Police Commission Measure: Exactly What Did the Council Just Do?

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Last month, the City Council passed a resolution putting a police commission measure on this November’s ballot. (Read recent coverage in the San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Express, and East Bay Times.)

The new commission will differ in a number of important ways from the existing Citizens’ Police Review Board. It will possess subpoena power. The charter provides for mandatory staffing of one investigator for every 100 officers. By a 5-2 vote, it can fire the Police Chief for cause (with “cause” to be defined by enabling legislation). It nominates future chiefs, and the Mayor chooses from the nominated candidates. And it has policy-setting powers to “accept or reject” OPD policies related to use of force, profiling, and First Amendment assemblies. It’s already been called one of the strongest police commissions in the nation.

Like most individuals and organizations involved in this debate, we believe this measure is a terrific step forward, and we will support it. But there’s still much work to be done.

Continue reading

Oakland’s Police Commission: Where We Stand

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Oakland City Council will be considering a ballot measure establishing a police commission, civilian inspector general, and Community Police Review Agency at its meeting on Tuesday, July 19 at 5pm.

We posted about this measure on our blog when it was going to the Public Safety Committee last month. (There’s also been plenty of local news coverage from San Francisco Chronicle, East Bay Times, and East Bay Express.)

We’ve reviewed the Police Commission Charter Amendment in full, the most recent revision, and a red-lined revision from the Alameda County Labor Council. Exactly what will go to Council for a vote remains unclear, but here is what we know so far: Continue reading

Public Safety Committee Considers New Police Commission


Last week was very hard for Oakland: Police Chief Sean Whent resigned and was immediately replaced by an Interim Chief Benson Fairow, formerly Deputy Chief of BART Police, and a deeply disturbing scandal — involving a possible cover-up — detailed abuse and misconduct by OPD officers.

And it is in this environment that the Public Safety Committee will meet on Tuesday, June 14 at 4:00 p.m. to debate a new charter amendment establishing a strong police commission and other mechanisms of police oversight. The meeting is at Oakland City Hall, Sgt. Mark Dunakin Hearing Room, First Floor.

The details of the proposal under consideration, introduced by Council Members Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo, are available here and here.

While an alternate measure (read here and here) by Council Members Annie Campbell-Washington, Abel Guillén and Larry Reid is also on the agenda, both Campbell-Washington and Guillén announced on Facebook Sunday afternoon that they would withdraw the proposal.

Make Oakland Better Now! has spent a great deal of time researching this issue. Our analysis is in a rather lengthy and detailed letter to the Public Safety Committee, and we will be presenting our recommendations at Tuesday’s meeting. But here are some of the key points: Continue reading

The Mayor’s Safe Oakland Series Explores “Fair and Just Policing”

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Mayor Libby Schaff’s Safe Oakland series has explored tough topics such as community policing and trust-building, and the presentations often address how the city and police department are collaborating with policymakers, academics, and community activists to improve public safety.

The most recent event in the series, “Fair and Just Policing” with Yale Law professor Tracey Meares, continued this important dialogue. Meares, who served on President Obama’s Task Force on 21st Century Policing, shared insights from recent studies on criminal justice and looked at the intersection between social psychology and law. Continue reading

Answering Your Questions About Ceasefire: Part 3

We’ve been publishing answers to the questions our audience submitted at January’s Ceasefire Summit.  (Read parts one and two here and here.) In our third and final installment, we have a lengthy response from California Partnership for Safe Communities to a question about how Oakland identifies those at highest risk for violence. Thanks to Stewart Wakeling, Vaughan Crandall and Daniella Gilbert for the thorough response, and thanks again to all of our panelists for participating and for the follow-up answers.

For CPSC: How did you estimate 300 very-highest risk? Is this 300 un-duplicated per year?Anonymous

This working estimate is drawn from the Oakland Problem and Opportunity Analysis (PA), authored jointly by the California Partnership for Safe Communities and the Oakland Police Department.

The PA began with a structured and in-depth review of every homicide that occurred during 2012 and the first six months of 2013 (a total of 171 incidents), the victims and suspects involved in those incidents, and the networks to which those individuals were connected.  Each step in the analysis combines the expertise of front-line officers (qualitative information) with trend data and other quantitative information to produce an accurate and detailed account of local violence. The methodology behind this approach to data collection and analysis has been carefully developed by leading criminologists and practitioners over the past 20 years and is considered national best practice.

Specifically, this figure is drawn from what is sometimes referred to as a group or network audit. We found the following:

  1. There are approximately 50 violent groups in Oakland, with an estimated active membership of 1000 – 1200 people. This is approximately 0.3% of the entire city’s population.
  2. Of active groups in Oakland, only a small subset of the groups are at highest risk of violence – 18 groups – and, citywide,  approximately 300  individuals from these groups were associated with a majority of group-involved violence. We think these are unduplicated as per the question above.
  3. We refer to this as a working estimate to emphasize the figure is somewhat elastic. CPSC will complete an updated problem analysis in 2016.

OPD conducts weekly shooting reviews to maintain a real time assessment of who is at very highest risk of violence. Weekly shooting reviews over the course of Ceasefire implementation to date suggest that the estimate of 300 individuals at very highest risk of gun violence per year is an accurate one.

Shooting reviews are regular and frequent meetings, during which experienced and knowledgeable practitioners come together as a working group to analyze recent shootings. While there are variations, a shooting review combines analysis, strategy development and implementation. In this way, it serves as a useful management meeting.

  • Analysis: understanding and monitoring risk. Practitioners begin their discussion of each incident with basic information available on each shooting, including the date, time, location and individuals involved. Then, a mid-level manager, often assisted by a researcher, facilitates the meeting, systematically working through a series of analytic questions regarding those involved in the shootings, shooting circumstances and motives, and information on the individuals’ involvement in relevant street networks and relationships with a particular focus on potential retaliation.
  • Strategy Development: shaping and managing a near-term response. The facilitator follows this analysis with a purposeful but exploratory discussion of how to respond. One of the most important products of shooting reviews is the identification of individuals at highest risk of violence and the development of a plan for addressing that risk, along with a work plan describing who will do what and when. Subsequent meetings begin with a review of the prior meeting’s work plan.

In summary, a problem analysis is conducted periodically (every few years) to tailor the overall approach to local needs, priorities and resources, laying a foundation for strategy development and evaluation. In contrast, shooting reviews – whether convened by criminal justice agencies or outreach and support staff – are used to refine strategies in real time and manage their implementation.

Answering Your Questions About Ceasefire (Part Two)

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We’re publishing answers to the questions our audience submitted at January’s Ceasefire Summit.  (Read part one, with responses from OPD’s Sean Whent and members of Oakland Ceasefire, here.) Today, we provide answers from Sara Bedford and Peter Kim from Oakland’s Department of Human Services. We also have one question to, and answer from, Reverend Damita Davis-Howard.

How is your work trauma-informed? What mental health resources, if any, are given to clients?—Maria Dominguez, PUEBLO

Under Measure Z and beginning in the fall of 2016, Oakland Unite will fund technical assistance and training for our network of funded service providers with the goal of increasing capacities and competencies in a number of areas, one of which include Trauma Informed Care practices.

Outside of this, most of our providers already take it upon themselves to undergo training in trauma-informed approaches from experts and/or clinicians. Depending on the strategy or intervention, agencies will provide trauma-informed trainings to their staff to help augment inform their work (ie: Intensive Case Management) or it will actually be a primary, required component of their services (ie: mental health counseling, restorative justice services, crisis response, healing circles, etc).

But even more broadly, all of our funded agencies are embracing this understanding that the individuals and communities we work with suffer from intense trauma (on an individual and a generational level) and that to uncover the roots of the challenges they face, especially around violence, workers must approach interventions and support services through a trauma-informed lens.

Mental health counseling services are provided to Oakland Unite program participants in the following strategies: Intensive Case Management for Adults (i.e. Ceasefire participants), Intensive Case Management for Youth (i.e. juveniles on probation), Violent Incident and Crisis Response (i.e. shooting victims at Highland Hospital, families/friends of homicide victims, domestic violence victims), and Innovation Fund (i.e. provide schools in high violence areas with support around culture and climate change meant to reduce violence among youth, all within a mental health framework of support service).

To Sara Bedford: What does “clients being served” mean?—Maxwell Park NCPC

By this we are referring to the actual participants who receive direct services as participants in OU-funded programs. Across all Oakland Unite funded programs, we project that we will serve over 3,000 individuals who are at highest-risk of being impacted by violence under Measure Z this coming year. This number includes the 200 young men identified by Ceasefire who actively commit to and engage in Intensive Case Management services.

How many case managers are there presently devoted to Ceasefire? How many work for Oakland and how many for non-profits? Will there be more, and if so when?Anonymous

We will have a total of ten (10) intensive case managers, or “Life Coaches” who work with Ceasefire participants: four (4) work for the City of Oakland as HSD/Oakland Unite staff; six (6) are staff at community-based non-profit organizations. Currently, eight (8) of the ten (10) positions are filled, and we expect full hiring by end of April. With eight (8) Life Coaches hired, we have had more than enough capacity to accommodate all the referrals received thus far.

We do not have plans on securing more than ten (10) total Life Coaches since we project having more than adequate capacity to absorb all referrals of Ceasefire participants. We base this calculation on the average rates of referrals made and of service uptake over the last three years.

Does Oakland have a liaison dedicated to finding jobs and mentoring CF clients in their jobs? How is this effort working out?Anonymous

OU is currently working on developing an Request for Qualifications for an Employment/Community Liaison position. This position is geared to develop relationships with employers that prioritize entry-level yet career-track opportunities in the health, construction, technology, and service sectors. This high-level position will focus much more on strengthening the employers’ ability to effectively and successfully employ this very-difficult-to-employ population, as well as strengthen our job training service providers’ ability to effectively and successfully prepare participants with specialized job readiness and skills training.

What are stipends? Are the members of the 300 being paid? How much?Anonymous
A more accurate term is “incentives” since these payments (in the form of an agency check) are used to incentivize Ceasefire participants to engage in services and work towards “Life Map” milestones that are developed by the participant and his intensive case manager, or “Life Coach.” Milestones vary in scale or scope, according to where a participant is at in their personal development, and incentive payments also vary accordingly. For example, milestones can include the initial, smaller goals of consistently meeting w/ a Life Coach, getting a Drivers License or Ca ID, attending Manhood Development groups, completing a resume, or staying in consistent compliance with their Probation terms. These goals typically earn $25 to $50 each per month. Over time, milestones can include enrollment in a GED or Job Training program, attending a job interview, opening a bank account, getting a positive probation report at a court hearing, attending mental health or substance abuse counseling, etc. These can earn $50 to $75 each per month. Larger goals include graduation from a GED or Job Training program, securing employment, gaining custody of a child, securing and maintaining independent housing, dismissal from probation or parole, etc. These can earn $100 to $150 each per month. All participants who engage and commit to working with a Life Coach has access to incentive payments.

And the one question to, and answer from, Rev. Davis-Howard:

 For Rev. Damita: How do our faith-based Ceasefire strategies differ from the Boston Miracle? Where are we better? Where can we borrow more from it?Anonymous
It would be very good to have more clergy in the streets and directly involved, as they were in the Boston Miracle.

Answering Your Questions About Ceasefire (Part One)

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More than 100 Oaklanders attended Make Oakland Better Now!’s Ceasefire Summit back in January. We had a great group of insider panelists, including Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent, Ceasefire Director of Strategy Reygan Harmon, Reverend Damita Davis-Howard, Oakland Human Services Director Sara Bedford, and more.

There was just one downside: We had tons of questions from the audience, and not nearly enough time to answer them all. So after the event, we shared the rest of the questions with our panelists. This week, over the course of three blog posts, we’ll publish all the responses. (Thanks for waiting!)

Today, we’ll focus on the questions directed to the Ceasefire team. Reygan Harmon, OPD Chief Sean Whent and Captain Ersie Joyner jointly agreed on each answer.

 How is your work gender responsive? There seems to be an under-emphasis on girls and women.—Maria Dominguez, PUEBLO
Ceasefire focuses on the individuals shown by data to be most likely to be drivers of gun violence. While there are some women who are involved in violence in some ways, this is fairly rare, and the driving forces are almost always male.

When is Ceasefire planning on targeting North and West Oakland gangs?BBBON (Block by Block Organizing Network)
Ceasefire is not a geographic strategy. It prioritizes the most active violent groups and gangs wherever they are located. For several years, this has been predominantly East Oakland. In the past six months, Ceasefire began focusing as well on the Ghost Town gang in West Oakland. If a North Oakland group or gang became sufficiently active, Ceasefire would focus on that group or gang.

Are county, state and federal law enforcement and prosecutors attending call-ins? How many call-ins in 2015?Oakland Rotary Club
Ceasefire is a partnership, whose strength derives from involving OPD, the community, service providers and other state and local public safety partners, including the State and Federal prosecutors, probation and parole. Representatives from all of these agencies participate in the call-ins. In 2015 there were 4 call-ins. The goal for 2015 is 5 call-ins.

How can Oakland have a say in whether a parolee is released into the city?R.G.
We do not. By law, parolees are released into the County where convicted. Many have family in Oakland who can take them in here. While there is a difficult bureaucratic process for changing the location of release, it is not available to us as a practical matter.

Guns are used in homicides. Why doesn’t Ceasefire help OPD trace and analyze where every gun comes from and how to reduce the flow?G.D.
This question goes beyond Ceasefire. With a recent increased budget allocation, OPD has an enhanced program for gun tracing, involving more analysts, more staff in the crime lab and officers collecting casings from every gunfire incident reported by Shotspotter. In addition, Forensic Logic, OPD’s data analysis partner, is developing an enhanced program that will streamline our capacity to enter all firearm-related data into the tracking system.

How did you calculate 83 homicides? I read somewhere there were 89 in 2015.Anonymous
There were 83 murders, 93 homicides. A homicide is any killing of a human by another human, including justifiable homicides. A murder is a criminal homicide.

Explain in more detail “intelligence-based enforcement,” please.Maxwell Park National Crime Prevention Council
This is “people policing” as opposed to “geographic policing.” In other words, officers will have frequent contact with the most active violent groups and gangs wherever they may be located, rather than focusing on particular geographic areas.

When there are spikes, do you contact clients on both sides? How fast?Oakland Rotary Club
Yes. We will contact victims and friends of victims the same day or the day after, and will reach out with the message that there must be no retaliation. This effort has had a major impact on significantly reducing retaliatory shootings. We also have weekly shooting reviews, after which we promptly redirect OPD resources based on the most recent shootings.

How many of the call-ins result in the attendee refusing services resulting in enforcement, and what does that look like?Anonymous
About 2/3 of the individuals who participate in call-ins sign up for services. Nobody faces enforcement action for refusing services, only for continuing to engage in violence.

What role does Ceasefire play in improving the perceived legitimacy of the police, and is it working?Anonymous
A goal of OPD is to improve police/community relations. We believe that increased focusing on people involved in crime results in more community legitimacy. The improvement probably will occur incrementally, and ultimately needs to be studied, but anecdotally, it seems to be happening.

Of the 83 people murdered last year, what percentage were on Ceasefire’s radar?Anonymous
Answer: The vast majority was involved in groups or gangs tracked by Ceasefire. But because some bystanders were also murder victims, it is hard to answer as to everyone.

How many (or do any) of these men have children? What are the strategies if someone is a father?Anonymous
Yes, many do, and since most of the men are quite young, the children are very young. We have not yet done much work in this area, but we are applying for a grant to provide training for officers on dealing with children of incarcerated individuals.

Does Ceasefire do panels like this with other groups besides MOBN? Like in East/West Oakland with predominantly communities of color?Anonymous
Will you have more summits? Will they be in areas where the crime is happening — East and West Oakland?Anonymous
The Ceasefire team members were guests at a presentation of a community organization. It was presented at the same church used for Call-ins, which has been used as a location because of its neutrality. We are certainly open to making additional presentations at other locations if other groups wish to invite us.

Some of the bad guys don’t want out of the criminal life. Ceasefire call-ins are supposed to be about both service offers and law enforcement threats. Is law enforcement being threatened? Is it being followed up on with joint law enforcement and joint prosecutions?Anonymous
We are not familiar with “threats” to law enforcement connected with Ceasefire. And yes, there is a good partnership with the District Attorney and US Attorney, who assess each case where violent activity continues, determine whether there is a likelihood a successful conviction, and prosecute those cases where a successful outcome is likely.

Is there a natural limit to violence prevention? Boston 25%, Cincinnati 30%, etc.? What should we expect for Oakland’s total reduction?Anonymous
There probably is a limit, but we can’t say what it is and we are not close to it. Under its strategic plan, OPD’s goal is to reduce murders, robberies and aggravated assaults by 30% over the 36 months starting January, 2016.

Tomorrow, we’ll post the answers to questions directed to Oakland’s Human Services Department.