Police Commission Enabling Ordinance: Our Comments

The following constitute Make Oakland Better Now!’s comments on the February 6, 2017 iteration of the Police Commission Enabling Ordinance introduced by Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo. (Read about Measure LL and Oakland’s new Police Commission on our blog: here, here, and here.)

We also include several comments on features in The Coalition on Police Accountability’s proposed substitute ordinance. There are some areas where we agree with the Coalition’s suggestions, and others where we support adoption of the February 6 draft ordinance.

On March 8, we sent these comments to the Public Safety Committee.  After public discussion and feedback, the Enabling Ordinance will be revised, refined, and returned  to the Public Safety Committee with a recommendation to the full Council for adoption.

2.45.025 – Selection Panel (Coalition Proposal)

We certainly support a diverse and representative selection committee. We also believe that if possible, the Commission should have at least one member with a history of involvement with the criminal justice system.

However, as written, this provision is too limiting (and, read literally, requires at least two selection panel members with criminal justice system backgrounds). A requirement of religious diversity probably involves Constitutional issues.

We would urge a section that encourages diversity of life experience, education, training, background, geographic location within the city, gender, ethnicity, race and sexual orientation, but without imposing a requirement of representation from all categories, particularly to a panel only consisting of eight members. We also note that the panel needs to be in place by April 10; given the time limitations, Council should not be constrained by continued changes to rules for the panel.

2.45.040 – Background Checks (February 6 Draft)

The earlier version of this provision was the cause of considerable community concern. We believe that background checks are important but that this does not mean a criminal record should be automatically disqualifying. We understand the revised version of this provision makes it clear that the background checks are only to provide maximum information to appointing authorities, not to eliminate categories of candidates. As presently written, we support this provision.

2.45.100 – Functions and Duties of the Office of Inspector General, Subpart A(7) (Coalition Proposal)

We agree with the Coalition that the Inspector General’s annual report should include “the training and policy implications of complaints being investigated by the Agency.” However, as the Inspector General is a department director, he or she should not be told in advance who in his or her department is responsible for writing this part of the report. The Inspector General should be guided by his or her judgment of whether this element should be written by the policy analyst.

2.45.110 – Establishment of the Discipline Committee (Conflicting Kalb & Gallo / Coalition Provisions)

We support this provision as submitted by Council Members Kalb and Gallo. The Coalition substitute measure endeavors to limit the power of Commission members appointed by the mayor, and while it may or may not be outright contrary to the Charter measure enacted by the voters, it is inconsistent with the spirit of the voter’s Charter measure, which makes all commissioners equal regardless of who appoints them. In any event, we believe the Commission-elected Chairperson should have the authority to determine who serves on Discipline Committees.

2.45.120 – Discipline (February 6 Draft)

We know there has been concern expressed in the community about the Discipline Committee’s inability to independently obtain and review evidence, examine and cross-examine witnesses, etc. We agree with Council Members Kalb and Gallo that this inability is built into the Charter amendment enacted by the voters, and section 2.45.120 is consistent with the Charter. We support it.

2.45.160 – Staff assistance (Conflicting Kalb & Gallo / Coalition Provisions)

We believe it is very important to adequately staff the Police Commission to accomplish its essential work, and will regularly urge such adequate staffing during the budget process. However, we do not believe in by charter or ordinance or ordinance provisions that dictate staffing or budgeting levels. For this reason, we disagree with the Coalition’s proposal to lock in staffing levels. Staffing should be part of the budget process. We support the provision as submitted by Council Members Kalb and Gallo.

2.45.170 – Commissioner Training (Conflicting Kalb & Gallo / Coalition Provisions)

We support more training, not less. And we believe that as a matter of context, commissioners should have training on police crime-fighting activities, as well as the other matters required by both the Charter and the proposal by Council Members Kalb and Gallo. We do believe, however, that there should be flexibility in terms of commissioner training. Police officer training should be an evolving process, and so should Commissioner training.

We have two suggestions. First, that commissioners be required to complete the citizen’s police academy or equivalent training. In other words, the important training that is part of the academy should be provided to commissioners, but does not need to be in ten consecutive weekly sessions. Secondly, we would propose adding a provision directing the Inspector General or  Agency Director to make Commissioner training recommendations to the Commission, which can modify them (while seeking budget allocations from Council where necessary).

2.26.030 – Functions and duties, Subparts B & F

We certainly agree that if there is going to be a capacity to accept police misconduct complaints, it should be as accessible as follows. The location for making complaints should be readily accessible and visible, and there should be ease of access for online complaints.

 

We will be staying in touch with the Public Safety Committee and City Council on these matters and following the debate over these policies that will shape the Oakland Police Commission.

 

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