police_beat-ol-300x150In launching Oakland Police Beat, Oakland Local is taking on a project we think has never been done before–using data journalism and investigative reporting to provide in-depth information and analysis not about crime or homicide victims, but about police accountability. Our project, 18 months in the making, is an independent, data-driven investigative journalism project covering the Oakland Police Department. We used primary source documents, original reporting and data-visualization and coding tools to build one of the first comprehensive public resources on police accountability and officer behaviors. With Oakland Police Beat, our mission is to produce high-quality investigative reporting, analysis and data that will empower Oaklanders as they advocate for a police department that’s transparent and accountable. We do this not only by creating news stories, interactive data visualizations, videos and databases, but also by making our data freely available so that others can build off of our work. Funding for this project was made possible by grants from The Ethics and Excellence in Journalism Foundation and The Fund for Investigative Journalism, who supported research on Occupy Oakland that became part of this project.

Go to the site to read the stories and see the data.

About The Author

Susan Mernit is editor & publisher of Oakland Local (oaklandlocal.com) a news & community hub for Oakland, CA. A former VP at AOL & Netscape, & former! Yahoo Senior Director, Mernit was consulting program manager for The Knight News Challenge, 2008-09; was a 2012 Stanford Carlos McClatchy Fellow; and is a board adviser to The Center for Health Reporting at USC, Annenberg School of Journalism. She has consulted with many non-profit organizations on strategy, product development and social media/engagement, including Salon.com, TechSoup Global, Public Radio International and the Institute for Policy Studies/Economic Hardship Reporting Project, led by Barbara Ehrenreich.

4 Responses

  1. r2d2ii

    “I have never been in a city where the police shows such disdain toward its citizens like Oakland, CA.”

    And who manages and hires and fires the Police Chief who manages and hires and fires Oakland cops?

    Hint: the person who hangs out in the Mayor’s office.

    Who sets police policy and pays the cops?

    Hint: The people who meet in the Oakland City Council chambers.

    Who hires and fires the Oakland Mayor and the City Council?

    Hint: the people who live in Oakland who don’t bother to think about how they vote.

  2. seamus

    I’d prefer something that helps with violent crime and who is committing the violent crime. Oakland was the robbery capital of America last year, you know.

  3. Oakie

    I commend the introduction of this effort, and fully support the mission (and announced it on my new tumblr blog FixOakland.tumblr.com, please visit 😉 ) and hope that their work product helps the citizens of Oakland to create a more effective and disciplined police force.

    There are many problems with OPD: a complete lack of leadership within the department (thanks to the fact there is no leadership in the mayor’s office), and clearly dysfunction among the troops. Particular incidents I can recall which were especially disturbing were the use of bean bag shots to wack and permanently harm Occupy protesters and an OPD officer using black tape to cover his badge number during that riot. These are especially offensive to me. “Congratulations” to Black Bloc for creating the mayhem and violence that created the environment in which these inappropriate actions were taken by the cops.

    OTOH the first results do offer some concern over the level of balance in the reporting. Putting 3 officers under a microscope (Brandwood, Milina and Roche) seems to gloss over the truth of the situation. It feels like they are made out to be real monsters. Did Abraham actually meet these three guys and consider their point of view? The fact that they worked the most dangerous area of the kill zone otherwise known as East Oakland, participated in an elite unit which resulted in a disproportionate share of People of Crime interactions, non-peaceful in nature most of them, will not result in a “clean” record for you to examine. The “walk in their shoes” principle applies here. It’s easy to armchair judge them, but their situation is very dangerous and life threatening circumstances make that a too easy game to play, disingenuous and very harmful to the goal of making our city safe.

    If a cop wants a clean record, they keep their head down, ignore the mayhem and violence in the areas they patrol, and go home at night without causing arousal among investigators like Abraham, or the Forces of Anticops (which we have aplenty in our city). I suspect a majority of OPD cops fall into this category and that is why law enforcement in Oakland is so lame. I’ve read many times in news reports that some cops won’t even visit certain streets unless he/she has a large continent of backup, out of fear for their life. If that’s being reported by a reporter, they aren’t just making it up, they’re being told that by the cops themselves off the record. Maybe that should be a topic of one of their reports…..

    The fact that one of them is fired could be much more political and the result of a cowardly decision at the top to throw someone under the bus (I’m talking to you, Mayor Quan). Are you giving fair consideration to that? Could be, I’m not saying it is, and definitely not saying it’s true every time. I am all in favor of rooting out bad cops, and they certainly do exist on our force. With good leadership (I’m not holding my breath for Mayor Quan to provide it) it is conceivable to accomplish this and make law enforcement much cleaner and to make our city safer.

  4. Matt in Uptown

    I hope this effort results in charges being brought to the individuals who killed my coworkers cousin while he was watching TV with his elderly grandmother in her East Oakland home in 2009. He was hit in the head by a stray bullet as two rival groups shot at each other outside, neither of which were members OPD.

    Investigating crimes is probably too scary for OaklandLocal… better to go after people they know they can sue and retire off of if things go even slightly wrong.

    This blog is nuts.


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