There are times when even the most veteran of journalists drop their editorial guard and reveal exactly how they think. Most people in Oakland know San Francisco Chronicle columnist Chip Johnson bends over backward for the police. But, why, does he consistently fill his columns with such a blatant pro-law and enforcement slant? One reason, most figure, is this is what the conservative editorial page of the Chronicle desires. The fact of the matter is getting your stories in the morning paper sometimes involves mirroring the boss’s ethos. That could be part of it. However, Johnson instead opened his ideological soul in Tuesday’s edition.

In a column meant to mock protesters of Oakland’s Domain Awareness Center during last week’s City Council meeting, Johnson backed the utility of blanketing the city in a surveillance state, of course, all in the name of public safety. The protesters who cry the center will eventually erode public privacy could theoretically be right, he opined, maybe somewhere down the line, but not likely. As he described the shouting and commotion brought on by opponents of the DAC following the council’s vote in favor and subsequent clearing of the council’s chambers, Johnson wrote:

Like a broken record, the scenario has played out again in Oakland City Hall. Oakland residents are pretty sick of it. I’m sick of it.

After nearly two years of being bullied in their own house, maybe City Council members finally got sick of it, too.

It’s no wonder Johnson thinks law and order deserves every implement in the tool shed to fight crime even though the Oakland Police Department has repeatedly shown in the past it defaults to trimming the bushes with a chainsaw rather than pruning shears. Chip Johnson thinks city government belongs to the politicians and not the people. Repeat that in your head. You simply cannot cover government with this frame of mind. This is the mindset of the affluent and the business community, which openly flaunts their perceived control of the political process.

Johnson’s column, in fact, should be about Council President Pat Kernighan stifling dissent last week that was really rather tame, if not merely annoying, when she ordered police to clear the chambers. This act is not something to be lauded by anyone. Kernighan should be embarrassed for her actions.

In addition, what firsthand information does Johnson possess when it comes to Oakland City Council meetings? I’ve been covering City Hall since last January and I’ve never seen him in council chambers. So, what is making him so sick about the whole scene? In fact, the real problem with his column Tuesday is, as a reader, I now believe his assertions about Oakland city government and its crime problem are merely anecdotal collections of extreme stories he has heard about living in Oakland, but nothing he has experienced or even jarringly felt in his reporter’s bones.

In this regard, the protesters of the DAC should be worried of someone like Johnson having such a bully pulpit. The best way to impose a police state is get the media involved. If Johnson and the rest of the local media repeatedly urge the public to be fearful, then they will. Eventually, the incessant barrage of crime stories will affect reality. Before you know it, having every movement you make become subject to review by police won’t seem like such a horrible bargain. It might even save you from yourself.

Cross posted from East Bay Citizen

13 Responses

  1. seamus

    Maybe Chip is pro law enforcement because Oakland is the robbery capital of America with 10.9 robberies per 1,000 residents. Oakland is the robbery-ist city in the whole of America even with some pretty stiff competition from Cleveland and Detroit.

    We need more police badly.

  2. Oakie Fanokie

    Time and time again, a bunch of ignorant jerks show up at City Council and think that if they shout and disrupt a meeting, they can change the outcome.

    That isn’t how democracy works. There’s no constitutional entitlement to use noise to prevent a public meeting from proceeding. In fact, it’s not a right in California, it’s a misdemeanor.

    Kernighan exercised restraint. She could’ve had individual disruptors arrested and charged under CPC 403. Maybe next time she should.

  3. R2D2II

    The tyranny I see is not of pols vs the public or one journalist vs another. It’s the tyranny of tiny minds in Oakland government, in our media and in much of the public. So much striving for political correctness, so much black-and-white thinking, so little attention to and understanding of what’s really going on in our failing city.

  4. Carl

    We don’t need more police, we need more jobs, education, and opportunity. Police are there to bash heads & abuse the innocent. You’re far more likely to be brutalized by a cop in Oakland than victimized by crime. Surveillance cameras do nothing, a good public self-defense class would do far more

  5. Jonatton Yeah?

    Yes, we do need more police because crime is an immediate problem. Jobs, education, and opportunity are long terms goals and those goals also take investment from the communities they’re attempting to engage. Believe it or not, there are educational opportunities available. Job training is available Opportunity is there. While those are more available to some more than others, if one wants to improve their lives, move away from deviant behavior, they can do it.

    “You’re far more likely to be brutalized by a cop in Oakland than victimized by crime.”

    That is just daft beyond belief. Not even worth a comment.

  6. Tim

    Has there been any polling on this? Is there any reason to think the rowdies that show up at city council meetings actually represent “the people”?

  7. Oakie Fanokie

    Carl says: “You’re far more likely to be brutalized by a cop in Oakland than victimized by crime.”

    This is representative of the mindblowingly stupid outlook our local wannabe revolutionaries have.

    Unlike the previous commenter, I think this is worth paying attention to because it shows us that people like Carl are not worth paying attention to.

  8. seamus

    You need to go on a police ride-a-long and receive an enlightenment. If too much effort, listen to OPD scanner for 1 hour and note…

  9. Len Raphael

    I was pro DAC even after it came out that the vendor SAIC was the same one that defrauded NYC for a major human resources software project

    Like many Oakland residents I’m so desperate for ways to reduce crime here that I’ll willingly make some ends justifying the means rationalizations.

    But after I read the city officials’ emails re their shady vetting of SAIC that Darwin BondGraham of the EBX dug up, I say let it die. Walk away from the Fed grant money.

    The nuclear ordinance is a dumb law but it is the law here.

    City officials at a high level aided and abetted SAIC’s submission of a perjured contract application in flagrant violation of that anti-nuclear weapon law.

    There is no way I’d trust city officials to obey any privacy laws if those same officials can’t follow the crystal clear city ordinance forbidding doing business with companies involved in nuclear weapons work.

    Figure out other ways to reduce crime.

  10. Peg Lum

    It’s unfortunate those that write media cannot do ANY Justice when it comes to Oakland. The reporter in question report’s ONLY negative things about Oakland – it’s sad to think someone w/the ability to HELP make a difference, chooses time and time again to be NEGATIVE! OAKLAND DOES NEED MORE POLICE, as well as citizens of Oakland need to work with OPD in their efforts to help reduce crime and look out for each other. Yes, good jobs & education are becoming more available thanks to our Mayor Jean Quan who has been working hard to bring jobs to Oaklanders’ and who’s always advocated for children.

  11. Marcus

    This is a response to Carl who said, “You’re far more likely to be brutalized by a cop in Oakland than victimized by crime”

    Do you have any proof this? Do you have any hard statistics? I’m positive you just completely made up this lie!

    Point is, I’m not trying to show you up, and but I’m tired of people blatantly lying about things to try to win an argument. An exaggeration is one thing, a blatantly lie is another. Scare tactics using blatant lies will only last so long in winning an argument.

    Truth is your way more likely to to be a victim of a crime than are to run into a police officer.

    680 officers for 400,000 residents= .0017
    10.9 robberies for every 1,000 residents = .0109

    Carl I just called BS on your math!!!

    If scare tactics are your best argument, then you don’t have much of an argument do you…do you? Do the math.

  12. Bobby

    Not sure if it’s Oakland that needs to work more with the police of better yet we need to get rid certain “types” of people that live in Oakland.

  13. P-K4

    Of course Chip is right. A vocal minority shows up at City Council meetings and shout down elected politicians who seek to implement common sense solutions for the benefit of the people. Thankfully, this radical fringe is being increasingly priced out of Oakland. Time is on the side of those who demand a safer city.


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