Many months ago, seeking a ballot measure to amend the Oakland City Charter, Council President Rebecca Kaplan began circulating proposed changes to Oakland’s Measure LL (Charter section 604), the Police Commission Charter Revision. President Pro Tem Kalb began making conflicting proposals. Both agreed that the Commission needed to have an Inspector General and independent legal counsel. The Make Oakland Better Now! board has agreed with that since Measure LL went to the voters.
These issues are on the Council’s Special Meeting Agenda for Tuesday, April 21, 1:30 p.m., to be conducted virtually (details in the agenda). The vote then will not be to place them on the ballot, but to begin the required meet and confer process with the Police Officers’ union and possibly others.
President Kaplan’s proposal also seeks to remove the ability of the mayor to appoint (with Council approval) any of the members of the police Commission. As written and as approved by the voters, four members of the Commission and all but one alternate are appointed by the Selection Panel, while three members and the remaining alternate are appointed by the Mayor, subject to Council approval. President Kaplan seeks to have all the appointments removed from the mayor and transferred to the Selection Panel.
While we support the two changes concerning Inspector General and legal representation, we believe the other primary proposal is unnecessarily politically divisive, and may well make it harder to succeed in November. So today, we have written the following letter to council:
President Rebecca Kaplan and Members of the Oakland City Council. Via E-mail
Re: Proposed Amendments to Charter Section 604 Concerning Police Commission
Dear President Kaplan and City Council Members:
Make Oakland Better Now! urges your consideration of the following issues concerning some of the April 17, 2020 proposed revisions to the section of the City Charter concerning the Police Commission:
Section 604(a) Creation and Role
We strongly support the provision adding the Office of Inspector General. We propose revising the proposed addition of subsection 5 as follows:
- The City Administration may not exercise any managerial authority over Commissioners or their designated staff, and may not initiate an investigation for the purpose of removing a Commissioner. However, it may request an investigation of a Commissioner through the City Ethics Commission or another non-City Administration office with City responsibility for investigating conduct.
Section 604(b) Powers and Duties
We support subsection 12, permitting the Commission to directly retain attorneys to provide the Commission with legal service.
Section 604(c) Appointment, Terms, Vacancy and Removal
We strongly agree with Councilmember Kalb that section (c)(2) should not be eliminated. The question here is whether or not the Mayor retains the authority to appoint two Commission members and one alternate, with approval by the Council. This was strongly debated when the terms of Measure LL were being considered by the Council before the election, and the decision then was the right one. While the majority of Commission members are selected by the Selection Panel, the Mayor and Council should have some authority for a small number of these important appointments. This was agreed to by the voters. Nothing has gone wrong. Suggesting the change for no real reason will simply select a form of political division that should not be involved in this significant matter. Directly related to this, we agree the proposed revisions to what was subsection (c)(3) and is identified as (c)(2) in President Kaplan’s proposed revision, as well as what; was subsection (c)(3)(c) and is identified in the same proposed revision as (c)(2)(c) are not appropriate.
We also agree with President Kaplan’s proposals for subsection (c)(1) concerning the role of alternate commission members as committee members, and Council’s authority to require three commissioners to have certain areas of expertise. And with respect to the role of alternate commissioners, Subsection (g)(3)’s third sentence, partially proposed for amendment by President Kaplan, should provide as follows: “The Chair of the Commission shall appoint a Discipline Committee comprised of three Commissioners, who may be either regular or alternate members.”
We also agree with Council Member Kalb that the proposal to have subsections c(2)(a)(i) prohibit current Department employees from Selection Panel eligibility should not be included.
The Make Oakland Better Now! Board
Note to Oaklanders: We will probably be attending the Tuesday meeting by Zoom or telephone, both to encourage amendments concerning inspector general and counsel, and to stress the importance of eliminating divisive amendments to ensure the significant ones are passed.