violation is or may be a civil violation of immigration law; and be it
Further Resolved: That, in accordance with state and federal laws, the Oakland Police
Department will continue to cooperate with federal immigration agencies in matters involving criminal activity and the protection of public safety:”   

Also from the city administrator’s report:
OPD has fully complied with all City of Oakland resolutions concerning the status of Oakland as a sanctuary city in immigration actions. Two of the three relevant resolutions prohibit city departments and employees from assisting or cooperating with ICE (formerly INS, Immigration and Naturalization Service) in relation to civil provisions of immigration law. The two more recent relevant resolutions both specifically state that OPD “will continue to cooperate with federal immigration agencies in matters involving criminal activity and the protection of public safety.”

Since the city can aid in the investigation of criminal activity, did ICE and/or HSI lie to the police chief  and if so, why would she not admit she had made a mistake in believing them or had not read the charge or did she go ahead anyway because…well.. the language of sanctuary is riddled with loopholes and she used one. However, the majority of Oaklanders have been pretty clear that they don’t want to be complicit in criminalizing refugees or terrorizing our hard working immigrant communities.

This is What OPD is offering as a Fix:

In order to provide greater transparency in operations with ICE, OPD will modify its
immigration policy to include the following language:
As a follow up to all cooperation OPD provides to ICE in criminal investigations,
the Department will publish an after-action report on its website within 15 days of
the operation. The public report will include:
• The date, time, and unit-block location of the operation
• The number and cost of OPD personnel involved”

It’s pretty easy to pass ordinances that say we won’t hire firms who help build the border wall but, it turns out to be much harder to really provide sanctuary to our otherwise law-abiding immigrant community. That doesn’t mean that socially conscious Oaklanders won’t continue to push the envelope and demand accountability on this and other forms of tangible resistance to our rogue government in Washingtion DC.

Come out tonight and again on December 5th to the Public Safety Committee Meeting if you want to continue closing those loopholes or, as they say in Stranger Things, closing the gate to the Upside Downimages (9)

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

Media Advisory – Norm Stamper Gives Talk on Reforming Police Culture

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Media Advisory

The Police Accountability Coalition Presents a Conversation on Reforming Cop Culture with former Seattle Police Chief Norm Stamper

Norm Stamper is the author of To Protect and Serve: How to Fix America’s Police. He will be speaking about topics from his new book, Police Accountability: Reimagining and Reenginering the Cop Culture on Wednesday, July 26th at the Lakeshore Avenue Baptist Church, 3534 Lakeshore Avenue from 7 to 9 pm.

There will be a presentation followed by a question and answer period led by Reggie Lyles, a former mayoral public safety director and deacon at the Allen Temple Baptist Church. A book signing will follow in the lobby of the church for those wishing to purchase the book. The event is free.

For Oaklanders who have wondered why the Oakland Police Department has been under a federal judge’s oversight for so long and why reform is so hard, many experts including Stamper, understand that it is a deep and systemic problem which is not exclusive to Oakland. Stamper’s work can provide some insights as to how real reform can happen and how to begin that work.

Stamper will also be available for longer interviews with members of the media in the Family Life Center of the Allen Temple Baptist Church (Mary Morris Room, 2nd floor) 8501 International Blvd, Oakland, from 3 to 4:30 pm.

Contact: Rashidah Grinage, rashidah@coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org, 510-306-0253, @oakcopoversight, for more information.

ProtectAndServe

 

 

 

 

To Do List, Last Week in June

Please squeeze in one or more of these opportunities for activism this week!

It’s been a hectic week even for diehard activists. And if you’re freaked out about losing your healthcare now or very soon, you’ve been frenztiedly calling Washington, DC. But some Americans unlucky enough to be represented by Republican senators, have been filling the hallways of Congress this week even if you don’t see it on tv-sitting in at their senators’ offices and going out in plastic ties, otherwise known as handcuffs.

Here in California voters for Single Payer Healthcare traveled by bus to Sacramento today to protest the sidelining of a bill which would guarantee free healthcare to every Californian. More on that in another blog.

On Monday-Oaklanders for a People’s Budget shut down the Oakland City Council meeting when it became clear that council members were going to vote on a budget which did not prioritize the funds need to help the homeless nor to prevent the imminent displacement of many more renters. There were other necessities being demanded like funding for the arts. See ReFund Oakland or https://www.facebook.com/DefundOPD/  18839239_307755119662088_2859169411652791691_n

Tuesday-Last night the same city council came to an impasse/tie over the implementation ordinance that would set the final rules for the new police commission.

And tonight-Wednesday- the Oakland School Board expects to remain in session until they are able to pass a contentious budget for the upcoming year at OUSD. According to Mike Hutchinson, they’re still at it as I write this at 11 pm  six hours in.

So, phew, not much left to do for the remainder of this week, right? Please read on..

Thursday-The Public Defenders Office led by Brendon Woods and their allies will be holding a press conference and rally tomorrow at the iconic Oakland courthouse at noon which hopes to forestall the removal of Oakland and Berkeley arraignment hearings all the way to…Dublin. Here’s more info-unnamed (3)

I’ll be there because the fight for justice still begins at home.

Then at 4 pm the City Council will make another try at passing a budget which needs to be done by Friday, June 30th, by law. Please see ReFund Oakland on 19399573_1326252544156296_7554708531302223629_nFacebook https://www.facebook.com/Refund-Oakland-388201741294719/ or my recent guest blog from Margaretta Lin, https://draketalkoakland.com/2017/06/26/tell-the-oakland-city-council-tonight-refund-oakland/

 

But wait, did you forget that the Supreme Court temporarily let stand parts of the Orange Moron’s travel ban? As a result a coalition of refugee and immigrant groups are asking you to start showing up at airports, SFO for us, after 2 pm. If you’re not at the Oakland City Council meeting, catch lunch after the Public Defender’s rally, then jump on BART and head out there.

Here’s more info from Zahra Biloo at the Council on American Islamic Relations_

Community advisory from CAIR-SFBA and Advancing Justice-Asian Law https-cdn.evbuc.comimages305773251144539292471originalCaucus: http://bit.ly/2sKmVVv

Media statement from CAIR National: http://bit.ly/2sKiaeW  

Facebook live video explaining all of it: http://bit.ly/2sKE9lN

Also on Thursday– in the morning…from the California Immigrant Youth Jusice Allianc

Join us this Thursday to demand the release of Maguiber, an Alameda father of 3 US-citizen children, who is currently in deportation proceedings because of local law enforcement’s collaboration with ICE.

Help us continue sharing his story as we demand the Field Director Jennings us his unnamed-11prosecutorial discretion to release Maguiber.

 
#FreeMaguiber
Thursday, June 29
10:30 am 
1401 Lakeside Dr # 1200, Oakland, CA 94612        

 

Friday evening-

The ACLU led group People Power has managed to arrange a community meeting with our local Republican and Jeff Sessions supporter, Sheriff Ahern, to talk about our sanctuary laws and how he does/or does not implement them. It’s important we have a good turnout. Here is the info-

Freedom Cities Action • City/Town Council Meeting- starts at 5 pm
Location:

Hayward Adult School, 22100 Princeton Street, Hayward, CA 94541

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Rabi’a Keeble, founder of Qal’bu Maryam Women’s Mosque holds Teach-in on Islamophobia in Oakland’s City Hall

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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Wellstone Club Demands Independence for New Police Commission

Wellstone Club Press Advisory

Setting up the Police Commission Requires a Strong Implementation Ordinance 

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club whose members worked hard to support the passing of Measure LL urge the Oakland City Council to pass an “enabling ordinance” researched and written by the Coalition for Police Accountability when it is discussed by the Public Safety Committee today and the full council in 2 weeks.

The measure for a charter change was passed by 83% of the voters and would be the strongest commission in the country provided the implementation ordinance is clear on the details on how to achieve the independence the voters expect.

There are many details in the Coalition’s version of the ordinance. Here are the 3 most significant differences between the Kalb/Gallo version and the Coalition’s:

Makeup of the Discipline Committee

This 3 person committee of the Commission will be empowered to actually mete out discipline to OPD officers up to and including firing.

In order to prevent even the appearance of mayoral/administrative pressure no more than one of the three mayoral appointees should be on this committee at any given time.

Police Commission Initiated Complaints

In order to react quickly to circumstances and/or high profile incidents, it may be necessary to immediately interview witnesses and examine evidence-waiting for the mayor or the council to weigh in could jeopardize the Commission and the Agency’s investigation.  Why limit the Commission from self-initiating complaints as it sees fit?

Background Checks

A criminal background check as part of the appointment process tends to discourage those who pose no danger to the members but would have a chilling effect on community members who have had negative experience with the criminal justice system.

Oakland has many residents whose lives have been impacted by a biased system-sentences based on marijuana possession or small sales, a plea bargaining process that forces guilty pleas with little recourse for a fair defense, and also those who have paid their dues and rehabilitated themselves. Other cities only perform background checks designed to prove the applicant’s identity.

Postscript

Council Member Gallo has agreed to the Coalition’s version/amendments. We urge longtime Wellstone member CM Kalb to join us.

 

 

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!

 

Policing Oakland, California, What Is to Be Done?

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Please come to the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club on Thursday, June 23rd, 7pm, at Humanist Hall for a discussion on forming independent police commissions in Oakland and Berkeley.

It’s not a surprise that Oakland finds itself in the middle of a new police scandal-we’re becoming a bit jaded to the police-chief-musical-chairs situation. But, even those of us who’ve been working on police accountability for years, are shocked and chagrined by what is being revealed about our costly department. We had thought they were on the road to reform, albeit, a rocky, circuitous road filled with breakdowns but it turns out-the changes were only superficial.

http://www.cc.com/video-clips/tuipgo/the-nightly-show-with-larry-wilmore-police-crisis-in-oakland–ca

The Horror Story Unfolds

It was horrifying enough to find out about that a young woman had been trafficked as a teenager and then passed around by officers and commanders, but let us not forget the number of police killings that took place in Oakland last summer-death being so much more final.

And, it’s a measure of the low bar we hold police departments to in this country that so few Oaklanders took notice of this abrupt return to homicidal behavior. Still I had felt hopeful that Chief Whent was doing the best possible job in a department with a tradition of murder and brutality. He seemed to be turning it around and the change was noted by other government agencies. By all accounts, at some point he began to give up and things took many turns for the worse.

Now we find out that OPD was just another piece in the puzzle of Bay area police corruption. The fact that it seems to be the largest piece of a disgusting mess, is embarrassing not just to the mayor and council but to all of us. Now comes the reckoning and, even though I didn’t give Mayor Schaaf any of my votes, I appreciate her recent admission that civilian oversight is needed.

Next Steps

The first step is almost in place. If you read this space, you will already be aware that a coalition of organizations and individuals has been researching and designing a unique model of civilian oversight, an independent police commission unlike any others. The proposal has been reworked and tweaked by City Council Members Kalb and Gallo.

Then on June 14th the proposal passed through the Public Safety Committee led by Councilwoman Desley Brooks and is on its way to being heard by the full council where we must garner five votes to get it on the ballot. The full council hearing is set for July 5th and we believe it will be prepared for the ballot shortly afterwards. At that point we will mount a campaign for the fall and will need volunteers and funding. Keep checking coalitionforpoliceaccountability.org for more information and to donate after the 5th.

Truth and Reconciliation

In the wake of almost daily revelations, the Anti-Police Terror Project has proposed that Oakland establish a version of the South African Truth and Reconciliation Commission [https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Truth_and_Reconciliation_Commission_(South_Africa)] and this is a brilliant and quite necessary part of a change in how our community is policed. While APTP has yet to detail its proposal, nothing less than a full process of bearing witness by the entire Oakland community will begin to turn around the horrendous situation we find ourselves in.

It is tempting to throw up our hands and declare that nothing can be done but with Oakland’s history of innovation combined with its story of resistance, we can once again become the models in how change is accomplished.

My first thoughts about this process would include 1) community groups writing the rules, choosing the sites throughout the city, and being charged with how the process unfolds while, 2) the City would pay for any costs incurred by the commission including a large publicity campaign-while not attempting to take ownership of the process.

Oaklanders have spent years, indeed generations, dealing with police brutality, corruption and neglect and it has left a deep residue which damages every aspect of self-government. Indeed distrust, fear and hatred of our most expensive department lies at the heart of distrust and disengagement with local democracy. Our residents need a safe space to tell their stories and finally be heard by those who injured them and by officials who have chosen not to believe them or to consider their concerns in their day-to-day governing of our city.

Many town halls have been held and many times few have come to testify to the truth of their experiences at the hands of those who are expected to “protect and serve.” That’s why it’s so important that these sessions be held where neighbors feel safe to share, including and especially, in our schools.

We await further description by APTP and other organizations working with them  and hope that city officials realize that this process cannot wait long to take shape. Hopelessness can easily defeat the impetus for change-we can’t afford that any longer.

Finally-Shine a Light on the California Legislature

Noted attorney Jim Chanin, who is one of the attorneys who brought suit against the Oakland Police Department over the Riders very serious violations of suspects’ rights (planting evidence and beating suspects, particularly Black men in West Oakland where these officers were assigned)that resulted in a Negotiated Settlement Agreement still in effectand unfinished 13 years later, told the general meeting of the Wellstone Democratic Club that California is the most conservative state in the country in regards to police transparency and accountability, behind place like Texas.

He reminded us that the revelations concerning the officer who shot a little boy, Tamir Rice, in Cleveland who, it was revealed in the press,  had been rejected by another department as unfit, would never see the light of day in California due to legislation and court decisions that our legislature still refuses to reverse.

Since the scandal of police corruption and abuse of a minor has erupted in Oakland, we have been reading that the mayor can’t reveal much about the offending officers due to state law-well, those laws do not exist in many other states.

Here’s a good review of how we got here, written by one of the reporters who has exposed many of the details of these on-going scandals, Ali Winston,  http://www.colorlines.com/articles/deadly-secrets-how-california-law-shields-oakland-police-violence in ColorLines, five years ago!

Recently State Senator Mark Leno tried to reverse the damage done to public accountability by the Copley Decision and the so-called Police Officers Bill of Rights. He was unsuccessful and you can read more in today’s East Bay Times, http://www.eastbaytimes.com/editorial/ci_30041070/police-winning-legislative-war-against-transparency-east-bay

We have yet to see support to overturn these rulings by our East Bay legislators. It’s important that we ask  Assembly Members Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond where they stand on this-state senate candidates Swanson and Skinner have both said they would support overturning Copley and possibly reconsidering the Police Officers’ Bill of Rights, but so far only Senator Leno has been a reliable champion for transparency and accountability.

While police operate in Oakland as they do in the rest of California, with impunity and often disregard for the real safety of our citizens, we will continue to hide ugly corruption and ignore vicious behavior. In a democracy, we should should demand better. We know the next steps, do we have the will to see them through?