By Ken Epstein, Editor of the Oakland Post. News story, Post News Group, June 13, 2014.

A resolution that allows discussion and action on a proposed November ballot measure to create a Public Safety Oversight Commission was approved by the City Council’s Rules Committee this week, which means the measure can be debated and possibly voted on at the Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting on June 24.

Councilmembers of the Rules Committee — Dan Kalb, Pat Kernighan and Libby Schaaf — voted at their Thursday meeting to put the measure on the Public Safety Committee’s agenda. District 7 Councilmember Larry Reid abstained.

If a version of the measure passes at Public Safety, it will go to the full Council for a vote. But if the ballot measure is not approved by Council by the time it breaks for its August recess, the proposed city charter amendment cannot be on the ballot until the next election in 2016.

The proposal is the product of nine months of work by a citywide coalition of police accountability activists, who want to create a public safety commission that would assume most of the authority over the police department, including discipline of officers, currently in the hands of the City Administrator’s office.

The measure is backed by Councilmember Noel Gallo, who chairs the Public Safety committee. The wording of the measure is modeled on the oversight commission that already exists in San Francisco and other cities.

Speaking at the Rules Committee meeting Thursday, Gallo said he was asking his fellow council members to put the item on the Public Safety agenda so that “we can accomplish something that is being requested by the citizens.”

Though the City currently has a Citizen’s Police Review Board and Community Policing Advisory Board, he said, “We have to make them more effective.”

“We are not able to accomplish (at present) what we are telling the public these existing bodies are doing.”

Community member Pamela Drake spoke in favor of putting the measure on the agenda. “We need police oversight,” she said. “This can’t go on. It’s time for us to make a change.”

The proposal is supported by the Coalition of Police Accountability, which includes the Oakland-Berkeley chapter of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), the Ella Baker Center, the Mentoring Center, Oakland NAACP, People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO), and Chair of the Measure Y Oversight Committee Jose Dorado, as well as mayoral candidates Dan Siegel and Jason “Shake” Anderson.

Cross-posted from Post News Group, June 13, 2014.

11 Responses

  1. R2D2II

    Article lacking critical, fundamental, easily-obtained information. If a police commission in Oakland is to be modeled on the Police Commission in San Francisco (it’s NOT called the Police Oversight Commission in S.F.–“oversight” and “commission” are redundant), then the new bureaucracy needs to have its functions spelled out. Keep in mind that city hall in Oakland has a long, solid history of obscurity rather than transparency–thus spelling things out tends strongly towards anathema in city hall.

    The S.F. Police Commission “sets policy for the Police Department.” It conducts “disciplinary hearings on charges of police misconduct filed by the Chief of Police or Director of the Office of Citizen Complaints, impose[s] discipline in such cases as warranted, and hear[s] police officers’ appeals from discipline imposed by the Chief of Police.”

    “Commissioners are appointed by the Mayor and the Board of Supervisors and they oversee the Police Department and the Office Of Citizen’s Complaints. The Commission also appoints and regulates Patrol Special Officers and may suspend or dismiss Patrol Special Officers after a hearing on charges filed.”

    Quotes are from the S.F. Police Commission website. Easily found by an idiot like me.

    Important to include these details for consideration by Oakland voters should our Council give us the honor of the opportunity to participate in a democratic process regarding the establishment of the new bureau.

    Relevancies that occur to me:

    1. How will Oakland’s Council frame the ballot measure to guarantee that the “Police Oversight Commission” will be ineffective or, ideally, further destructive of both police morale and needed police reform.

    2. The language above refers to the S.F. Commission’s role in disciplining “Patrol Special Officers” which are actually much the same as the private security guards which are being employed in mid-to-upscale Oakland neighborhoods and supported by people like would-be mayor Libby Schaaf.
    Oakland voters might want to think about how this might work for this city’s increasingly privatized public safety.

    3. The language above also refers to the role of the S.F. Police Commission as providing an appeal from or review of police officer discipline. Such a function possibly would be an important source of improved police morale in Oakland, depending on implementation. Keep in mind that when it comes to implementation of nearly anything, Oakland tends towards the cluster…

  2. Oakie

    I can’t believe I’m on the same side as PUEBLO and Dan “Comrade Leader” Siegel. Wonders will never cease.

    The other issue not mentioned, but which I can fully support with them is that every single cop must have an untamperable body cam recording every single public interaction, along with front and back car cams. I would like to see significant financial penalties for noncompliance-that way they won’t “forget” to turn them on, or at least they’d go broke doing that. There must be a process for making the video available to the public when appropriate without weasel clauses for them to “lose” the critical video.

    This could save the city millions of dollars in court settlements each and every year plus pay for the proposed commission.

  3. R2D2II

    “Every single cop must have an untamperable body cam…”

    Sure thing boss. Just exactly how is this policy going to be written? Just exactly how is this policy going to be carried out, enforced, etc.

    The devil is in the details and when it comes to details, Oakland has always been out to lunch. And how you gonna change that fact?

  4. Oakie

    Yeah, I don’t have much to offer regarding body cams. I have been told OPD already has some sort of system, but that they don’t use it, or if they use it they typically don’t turn them on.

    Because the requirement is not unique to OPD, I believe there are systems out there that have those features. No doubt the technology is out there and getting better and cheaper all the time.

    I have no idea of the cost, but given how much we lose each year from accusations of improper police behavior, I would think it would be a very justifiable cost.

    As to an OPD implementation effort and the likelihood that it would be competently performed, I am as dubious as you.

  5. Len Raphael

    Saw a posting from a usually reliable source that OPD’s cameras were purchased a year or two prematurely for the market to come out with reliable and tamperproof cameras. Haven’t confirmed that.

  6. Len Raphael

    correction: should have read: Saw a posting from a usually reliable source that OPD’s cameras were purchased a year or two prematurely BEFORE the market came out with reliable and tamperproof cameras. Haven’t confirmed that.

    Anyone know what “police grade” videorecorders cost? I assume its like military stuff and about 10x what civilian version sells for.

  7. Len Raphael

    Oakie, don’t be surprised finding yourself agree with left wing of Oakland policing politics. I might often disagree with their policy conclusions, but no denying that some of the best Oakland city policy research comes from the far left, especially after former Occupy people turned their attention to local government.

    They are especially adept at doing information requests for City staffer and council member emails.

    Left was dead right (no pun intended) about the flaws of the DAC surveillance system which every member of the Council and the Mayor had so enthusiastically embraced before the left publicized the problems.

    And for two years now, I’ve been hearing both cop lovers and cop haters say that OPD is run by the police union, OPOA. The cop lovers think it’s a good thing. I’m a reformed cop lover who thinks its a bad thing. That’s enough reason for me to sign the Police Commission petition.

  8. Len Raphael

    Oakie, don’t forget it was a social justice local think tank that came up with the numbers debunking Mayor Quan’s 100 block plan.

  9. Oakie

    As to police cameras, I googled it and the first page is filled with companies ready and willing to supply them to police agencies, including “charging/download stations” which allow a shared bank of devices to be checked out by officers as they go onto duty and software systems to manage, control the use and storage of the recordings and limit opportunities for tampering.

    Rialto seems to be the poster child for the concept, a city one fourth the size of Oakland. They purchased 54 cameras in the first phase with all supporting equipment and software for $154k supplied by a company called Taser and Evidence Inc. (that’ll get the hearts a-fluttering of all the Mehserle haters out there). The cost seems to me to be chump change. Fire one of the many Queen Quan-fusion spokespersons and that will be for this amount (and have zero deleterious affect on the quality of city services). Maybe that person can go work at the Oakland Museum now that it’s off our budget.

    How many officers are the peak number on-duty at any one time?

    As with any dog and pony show like this, it is wise to not swallow all the claims dutifully recorded by the “journalist” but we can watch as their demonstration project expands. This news story was in August 2013. Note that these systems can also be used for collecting eyewitness reports and other interviews done by the cops, expediting the efficiency and efficacy of the documentation that is police work.

    This has the potential to greatly improve the quality and quantity of work tasks that define a large part of an officer’s duties, with many opportunities to offload work to non-sworn personnel. I’m sure OPOA won’t like that, and without solid leadership in the department, nothing will really happen except window dressing.

  10. Oakie

    It looks like Hayward Police are pitching wearable cameras to their city council (and they claim OPD already has them):

    Hayward police have been evaluating the cameras for the past year, and tested several kinds.

    “The model we’d like to go with has flexibility,” Matthews said. “With some of the models, you’re limited as to where you can mount the camera.”

    The department is recommending using Taser Axon Flex digital video cameras, which are about the size of lipstick containers and can mount on sunglasses, he said.

    Hayward police would not be the first local agency to use the cameras; BART and Oakland police already have them, Matthews said.

  11. Seamus

    You don’t want police-critical activists running this dept. They’ll paralyze the police dept. There’s got to be an alternative that can provide at least a veneer of objectivity.


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