Oakland’s Police Commission: Where We Stand

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:

The measure would add a section to the City Charter and a chapter to the Oakland Municipal Code. The key elements are as follows:

  • A seven member commission oversees the Oakland Police Department to “ensure that its policies, practices and customs conform to national standards of constitutional policing.” Three members and an alternate are appointed by the Mayor, and four members and an alternate are appointed by a nine-person selection committee (with one member chosen by each Council Member and the Mayor). The Citizens Police Review Board is eliminated.
  • Community Police Review Agency (“the Agency”) receives, reviews, and prioritizes complaints of misconduct or failure to act received from the public. It also forwards all such complaints to OPD’s Internal Affairs Division. It need not investigate all complaints, but must investigate complaints involving uses of force, in-custody deaths, profiling and First Amendment Assemblies. It also investigates other possible misconduct or failure to act by officers as directed by the Commission. The Agency “shall have the same access to” OPD and other City records as IAD.
  • The Agency makes findings and discipline recommendations. If the Chief agrees, those findings and discipline are conveyed to the Chief. If the Chief disagrees, the disagreement is resolved by a three-person Discipline Committee, consisting of members of the Commission separately selected for each proceeding.
  • As provided in the collective bargaining agreement (as it presently is), the officer can appeal to the Civil Service Board, take the matter to binding arbitration or appeal to the Commission, which will conduct a full hearing with witnesses, have access to all documents and subpoena powers. Arbitrator selection procedures and discovery processes are fairly similar to those in the police collective bargaining agreement. If the officer appeals to the Commission, the Commission can offer him or her mediation or other alternative dispute resolution.
  • The Commission conducts annual hearings on OPD policies, rules, practices, customs and general orders. It also proposes changes and can approve or reject OPD’s proposed changes to such policies, procedures, customs and General Orders that govern use of force, use of force review board, profiling or First Amendment assemblies. If the Commission rejects OPD’s proposed change, the proposed change is then reviewed by Council.
  • The Commission can act jointly with the Mayor to remove the Chief, or can do so by itself with a vote of 5 members, but, in the latter case, only upon a finding of good cause. Good cause is defined in the ordinance as gross neglect or violation of City policy after receiving notice and failing to cure the neglect or violation, conviction of a felony or a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, failure to cooperate with investigations, obstruction of justice or failure to administer or enforce OPD policies.
  • The Commission is also involved in selection of a new Chief, providing a list of at least four candidates to the Mayor, who must either appoint a Chief from the list or reject the new list and request a new one.

Council members Campbell-Washington, Guillen, and Reid have made quite a few recommendations to require fairly robust training of Commission members, to involve the Commission and Inspector General in evaluating the OPD’s discipline process, training in variety of areas including stress-management, and establishing an educational institute affiliation for training future police leaders. We continue to support many of these measures.

As discussed in the San Francisco Chronicle, there are still two major areas of contention. First, the OPOA and the Alameda County Labor Council have demanded that all references to arbitration and appeal to the Commission be removed, and that appellate and arbitration processes be governed solely by contract. Second, the Coalition for Police Accountability—a long-time advocate for a police commission, which has been attempting a signature drive to put a charter amendment on the ballot—is demanding that the Mayor not be allowed to select any of the Commission members, and that all members be selected by a Selection Committee.

The most recent version of the police commission measure was not posted until Friday June 15, so these discussions will probably continue—as the Brown Act requires. The next hearing would likely be on July 26. (The measure to be voted on would be made public July 22.)

We will be at the City Council meeting urging adoption of the Kalb/Gallo measure, but with a number of changes and additions, including the following:

  • Council needs to complete the process in conformance with the Brown Act, ensuring that Oaklanders have a reasonable period of time to review the measure Council will be voting on.
  • Having a strong police oversight and improvement process is essential for improving police/community relations, creating an environment where all members of the community believe they are being treated fairly. This is essential to achieving the kind of crime reduction every one of us deserves.
  • There is a critical need for meaningful, long-term reform of police oversight. There is also an ongoing need for the evaluation of police training, recruitment and education. Both will require the involvement of a robust commission and a highly qualified inspector general.
  • Mandatory investigations should not only include the complaint categories listed in the Kalb/Gallo proposals, but also incidents of officer involved shootings, death or serious bodily harm caused by police actions or inactions, and on-duty and off-duty criminal activities by both sworn and unsworn police employees.
  • The community engagement proposals by Campbell-Washington, Guillen, and Reid (including regular round table events involving police and community) should be part of the program, as should annual polling of the community’s views toward police.

Our full letter to City Council setting out these recommendations is available here.

Make Oakland Better Now!

OakTalk Here is the blog of Make Oakland Better Now!, an Oakland community grassroots group of a grass-roots group of voters, volunteers, and policy advocates committed to improving the City of Oakland by focusing on public safety, public works, and responsible budgets. Founded in 2003, we’ve researched, lobbied, and successfully campaigned for a number of new, impactful policies, including the city’s Rainy Day Fund, Measure Z and Operation Ceasefire.

This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Hobart Johnson

    This is good. It was not so long ago that MOBN was strongly set against the police reform efforts of the people and organizations in the Coalition for Police Accountability.

    If Oakland is ever to move forward on any number of fronts, citizens need to listen to one another and organize together to change the deeply-entrenched political culture in Oakland’s city hall.

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