AB 931, the Wellstone Club Recommends New Use of Force Policy

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Justin Sullivan, Getty Images

Assembly Bill 931, which may be going to the full assembly soon, is a progressive bill that will raise the legal standard under which police may use lethal force. At the current time all an officer needs to say after a killing is that it was reasonable in his/her eyes. The new standard requires that lethal force be deemed necessary in the context of the situation and that deescalation protocols or non-lethal methods must be considered first.

The state of California in its intermittent push toward criminal justice reform-1 and half steps forward followed by 1 back–such as moves to end money bail, to monitor police brutality after being the least transparent state in the country, and to restore some programs for the formerly incarcerated, is now working toward a fundamental reform on the use of deadly force when police officers encounter suspects, otherwise known as the public, in AB 931. It is sponsored by Assemblymembers Shirley Weber and Kevin McCarty of San Diego and Sacramento respectively.

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, a progressive Democratic Club with members in the cities of Oakland, Berkeley, Alameda and parts of Contra Costa County, has long advocated for police reform and against the mass incarceration state. As such, we sent this letter to our Assemblymembers Rob Bonta and Tony Thurmond. We urge our readers to contact their Assemblymembers and demand they vote for this important reform.

Here is a copy of the letter that was sent to both Assembly Members:

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August 8, 2018

To: Assembly Member Rob Bonta

 

Dear Assembly Member Bonta,

The Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club strongly supports AB 931 which should come before you shortly. Our club has been on the forefront of advocating for police reform as we did with Oakland’s Measure LL which authorized an independent police commission in Oakland, a city that has paid out millions in settlements over police brutality and wrongful deaths.

But the issue of wrongful death at the hands of local police forces is not just an Oakland problem. According to an ACLU report, “California departments have some of the highest rates of killings in the nation.” https://www.aclusocal.org/en/news/california-can-reduce-number-police-shootings-heres-how

Additionally, the report states that, “AB 931 authored by Assembly Member Shirley Weber, would enshrine that rule in state law and help ensure that police use deadly force only as a last resort……These requirements are becoming more and more common across the country. A number of individual police departments have already implemented variations of AB 931’s provisions, including the FBI, and some have adopted all of them. The San Francisco Police Commission recently approved a use of force policy with a necessity standard. The policy requires that officers use de-escalation techniques and alternatives to deadly force.”

Seattle and Chicago have adopted similar use of force policies but this bill would make California the first state in the country to pass a law that covers all its law enforcement agencies.

As you have led the nation on so many important social justice issues, please consider putting the full force of your office behind enshrining this best practice into law.

Sincerely,

Pamela A Drake

State & Local Politics Coordinator for the Wellstone Club

 

My 2018 Primary Recommendations & a Look Foward to November

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Vote Dan Kalb AD 15, Pamela Price DA, & Write-in N.O. Confidence for Sheriff

You got your ballot in the mail and your handbook before that and wow, this is another fine mess we’ve gotten ourselves into. With an open seat in Berkeley/Oakland/Richmond for state assembly and our current governor being termed out from his last incarnation, we have lots of folks to study and TV ads to avoid.

So let’s tackle the governor’s race first. Like most Californians, or most voters, I don’t know any of these guys and gals too well. At least the current governator was once our mayor and though I didn’t much like him, I had some idea what he’d do. Scratch that, with Jerry you’re never sure of anything.

The once flamboyant Governor Moonbeam has turned into Gov Scrooge and it’s well known by all our legislators that if we want more money for programs for kids and housing for the bottom, say, 75% of us, we’ll have to wait for the next boss in Sacramento.

Governor-Delaine Eastin

Gavin Newsom had sucked all the air out of the room until two billionaire charter school proponents, Eli Broad and Reed Hastings, started pumping billions into the race for Antonio Villaraigosa. Having met him once and found him to be a bit sleezy and a lot opportunistic, I would take Gavin over him if those were the only choices.

However, despite Newsom’s image as the brave guy who promoted marriage equality, I remember when San Francisco was on the brink of total gentrification from a wonderful pastiche of cultures and revolutionary instincts to the stultifying center of finance and tech bros it seems to be today, and Newsom presided over that change, encouraging it all the way. Oakland is there now and woe to us if we don’t heed the warning signs.

So my choice was between State Treasurer John Chiang and former Schools Superintendent Delaine Eastin.  Delaine has all the right instincts and when I saw her at Oakland’s rally to repeal Costa Hawkins law which prohibits many municipalities from passing renter protections,  I gave her my vote. You should too.

Lieutenant Governor-Gayle McLaughlin

I am not excited about this race but most voters never are. The only obvious reason to run is to be the next in line for governor. I had thought to endorse Ed Hernandez and then looked at his list of supporters-I was very impressed that he has all the union support but then noticed that that included all the police unions and that worries me. It’s already very difficult to get police reform bills passed, and I doubt he would oppose anything police unions support.

Gayle McLaughlin has operated in the tiny crucible that is Richmond politics where Chevron is the obvious villain to be opposed and most who do, come out looking like heroes. I find her naive and not as grounded as I would like but I will vote for her in lieu of the establishment candidates. BTW, if you notice the inundation of your airwaves with Kounalakis ads, look her up. She is a developer who is the daughter of a developer who has spent her life being appointed to high profile commissions. Don’t let the Obama imprimatur cloud your weepy eyes.

US Senator-Kevin De Leon

State Senator De Leon is responsible for most of the progressive legislation which got through the legislature this year as he was the Senator Pro Tem who pushed and organized the resistance including defining us as a sanctuary state. Now that Senator Feinstein has managed to portray herself as a staunch supporter of the Resistance and, given her millions in campaign cash, Kevin may have little chance but we should look for him to lead our state in some other capacity soon.

Congress-Barbara Lee Speaks for Me-as always

CA Secretary of State-?

I’m sure there are folks who can tell you why or why not to continue to support the incumbent, Alex Padilla, but I could find little or no information on that race. It looks like Padilla is guaranteed a return to that office.

Also, the Wellstone Voting Rights Task Force, for complicated reasons, is voting no endorsement in this race.

Betty Yee for Controller and Malia Cohen for State Board of Equalization.

Attorney General-Xavier Becerra

Ok, so I changed horses in mid-season. My club, the Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club, had heartily endorsed Dave Jones for Insurance Commissioner and feted him with a celebratory dinner. I got many calls from him and finally decided to endorse him before the California Democratic Convention back in February.

But then I got more info from someone who worked as an attorney in that department under both Garamendi and Jones. Describing Jones as insurance commissioner,”Jones could have pursued a pro-consumer agenda, like John Garamendi. But instead he was as passive as he could possibly be. He didn’t even bother to replace people who were in positions subject to his appointment. He just left the Republican holdovers to keep doing whatever they were doing (he didn’t seem to know or care).”

And more specifically as a reference to Jones’ environmental platform, “But where he has real power to help consumers–by making insurance companies treat policyholders fairly–he’s pathetically timid.
Here’s an example I {former employee} know about:  the insurance commissioner has the authority to disapprove all health insurance contracts (policies). There are department lawyers who review every word to make sure it complies with the law.
There was a huge backlog of these policies (the insurers could use them until and unless they were disapproved).  While literally thousands of these policies were sitting without review the laws changed and included more consumer protections. I tried to get those policies disapproved, since they clearly no longer were valid.
But the policies were being used by insurance companies and Dave Jones didn’t want to upset them. So he ordered that they all be approved, even though they all violated the law.”
I’ve heard that Jones was weak on money bail reform while Becerra was not. So I am now endorsing AG Becerra. Maybe Jerry managed to do something right.
Tony Thurmond for Superintendent of Schools-very important!
Now to the fun down ballot stuff. It often seems like throwing darts at your handbook would work just fine which leads me to believe that some of these positions should be appointed rather than elected as they are based on professional credentials that few have and even fewer may desire. But here we go:
Assessor-James Johnson
I can’t say I know a lot about this office though I suspect it’s one that shouldn’t be based on political expertise. I have a recommendation from a progressive friend who has worked with him that Johnson does indeed know the work of this office and is highly competent to carry it on. She is concerned about that the next assessor see the job as important and not just as a political stepping stone so I’m going with that.
Auditor-Controller-Irella Blackwood
Ok, I’ll admit to knowing little about what this office does too but it seems very important. One of the reasons I chose Irella was that during a forum she mentioned why she would present more transparent reports than her opponent Melissa Wilk, who already works in the county auditor’s office, is currently doing. Of course, promises are cheap and we’ll have to see but it is a concept her opponent did not push.
They both have great endorsements but Blackwood’s includes Ann-Marie Hogan while Wilk’s includes Sheriff Ahern who is being targeted by civil rights groups demanding his department be audited for why spending is going up for county jails while prisoner numbers are falling.
I’m sure they would both be fine auditor’s but I want to see this office removed from the sheriff’s influence.
County Board of Supervisors- Wilma Chan-this incumbent has quietly led the fight against the worst of the Trump crimes here in Alameda County.
District Attorney-Pamela Price
I’m happy to note that since I endorsed her, George Soros has followed my lead, LOL and pumped some money into mailers to elect her and other progressives into the office most responsible for mass incarceration of Black and Brown youth.
I’ve written more extensively about this endorsement here – https://draketalkoakland.com/tag/pamela-price/

And I will just add that while Nancy O’Malley has accomplished good things in the past, she is a traditional DA and the times call for innovation and a focus on dismantling mass incarceration. Whatever happens we should be grateful to Candidate Price for taking this on.

Sheriff-Write-In–N.O. Confidence

As I detailed in the blog above, there was a search for someone to run against this sheriff with the necessary law enforcement background but no one took that on despite our coalition’s effort. Since then, some of us have been beating the bushes to find a write-in candidate who would not be required to have the law enforcement certification but would be the antithesis of what most California sheriffs have become,  gung-ho supporters of the Trump anti-immigration policies and purveyors of the abuses of the mass incarceration state. Because they are elected independently, they act with impunity and little can be done to restrain their most negative impulses.

We still have until May 22nd to find a write-in candidate who embodies what real public safety would look like, a California where everyone is encouraged to watch out for each other without imposing their biases on them and where all feel free to come forward and ask for help in times of need. That person must be a registered voter in the county and be willing to obtain 20 signatures to prove it. That’s it, sign up!

But if as likely, no one steps forward-ideally a POC who works in the re-entry, anti-violence or public health field-then we will promote a campaign for everyone to write in the well known anti-sheriff candidate (gluten free of course) N.O. Confidence, who uses the pronoun “they.

State Assembly AD 18-Rob Bonta

Assembly Member Bonta is running unopposed probably because he is one of the hardest working folks in that body and is one of our reps who ushered in the resistance against the regime in DC while also fighting for affordable housing, renter protections, and money bail reform. That’s just a sliver of the issues he is taking on. Show him your support.

State Assembly AD 15-Dan Kalb

This is an open seat in a wide-open race. We have a well-heeled candidate, Buffy Wicks, whom almost no one knows and who has’t lived here for long but due to the Obama nostalgia and piles of cash, has a good chance of getting in the top 2 of our weird primary system.

Wicks is also not a supporter of the repeal of Costa Hawkins which would allow municipalities to enact renter protections on some of the units not now affected by any protections, and she is quite willing to take contributions from the charter school industry. Outside of those pivotal issues, she might be a fine rep but I have nothing to base that on. She worked in the Obama administration but I have no way to know what her real contribution was.

My candidate, Dan Kalb, is widely acknowledged to be the most likely to write successful legislative initiatives in the legislature. His expertise ranges from environmental experience to fighting for affordable housing through knowledge of and a willingness to enact police reform. He is a principled politician who will not make promises he can’t keep.

So now I have to add that I like Jovanka Beckles and Cheryl Sudduth. I keep scratching my head wondering why CNA, the nurses’s union, declined to support Beckles in favor of a political neophyte when they might have put Jovanka over the top. Maybe it’ll still happen, we’ll see. In terms of Cheryl, I am really impressed by the number of issues she is involved in, particularly the layers of sanctuary she reps, and the passion with which she addresses them.

Judge Superior Court-Karen Katz

When Tara Flanagan ran she made a big splash and was a very visible and able politician. But since then she has disappointed those who closely watch trials as more law and order, especially for Black defendants, than was hoped for when elected.

Karen Katz has spent her life as a public defender and is running because she says, “we are all safer when justice is administered fairly.” I have no idea if she has a chance to beat a sitting judge, actually that is probably unlikely, but given some of what I have heard about Judge Flanagan’s court, it’s worth a try.

Propositions-County & Regional

RM3-NO

This measure raises the tolls on the Bay Bridge over the next few years to fund a hodgepodge of projects which claim to be public transit oriented but list to the side of ferry boats while stalling out on your daily AC Transit route leaving you stranded as you bike, albeit in better lanes, to the BART where your wait might be a couple of minutes shorter or not, depending on where you live. As one wag said, these are projects inspired by a transit agency that recently moved to the west bay at great expense but wants East Bay drivers to fund far flung transit and highway improvements to traffic nightmares wrought by Silicon Valley. Why must we continue to pay for all their sins?

The worst part about this mishegoss of a measure is that once these tolls are implemented, there will be no place left to go for funding by transit agencies which are still cleaning up the crumbs left by this mess.

As Jack Kurzweil, one of the founders of the Wellstone Club says, “The projects are not presented as part of a grand plan to address the future transportation needs of the Bay Area.  That’s because there is no such grand plan.  Consequently, there is little basis upon which to evaluate the choice of projects.  They are parts without a whole.  The Bay Area needs a transportation vision that makes sense.”

County Measure A-Childcare-Yes

Although it’s a small increase to the sales tax, the type of tax I rarely favor, we can handle this to fund something as desperately needed as good childcare. I recently bought shoes in Santa Monica and their sales tax is higher-yet I saw lots of shoppers there so go ahead and vote for this.

City of Oakland Measure D-Libraries-Yes

This is a relatively small increase in property tax, $75, but it will have a big impact especially for children for whom their local library branch is a sanctuary and the 30% whose school libraries have been shuttered. With this tax, library hours can be increased as well as the services they supply.

By the way, as some of you may know, adult education was wiped out in Oakland over the last decade and the library is one of the remaining spaces which provides adult literacy classes. And if, like me, you’re a kindle user, the library is a great place to get your ebooks too and the librarians are quite helpful in getting you signed up.

Prop 68-Yes-Park bonds

Prop 69-Yes-funds for Transportation to be spent on Transportation-Duh

Prop 70-NO, no,no-Don’t hobble the Legislature waiting on Republican votes for these projects

A Word about the Upcoming Mayoral & Council Contests

As many of Oaklanders look forward to the fall 2018 elections to remove some of the Trump stain, we also have to take stock of our city. We see the cranes all over the downtown and the crowds at the Lake. We have a plethora of renowned restaurants to choose from when we go out–and all this is good.

But  we may be becoming inured to the ever growing empire of tents, the daily displacement of families & couch surfing youth; at the same time as many of our 1920’s cottages turn into million dollar homes, more and more of us live in unspeakable and highly visible squalor on our streets. And others band together in older homes and apartments hoping that when they go out to work, they don’t get attacked and deported by agents of a xenophobic and lawless regime in Washington.

Our neighbor San Francisco now has the lowest percentages of families of any city in the country. Are we on the verge of becoming the same kind of city as that, cleansed of  its Black leaders, its Latino entrepreneurs, its artists and writers, its Bohemian youth, those who struggle and yearn for justice and new ways of living?

We are in the last moments when the way out of that reductionist and ultimately bleak future is clear–reelecting the folks who have tinkered with small solutions and toyed with our fears while so many go quietly away from us, is not the answer. Just as we’re doing on the national scene, we must allow our creative and compassionate ideas to flow and design the Oakland we have always dreamed of. That means we must stop looking for someone to blame and start proposing bold even outlandish solutions, then join with others to make them happen. Si se puede.

PS. Don’t be fooled by those who denounce the regime in Washington while doing little for the least of these in our hometown. Watch what they do, not what they say.

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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?