By Len Raphael

Oakland has a wealth of private resident problem solvers. Oakland residents command an amazing breadth and depth of public policy understanding that crosses all economic and racial divides.

But many potential problem solvers don’t publicly try to implement or even discuss their solutions because they are “afraid of being a target.”

I’ve heard that from diverse residents so many times over the years when asking them sign a petition, plant a window or lawn sign, contact a local politician, etc., that I’ve concluded they’re not paranoid, but prudent.

If you ask people who would target them, the answers range from local politicians, bureaucrats, police, to people of different racial groups, political opinions, or even ages.

Not a pretty side of our celebrated diversity.

There is such a thing as too much civility in public political expression. More of our city council meetings need to be disrupted to get the officials to wake up and to get the attention of residents to issues they’re not aware of or have ignored.

But it is not OK to put up swastika posters of council members Noel Gallo and Libby Schaaf. It’s not OK to break windows of downtown employers. It’s not OK to splash paint on “Bryan Parker for Mayor” lawn signs all over town.

It is especially disgusting to find out that two of the organizers of the Temescal Private Patrol crowdfunding were “doxed” and then targeted by people who oppose security patrols. There were some intimidating emails from the opponents about confronting the immediate neighbors of the organizers, letting them know who the patrol organizers were and what they were up to, threatening to visit their places of work and disrupting their work lives. Someone had researched the organizers, found out where they lived, what they did for a living, and what organizations they were associated with. None of it was overtly threatening, but chilling nonetheless.

People here are proud of our progressive traditions in Oakland. There’s another tradition of intolerance that we don’t remember but seems to be alive and well in different clothing. In the 1920’s, the Ku Klux Klan won 9% in a city-wide council race; and another Klansman won 18% in a school board election.

I urge Oaklanders to ask all of their friends and neighbors in Temescal to read the full description of the neighborhood security patrol’s operation and the safeguards that will be put in place to protect all of us in every sense.

If you agree that it is a very thoughtful plan that includes the selection of a security service whose attorney is Oakland civil rights attorney John Burris, and you can afford it, pledge $157 for a six-month test of private patrols in Temescal.

If, after reading the proposal, you think it stinks, post away and talk to your neighbors.

(And if anyone wants to dox me, be my guest. I’ll make it easy by giving you my physical address: 4922 Desmond Street, Oakland, CA 94618. Virtual home is www.cparaa.com. Easy to find my fb page too. There’s @lenraphaelcpa. Hint for my email for a dos attack: it begins with L.)

Editor’s Note: This piece reflects an individual opinion and is not a reported story from Oakland Local. Oakland Local invites community residents to share their views about events and issues in Oakland.
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28 Responses

  1. r2d2ii

    It’s a leadership kind of thingy. Civic leadership is about bringing folks together and making sure all their reasonable and properly-deserved needs are met.

    There’s absolutely nothing legally wrong with richer folks buying themselves extra security. That’s what money does in a money-dominated society. LIfe is unfair; shit rolls downhill, etc.

    Oakland electeds like Libby Schaaf have come out publicly in support of private cops for them who can afford ’em. Again, that’s not unreasonable given a culture which tolerates and even celebrates inequality.

    Schaaf and Quan both live in the hills.

    But it’s not leadership. What might a leader do? Something like this: identify the outstanding needs of those most burdened by crime. It’s the folks in deep East Oakland and in West Oakland who bear the most weight. Speak to them; make a crime-fighting plan which actually suits them and actually can reduce crime. Do that and you don’t have to be out promoting private cops.

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  2. James Miller

    Had no idea that the opposition to patrols in Temescal had gotten to this level. There’s been a small, and I suppose somewhat vocal opposition here in Rockridge, but they’re approaching the issue with quite a bit of rationality.

    That being said, I have certainly not gotten wind of any of the feared profiling or intimidation private patrol opponents here expressed as their most serious concern. I would wager the hipster left in Temescal is opposed because of ideological opposition to the “privatization of public space,” or just the very idea that someone can buy a service or whatever.

    I think it’s becoming clear that these patrols are a pretty light presence and if you blink you miss ’em. In any case, I ask folks here: have there been any profiling incidents you’ve heard about?

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  3. Karen N.

    “It’s not OK to splash paint on ‘Bryan Parker for Mayor’ lawn signs all over town.”

    Nor is it OK for Parker’s hired staff to put signs illegally on phone poles, and on private fences etc. without permission.

    Interestingly, there has been a rash of painting over those garish yellow “Buy Your House” and other commercial signs on phone poles – a modest but welcome response to blight.

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  4. Len Raphael

    Karen, the city ordinance against private signage on public property is selectively enforced by both the city and by opponents. eg. realtor weekend signs and retail store “sandwich” signs are never removed by the city. In prior elections only a few candidates and proposition placed signs on public property .All were removed by the city. But in more recent city elections, incumbents and candidates/propositions backed by incumbents started placing signs on public property. No one’s signs were removed by the city 🙂

    From my short discussion with a member of local ACLU several years ago, the ordinance probably violates constitutional protections for political free speech. it has never been tested in Oakland.

    Berkeley has a similar ordinance but intentionally does not enforce it because, I was told by an activist there, Berkeley does not want to get sued. They do enforce the ban where the signs block scenic or safety views. They do levy hefty fines against any committee that fails to promptly remove the signs post election.

    I see Oakland’s ordinance as a violation of political free speech that only serves to raise the entry barrier to people who challenge incumbents and well financed propositions.

    Signs are one of the few low cost means for candidates to gain name recognition.

    When the City removes political signs during election periods it is just another form of targeting I discussed in the op-ed.

    When private residents remove or deface the signage, same deal.

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  5. Len Raphael

    Full disclosure, as I have often done in other posts, I support Bryan Parker for Mayor by both volunteering my time and contributing $700 max per individual.

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  6. Len Raphael

    Karen, I agree with you that Bryan Parker’s committee should promptly remove any signs placed on private property. Considering how much we all pay PGE under it’s power monopoly and how more we have to pay every time they screw up, I’m not sympathetic to their private property claims.

    The people splashing paint on Parker’s signs are not doing it to protect private property rihts or for beautificaton. They’re just hating on a candidate.

    Not that it exonerates Bryan Parker’s responsibility to remove the private property signage, but check out the vacant lot at 51st and Telegraph. Full of political signage but not his. The anointed successor to the Alameda County Auditor/Controll has two large signs there. There’s even one thanking Mayor Quan for reasons unspecified. No paint on any of them.

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  7. Judge Felix Frankfurter

    “The ordinance [forbidding signs on telephone, utility, and light poles] probably violates constitutional protections for political free speech.”

    Right-wing Raphael tries opportunist appeal to liberals. Free speech to post on telephone poles? Okay, how about the walls of City Hall? Ridiculous.

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  8. Colin

    So… 1 KKK guy got 9% of the vote for city commissioner (not city council as you suggest) at a time when this was a very white city and the KKK was not seen as the pro-lynching racist group that it is understood to have been from today’s perspective, and you’re suggesting an equivalency between people who looked up the names and addresses of people doing something they disagreed with? Honestly?

    This is a contentious issue for a lot of reasons, and while you’ve got a valid argument, this kind of BS undermines it completely. Saying people you disagree with are intolerant in the grand tradition of the KKK is a great way to up the temperature in the room, but not so good at actually dealing with problems.

    But then again, I don’t believe there can ever be too much civility in public political expression. Your essay is an example of why.

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  9. Len Raphael

    It’s not as if I’m gung ho supporter of private patrols. I wasn’t active in the organizing until I learned about the intimidation attempt.

    I’m not exaggerating when I say I’ve never met a private patrol advocate in Oakland who doesn’t consider these to be a poor, mid-term substitute to compensate for local government failure to protect all residents. Both Rockridge and Temescal organizers are proceeding very cautiously to make sure these are effective and safe in every sense, including civil rights.

    Personally, my preference would be a torch and pitchfork march on City Hall demanding more effective, safer public safety that doesn’t consume our entire budget and truly effective anti-violence programs and public schools. Not holding my breath.

    The main theme of my op-ed was the all too often local intolerance of alternative public policies. The doxing of the organizers especially angered me because I did my bit to stop the Domain Acquisition Center from invading our private lives. My best hunch, is that the doxers were a tiny subset of residents who also opposed the DAC, though they don’t see the contradictions. Is that what’s called “diversity of tactics” or just “ends justify the means?”

    Colin, you’re entitled to criticize my analogy to the Oakland KKK, but then you didn’t talk to any of the people who got the intimidating phone call and emails and get a sense of the what they felt.

    I’ve publicly stuck my head out enough times including being the only one willing to put my name on the second Recall Mayor Quan committee. .

    I annoyed most police supporters who once liked my D1 initial campaign platform to double the number of cops when I modified my position to say don’t add another officer until we lower police total compensation and overhaul OPD.

    I po’d the remaining police supporters when I worked against the Data Acquisition Center.

    I’ve been called some nasty things but never ever threatened by any side here.

    But most of us are not so thick skinned and get very nervous when they get phone calls and emails giving personal details of their private lives.

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  10. Colin

    I don’t doubt that it was at best unpleasant and at worst terrifying. But comparing them to the KKK and suggesting that they are an extension of something that happened once in 1923 because it’s ideologically convenient doesn’t do your point any favors. Like calling people Nazis, it tends to stop all reasonable discussion.

    Plus it’s baseless. These people and whatever they did have absolutely nothing to do with the KKK, in an historical moment from 1923 or at any other point in the KKK’s history. There is no connection between these two events – neither one is evidence of long standing intolerance in Oakland, neither one expresses the same tactics or motivations… They don’t share a common history. Other than you not liking both groups, they have nothing in common.

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  11. Len Raphael

    Colin, I have friends, two of whom died recently, who were concentration camp survivors. Blue tattooed numbers on forearms. As one of them once put it “I have known true evil.”

    Yet, i would not have been angered by people calling Gallo and Schaaf Nazi’s to their faces if the persons, like many people who don’t know the Holocaust, use Nazi as a synonym for totalitarian official.

    I was angered by the anonymous swastika’d posters of Gallo and Schaaf. That was an attack on the persons, not their political positions.

    That’s intimidation.

    If you don’t think it’s in the same vein as burning a cross on someone’s lawn, we’ll have to agree to disagree.

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  12. thorn

    while i agree with idea that there needs to be a bit more civility in the discussions around all of these issues, your analogy of those engaged in such tactics to the klan is as offensive and and asinine as those dropping swazis on candidate posters. in contrast to the comment made prior, there never was a time when the klan was not viewed as a pro-white, pro-lynching, anti-catholic/jew/immigrant/black/irish/italian organization, its just in the 1920s this was a more accepted line of thought. por ejemplo, when rockridge was first developed, it was a whites only neighborhood…. anyway, more civility, sure. discussions and meetings and interactions over trying to intimidate and sabotage, sure–but comparing your foes to nazis and the klan? grow the f up. no one is getting strung up or placed in a gas chamber.

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  13. JessaFess

    There is a small subset of radicals in Oakland who they are entitled to police everyone else who lives here: our politics, our activities, our opinions and our identities.

    They intimidate or dismiss anyone who does not completely go along with everything they say.

    I would wager this subset is 99% white and male.

    I very deliberately use the words “entitled” and “police” to describe them because as long time Oakland residents, we know how well those words go together.

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  14. Len Raphael

    A neighbor saw two Barbara Lee signs in the median strip on Pleasant Valley above Bway. Both were smeared with grey paint or mud. No signs there now.

    FF, too many people, and not just in Oakland, read a couple of lines or listen to a few sentences about a policy position someone has publicly taken and then neatly file that person away as you have, as right wing, or left wing, etc.

    I’ve successfully annoyed both left and right and sometimes middle in Oakland, so label me whatever you want instead of addressing the substance of what I write.

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  15. Len Raphael

    A moderator of one of the Yahoo sites posted this

    “Len,
    I’m sorry to have to say that I agree with your analysis here. I’ve read too many responses in online comment conversations that were way beyond uncivil…..”

    Reply
  16. Oakie

    Has anyone suggested we be able to deduct private security fees from our property tax bill or rebate it after the tax is paid?

    After all, the city is not really delivering policing protection, but we do pay for that service in our property taxes and then we pay a second time to actually get service from private contractors.

    One thing is certain, that would get their attention. And if you can do that, you’ve accomplished something.

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  17. Len Raphael

    One of the criticisms of private patrols is that they would remove the incentive for people to support higher taxes to pay for more cops and programs.

    On reflection, that’s probably true. A $100/year parcel tax that only adds 60 or a 100 cops spread over the entire city 24×7 doesn’t look so good compared to $300/year for a patrol guaranteed to go by your home 4 times a day. Days go by when I don’t see a police car go by where I live in Temescal.

    ———–

    Mayor Quan supporters should donate to private patrols.

    If the various private patrols work as well as some of them seem to be doing so far, the more likely effect will be for voters to give Mayor Quan the credit for reducing crime. And some of that would be justified if OPD is able to shift police out of private patrolled areas to other areas.

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  18. Len Raphael

    Oakie, My understanding is that Rockridge is looking into applying for 501(c)(3) status for the “non-profit public benefit corporation” that now collects money from residents and contracts with security providers.for much of Rockridge.

    if they applied and received such status, then the contributions minus the value of any assured personal response service would be a tax deductible donation.

    And that is fair considering in any area only a fraction of the residents are paying for patrols that could benefit everyone.

    “http://saferrockridge.org/about/

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  19. Len Raphael

    Just noticed the same gray paint smeared over one of those “We pay cash for houses” signs next to Tech. I must admit I’m glad that was done. Saved me the trouble of schlepping a ladder over there and pulling it down myself.

    Reply
  20. Len Raphael

    Over half the Temescal security patrol fund raising posters we put up this week were either torn down or had the contact info tabs completely torn off. In many instances, there were other, commercial posters left untouched. So no, this wasn’t done by residents trying to beautify Temescal or enforce an unconstitutional city sign ordinance.

    The signs were removed by people who only like certain kinds of Oakland diversity and don’t respect the diversity of opinion on how best to make our city safer.

    To which some would say private patrol supporters are not just expressing an opinion but trying to oppress fellow residents by profiling and hassling.

    To which I’d say that private patrols are much more responsive to those complaints than OPD because the residents paying them can fire them without going thru layers of binding arbitration like OPD does.

    Unlike OPD, private patrols have real civilian oversight by your own neighbors. If you can’t trust your neighbors….

    We’re up to 72 contributors with a deadline of Sat May 31.

    If you are a contributor, at your option the patrol will respond directly to your security alarm or phone call. You will also have your residence patrolled a minimum of 4 times per day.

    We address concerns about profiling and privatization of City services in the Q&A at http://tilt.tc/ax7q or email help@SaferTemescal.org with any questions.

    Reply
  21. Len Raphael

    None of us organizing this patrol think private patrols are a permanent cure for crime in Oakland or anywhere else. It’s a stop gap measure.

    I hear the objection that if people contribute to this, they won’t push elected officials to do anything effective for crime and the underlying causes of it.

    To which I say, most people don’t have the time or energy to do anything now, except vote once a year and make some charitable contributions.

    If this is effective, and we don’t know if it will be, at worst it does nothing. We’re not going to tolerate profiling or abuse.

    At best it reduces crime here and frees up OPD resources to concentrate on areas where people are getting killed.

    Funding deadline for this phase is next Saturday, May 31.

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  22. Len Raphael

    With the help of many Temescalians and several people and businesses outside of the patrol area, we have exceeded our “tilt” threshold and expect to have the patrol started in early June.

    The fund raising campaign continues thru this Sunday.
    contribute at http://tilt.tc/ax7q

    Contributions made as late as Sunday 11:59PM could enable us to either increase the patrol coverage frequency or expand coverage to include the few blocks West of Shattuck to the freeway and/or South of 40th to MacArthur that are really part of the Temescal community. This will depend on how much more money is raised and the geographical dispersion of all the contributors.

    So if you were planning to contribute, doing so now will still benefit the entire community and the contributor.

    Ellen Kim and Len Raphael will be at Bites off Broadway Friday evening (May 30) from 6-7:30pm signing up subscribers and answering questions about the patrol. Stop by to say hello, and bring a neighbor.

    Your neighbors,
    Ellen Kim, 4300 block of Shafter
    Len Raphael, 4900 block of Desmond
    help@SaferTemescal.org
    contribute at http://tilt.tc/ax7q

    Reply
  23. Len Raphael

    The Temescal neighborhood unarmed private patrol started midnight Sunday June 15th 2014

    Intervention Group, Inc. (IGI) will be providing unarmed patrol services for the area bounded by Telegraph to the west (but not inclusive of Telegraph), the south side of 51st, the west side of Broadway, and the north side of 40th for a 6-month trial period beginning June 15, 2014. The patrol will cover 16 hours a day (10:30am-2:30am), 7 days a week.

    Critics have made a mountain out of a molehill re Temescal private patrol. Many of the issues raised are real but hypothetical, especially concerns about profiling and abuse.

    The real mountain of policing abuse in Oakland is OPD. They all carry guns and their is no strong civilian review and discipline process.

    People concerned about poilce abuse, regardless of their position on private patrols, to sign the PUEBLO petition asking the City Council to create a ballot measure that would institute a Public Safety Oversight Commission similar to what SF and NYC have. An email to your council member and council member-at-large Kaplan would help too.

    http://www.ipetitions.com/petition/oakland-needs-a-police-commission

    Patrols are benign compared to sending one’s kids to private K-12 school. I understand and don’t criticize people for doing so, but make no mistake that sending your kids to private schools deprives public schools of approximately 15,000/year for each private school student.

    Compare that to patrols. Even if you assume that the $300/year a resident could spend on that would otherwise have gone to a local charity, that $300 from a couple of hundred residents pays for many more private patrol hours than the city gets from an OPD officer costing 200,000 each.

    Considering that every “viable” Mayoral candidate and the entire city council are all hell bent on hiring at least 200 more police, more private patrols are the only hope we have of convincing the politicians to do a better job of policing with the cops OPD now has or negotiate large reductions in OPD compensation.

    Private patrols save City budget money that could be spend on other vital services and programs.

    Len Raphael
    4922 Desmond St

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  24. Oakie

    Thank you Len Raphael and all the others for a great and successful effort to get this off the ground.

    The framework you have chosen, over-the-top inclusiveness, even for non-payers, is extraordinary and generous. I wish you guys the best of luck.

    Has anyone considered how best to measure the impact all the private security villages will have on our violent crime rate? The same analytical problem measuring teacher effectiveness will haunt that effort. How do you compare what has happened as a result of the presence of the patrols vs. what would have happened if they weren’t there.

    Reply
  25. Len Raphael

    Paul Liu, Ph.D. economist and one of the organizers of Safer Rockridge has generously agreed to extend to Temescal the ongoing data analysis he does for the Rockridge patrol.

    Paul has “analyzed the impact of the patrols on burglaries and robberies in Rockridge with Bayesian statistical modeling using over seven years of Oakland-wide, historical data up through March 2014. He estimates that burglaries and robberies are down by 43% relative to what would have been the case absent the patrols. Moreover, there is no evidence that crime increased in neighborhoods adjacent to Rockridge. See the full report at http://goo.gl/PTTaeB.”

    Paul’s made his analysist available to the public for critiquing. And several people did exactly that. He responded to each criticism without a defensive tone. One of the reviewers contacted me directly with further comments to the point that he thinks the data does show that the Rockridge patrols were effective but not as effective as Paul concluded. The same critic still supported trying private patrols.

    The facilitators of the Temescal patrol are by no means gung ho private patrol true believers. That’s probably true for most of the contributors. We’re willing to try it for at least six months and evaluate it’s effect on crime rates and the experience of subscribers in terms of response time to calls and burglar alarms; as well as vacation watch satisfaction.

    No, we are not planning to measure its effect on charitable contributions to Emerson or Tech. We are not going to ask contributors if they will support the warmed up rehash of Measure Y that the Council seems intent on blackmailing us to vote for.

    Len Raphael
    4922 Desmond St

    Reply
  26. Len Raphael

    Btw, outside of Rockridge and Temescal, there has been much less contention about the evils of private patrols.

    To put this in perspective, patrols throughout Oakland have been facilitated by a range of residents with very different political perspectives. The chairperson of the Maxwell Park NCPC that also facilitates it’s private patrol, was a key figure in Mayor Quan’s anti-recall campaign. I was the treasurer of the first and then the second recall committee. Another Temescal facilitator is a strong supporter of renewing Measure Y while I’m against renewing it with substantial changes.

    Just as the support for patrols is non-partisan, so is the united disapproval of patrols by our elected officials. Across the board elected officials don’t like to see residents doing what the officials should have done for them.

    What every Oakland patrol facilitator seems to agree on, is that we won’t wait for OPD to improve its 911 abysmal response time or to implement effective community policing.

    Len Raphael
    4922 Desmond
    help@SaferTemescal.org

    Reply

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