By , The Oakland Post

Nearly three quarters of juvenile arrests in Oakland are African American boys, who are often picked up for relatively minor offenses, according to a study recently released by the local nonprofit Black Organizing Project, Public Counsel, and the American Civil Liberties Union of Northern California.


Titled “The Impact of Policing Oakland Youth,” the report looked at arrest data between 2006 and 2012 and found that African American boys made up almost 75 percent of all juvenile arrests in Oakland despite being under 30 percent of the city’s under 18 population.

The study calls on the school district to make dramatic improvements by making a greater investment in counselors and mentors, implementing a memorandum of understanding between the Oakland Police Department and OUSD that clearly defines and limits the role of OPD officers in and around campuses.

“There is no oversight on how Oakland police operate in schools, and that is why we need more accountability of the police and transparency in their reports,” said Misha Cornelius, communications coordinator of the Black Organizing Project.

“This an example of the school to prison pipeline and not being trained for success or being put on track for job skills.”

Cornelius says that she and her organization to find how many young African American students were getting arrested for minor offenses like gambling or skipping school and wondered why more money is not being invested in training counselors in restorative justice practices and conflict resolution.

Currently, there are only 20.5 counselors in OUSD.

More than 72 percent of calls from schools to the OUSD’s police force were to respond to allegations of “non-criminal conduct” by students or others. Only 28 percent of calls were in response to allegations of drugs, alcohol, weapons, and crimes against a person, according to the report.


The report also found that Black youth were referred to Alameda County Probation at more than two-and-a-half times their percentage in the population. About 44 percent of Black male students suspended or arrested at Oakland’s schools multiple times were ousted as punishment for “defiance of authority.”

During the period that report covered, there were more than 13,680 juvenile arrests in or near schools, mostly by OPD. Between 2010 and 2012, Oakland school police officers made 85 arrests.

To reduce these numbers of arrests, district spokesman Troy Flint says the district has changed its suspension policy, relying more on counseling students instead of suspensions, as well as taking steps to go from punitive to restorative and preventive justice practices.

“The report reflects a combination of social, economic, and historic societal factors that Black communities in Oakland have been underserved for generations, and we’re seeing that culminate in these arrest records,” said Flint.

“We recognize the disproportionality and that this isn’t just an Oakland problem, it’s a national problem,” he said.

In response to young Black male dropout rates and incarceration, the district formed the Office of African American Male Achievement in 2010. The office works to analyze data, track individual students, arrange internships and mentors, promote black male achievements, and lead workshops for students and parents.

Chris Chatmon, executive officer of the Office of African American Male Achievement, said placing a focus on early literacy by the time students finish third grade so that everyone is on the same reading level.

“We have to have alternative programs for supporting children and keeping them in a nurturing environment,” said Chatmon. “This includes implementing social and emotional learning for both students and staff, revising the discipline policies, and a multitiered intervention system to curb dropout rates.”

Teresa Clincy, an Administrator at OUSD said the district’s plan to reduce suspensions through restorative justice will go a long way towards solving the problems of Black male achievement. Since she began working for OUSD in 2010, she has seen a dramatic drop in the numbers of referrals for expulsion.

“In 2009, there were 350 referrals for expulsion,” said Clincy. “During my first year in 2010, the number of referrals fell to 270 and in 2011 that it was 201. Last year, the number dropped to 177.”

Clincy noted that only 12 out of the 25 students arrested last year were referred for expulsion. Already there are steps being taken to change expulsion policies, particularly school principals must seek secondary approval on expulsion recommendations.

“One person doesn’t hold the answer,” said Chatmon. “We have to change the culture and hold each other accountable on both a national and domestic level.”


10 Responses

  1. Icky

    “13,680 juvenile arrests” and ” Only 28 percent of calls were in response to allegations of drugs, alcohol, weapons, and crimes against a person”

    I’ll do the math since you cannot.
    3830 arrest for drugs, alcohol, weapons and assault.
    Where the hell is that article?

    And why do you assign zero responsibility to the people who commit these crimes? I am utterly tired of this story. The only solace is that you reap what you sew, and it’s a problem that keeps on giving, all the doublespeak in the world will not change that. Anyone who is carrying weapons or assaulting another person needs to be removed from society. Oh, that’s what’s happening. Get a clue.

  2. martin scolnick

    Gang culture, high drop-out rates from school, brutalizing environments at home. What is a reasonable ratio? Should we be striving for numerical parity or for solutions to problems?

  3. milalex

    I am concerned that the authors of this study do not include property crime in their list of “serious crimes” Does this mean that the authors believe that juveniles that commit property crimes such as larceny, burglary, vandalism, auto theft should not be arrested and prosecuted?

  4. Joe smith

    I’d be scared to death to be a teacher at a Oakland school. Even though these people are only teenagers there mentality is not. These kids are savages ready to fight or even kill for anything. Counselors won’t help. Removing them from society and incarcerating them sadly is the only option.

  5. Devon

    I hope the efforts of the (sadly, race-based) achievement groups bears fruit. This kind of personal involvement and honest leadership usually does (again, sad that race is used to separate boys out into groups by OUSD).

    What the article wanted to say: black boys are arrested and expelled at a higher rate through no fault of their own, but because the police are not properly monitored – code for the race card. Flawed or nebulous reasoning and the umbrella lie to just ‘blame society’, are trotted out yet again. Thud.

    Understand how race-based policy (born of a political correctness and a willful, perpetual, self-disenfranchisement) always fails to help, and often harms, the group it intended to help. From affirmative action to racial quotas, weak public policy (aka race-based) will always have the inevitable effect of diminishing or destroying any positive return. Look at the numbers.

    So here again we have a baseless ‘fact’ being repeated and even cosigned by ‘leaders’ in education. In lieu of a factual, demonstrable foundation, or anything beyond meaningless arrest stats (to spin), the are told that the problem with young black boys is actually “… combination of social, economic, and historic societal factors that Black communities in Oakland have been underserved for generations, and we’re seeing that culminate in these arrest records…”.

    Talk about meaningless. People are getting paid to inculcate the exact fantasies and obfuscations that have left young black boys isolated and hamstrung. One wing of the culture says to despise education and any non-black neighbors and classmates. The other (smaller) voice prompts them to work hard toward their goals, be a man people can look up to and respect, and to strive for excellence. One wing trumpets all the victimizations and defends all the cultural lies. In doing so they provide the exact excuse-structure many young boys (of any stripe) are susceptible to. Stop trying, the inherent message implores, because you were ‘underserved’.

    The restorative and preventive justice practices mentioned are a good idea. I have seen the program plan and intent. The problem is that it will be unequally applied, and it takes a backbone to make it work. One boy (let’s say White), commits act ‘A’ and gets suspended. The next boy (let’s say Black) commits the same act ‘A’ and is sent for a restorative justice session with a counselor. DO you see a problem with that? Unequal justice being perpetrated all in the hopes of, not solving a problem, but trying to make the expulsion numbers look better.

    As bad policy most often does, it will end up hurting the exact people it was meant to help. Black boys must be (by necessity it would seem to classmates) treated differently. The kids hear the message the educators are so clearly sending: something about black boys requires a different standard or expectation of behavior. They cannot (the inference is) be expected to learn and behave the same way as the Asian, Latino, White or whatever-child who grew up next door to them. The perpetual self-disenfranchisement comes full circle – now everyone believes it.

    To add insult to injury, the call is now for more oversight of the police. There are already more people ‘overseeing’ the police than there are police investigating homicides in Oakland. OPD is a dysfunctional mess, and they are losing good people. Adding bureaucracy is the ‘instead of a solution’ solution. It is the cop out of public policy. When no one wants to address the big (aka real) problems, spend more money and create/blame a racist.

  6. Devon

    Not so, Joe. I’ve seen amazing turnarounds. Think of the recovered alcoholic – who was, at one time, trapped, deluded and dangerous. They can end up having the most amazing recovery – and be a huge resource to newcomers or those in active addiction. I believe the same is possible with any of these boys. The tragedy is that many educators in the culture are more interested in the indoctrination of victimhood and a racial/political POV then the lives of these boys. So, your observation may be prophetic.

  7. Seamus

    Maybe we can convince them to move, so Oakland won’t have 10.9 robberies per 1,000 denizens. That’s a record btw. Cleveland is second with only 8.9. Even Detroit only has 6.8.

  8. Angela Shortt (@angelfly72)

    “These kids are savages ready to fight or even kill for anything.” Really? I find it interesting how people view young African American men, especially when the few interactions they ever have with them is what they or read in the media, or what they THINK they are seeing when they pass these young men on the street. I live in Oakland, and even more importantly, I’m a middle aged, disabled woman who has to use a wheel chair to get around because of severe arthritis. I should be an automatic target for those “savages”, right? I mean, really…how could I defend myself against all those young, super-humanly strong men with nothing more on their minds except doing drugs, committing crimes, and listening to rap music? I don’t stand a chance, right?

    There might be SOME who (and I’m giving the benefit of the doubt here) fit that description. Notice that I used the word “some” in the previous sentence. What does that mean? Most? All? No, this is what it means (definition courtesy of “at least a small amount or number of people or things”.It does not mean “most” or “all”, and I used the pronoun specifically for the purpose of steering the conversation away from absurd generalities. Language, both written and spoken, profoundly affects thoughts, attitudes and behaviors. Let me explain how this relates to the issue of describing African American young men as “savages”.

    I moved from Sacramento to Oakland almost three years ago, and I can tell you right now that I’ve had a lot less trouble being out and about here than I did in the Capitol. Young African American have pushed me in my wheelchair across crowded streets; picked up things for me when I’ve dropped them; taken items down from the grocery stores top shelves when they saw me struggling to reach them. Yes, they were wearing hoodies and sagging pants, and some of them smelled of that “whacky tobacky”. But they were always extremely polite (“Here, Ms. Lady, let me get that for you”), never asked for any money in return (which often happened in Sacramento); and, most importantly, never threatened me in any way at all. Quite the opposite, in fact, when a babbling old crazy guy approached me in a way that seemed inappropriate, a group of young African American men promptly told him, “Leave the lady alone, man!”

    This is anecdotal evidence, of course. But what concrete evidence and personal experiences do you have that backs up your claim that they are “savages”? How many personal experiences have you had where you didn’t automatically become tense and nervous because of your preconceived ideas? And if you had some bad experiences that verified your summation that they are all “savages”, does that mean that each and every African American male is nothing more than that? Really?

    My son African American (as I am), is a lifelong geek who was consistently on the honor roll throughout elementary, middle and high school; never had behavioral issues in class; used drugs or worn baggy pants; he read Stephen Hawking’s “A Brief History of Time” when he was in the 6th grade; was 1st cello in the All City orchestra and won a scholarship in music to the Berklee College of Music, where he graduated.

    Despite all that, he was twice handcuffed and put in a police car for the crime of arriving too early at a friend’s house and sitting on the porch steps waiting for them to arrive (he was on the bus, and he didn’t see the need to go all the way back home.) He couldn’t believe the police would try to take him to juvenile hall because he wanted to go roller skating with his other geeky friends and arrived at the designated meeting place too early. Luckily for my son, his friends (who were of all different races) arrived in time to protest and explain to the police what was happening. This is the type of behavior that comes out of believing that African American males being thought of as “savages”. Even the innocent have to endure the consequences of your prejudgment.

    And let me head off that “bleeding heart liberal” accusation right now because I’m sick of it. Before I became too disabled to continued working, I taught MANY young African American teenagers and young adults who had problems with writing and reading how to use the English language much more precisely and efficiently. I have never cared about where they came from or what they did before they came into my classroom, My job was to help them do something that their grossly and unjustly underfunded schools could not, and that was to teach them how to write in a logical and concise way that defies most pedagogical techniques. (I don’t why writing skills are not taught like that in schools; the knowledge certainly exists in academia, which is where I learned it.) I never tolerated BS or excuses in my classroom, and they knew it from the moment they walked in. I taught kids who came in through the Educational Opportunity Program from Compton, East L.A., Hunter’s Point, “Deep” East and West Oakland, the Oak Park and Del Paso Heights areas of Sacramento–young people who came from “broken” and/or “bad” homes. Some had committed crimes. I didn’t care. My job was to teach them so they would be successful in college; I wasn’t trained to be social worker. And they understood that.

    These negative references to the supposed primitive nature of your fellow human beings must end, period. I could go on and on about how your perceptions have created bias in the educational system, but you probably wouldn’t believe me. I could also bring up how the professed science-based sociological theories about “lack of parental values, guidance and responsibility” has done more harm than good for these students. You would disregard this as baseless accusations. Consider this, however, if you are truly interested in a solution to this problem: I’ve been with these young people, and they KNOW what you think of them. All that bravado you see? That’s a facade to disguise the hurt. Sure, some parents have abandoned their children. But NOT ALL OF THEM are terrible parents. Many work in low paying jobs for very long hours because their children aren’t the only recipients of an educational system that has forsaken them; their educational backgrounds are lacking, too. They want to help their children, but they simply don’t have the skills to do so. Furthermore, most of their time and energy is wrapped up in paying the bills each month.

    I am going to say something unpopular and I refuse to back down from it because it is the truth: State funding formulas for public education favor the wealthy suburbs, especially here in post-Proposition 13 California. You know this. Higher property values means more available tax money for the outlying school districts–put that together with state and federal funds that “makes things equal” (such a laugh), and what we have is suburban schools who have access to resources that inner city schools do not, and an attending attitude of who is deserving of a better education and who isn’t, as exemplified by “savage” comment. Public school funding has been “separate and unequal” ever since Brown versus the Board of Education, and it is getting worse. As I have read all too often, the fervent belief seems to be, why should taxpayers “throw more money at failing schools when the parents don’t care about their kids anyway”?

    And here’s the often wryly coded, rarely voiced, yet presumptuous explanation for this belief: at the end of the day, the best African Americans can ever achieve (if they aren’t lucky enough to become athletes, singers or rappers) is to work in low level jobs, anyway. After all, someone has to do them; there’s nothing wrong with that those people doing manual labor. Certainly kids growing up in the suburbs can’t be expected to that work. At any rate, that’s better than going to jail. They shouldn’t expect anything more than that because, after all, they aren’t very intelligent. Besides, who would wash the dishes in the restaurants, work as security guards, nursing assistants, stock clerks, or do janitorial work? They certainly can’t expect to be high powered attorneys, bank presidents or hedge fund managers! There’s “dignity” in hard work and they should be grateful to have a job. We all have our places in this society!

    Right. And as I read over the responses to this article and many others on the Internet, it is clear to me that the perception is that we “savages” have been getting away with trying to get more than we deserve for far too long. It’s time to “take your country back”. There’s a problem with that—we are Americans, too. I know what my parents wanted for me was the same thing those West and East Oakland parents want for their children—a quality education so they can have a better future. Even the terrible parents who have beat their kids and can’t get them fed, dressed and on school on time STILL want their kids to be well educated. Is that difficult to believe? Get over it. It’s true, even if their actions do not seem to support that belief.

    As illogical as it may seem to you, those parents know that the great equalizer for their children is a good education. They didn’t receive that themselves, but that doesn’t mean they don’t want it for them. There’s even a rather self-centered logic for this: if their children are better educated, they will be qualified for better jobs than the lousy ones they have. This also means that their children will be in better position, financially speaking, to take care of them as they grow old. You may scoff or become appalled all you want, but this is a concern for inner city parents. They know their jobs working as security guards or licensed vocational nurses have virtually no pension plans, and Social Security can’t be relied upon. So they hope their children will do better so they won’t waste away out on the streets. After all, they can’t expect their employers to provide them with sufficient retirement benefits, can they? There’s not enough money available in this country to provide for everyone’s “golden years”, or so we’ve been told. You decide if that’s true or not. Be aware that there are societal consequences related to your beliefs.

  9. Seamus

    Male blacks are committing a vast majority of crimes in Oakland. That’s why male blacks are getting arrested more than males of other groups.

    No one seems to know how to help.

    It appears the only way forward is to keep coming up with new programs designed to offer something better than underworld work. …Also, provide for a police dept with enough resources to handle an extra-violent city’s needs.


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