Category Archives: Oakland Police Department

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

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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

Analysis: Oakland Police Department’s New Strategic Plan

OPD's New Strategic Plan

Oaklanders who attended the Make Oakland Better Now! Ceasefire Summit heard some mention of the Oakland Police Department’s new “Strategic Plan.”  This plan, posted on OPD’s website with no fanfare on December 31, replaces the previous strategic plan, issued by former Police Chief Anthony Batts in 2010—and not heard of again after Chief Batts left the department in 2011.

We’ve spent some time studying the plan, and we see a lot of progress and positive goals.  Continue reading

Important Public Safety Committee meeting on gun control

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On Tuesday, December 15, the Oakland’s Public Safety Committee will consider new gun control measures that will ban the possession of large capacity magazines and require the safe storage of firearms.

These ordinances were proposed by councilmembers Dan Kalb, Annie Campbell Washington and Rebecca Kaplan earlier this month. (Read a summary of the ordinances at KTVU and the East Bay Express.)

The NRA is rallying supporters to speak out against these new ordinances, and we are asking that you come out to this meeting, so the NRA is not the only voice in the room.

About gun control in Oakland:

It is currently against the law to purchase large capacity magazines, which allow a gun to be fired many times without reloading. The proposed ordinance would also ban the possession of these instruments of mass killings. Large Capacity Magazines are not used for hunting; their only use is to kill large numbers of people at once.

At a recent press conference, OPD Chief Sean Whent said that the ability to confiscate these magazines, if they are found in someone’s possession, is an important tool for police.

In addition, Allison Anderman of the Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence, stated that “by prohibiting the possession of these types of magazines, people who mean to do harm will have a significantly harder time acquiring them. In fact, a Washington Post study showed that when the federal law prohibiting possession of large capacity magazines was in effect, use of firearms with those magazines dropped dramatically.”

The safe storage of firearms is extremely important. Due to the unsafe storage of guns, children find the guns and then shoot themselves or others. In fact, in the U.S. more children than cops are killed by guns. (For more, read this Business Insider article.)

These ordinances call for safe gun storage in homes and in vehicles. Chief Whent, when asked how this would be enforced, stated that these measures allow police to intervene when they see a gun in plain sight, stored unsafely, in a car or in a home. This is an important tool in helping to keep Oakland safe.

About Oakland’s Public Safety Committee:

The Public Safety Committee meets in the Sgt. Mark Dunakin hearing room, which is on the first floor of the Oakland City Hall. The meeting starts at 6PM, but given that these three ordinances are at the end of the agenda, you will not need to be there until later.

Parking is free in the structure to the side of City Hall, at the corner of 14th St. and Clay St; the entrance is from Clay St. When you enter the parking structure, get the “coin” and get it validated at the front of the meeting room.

You can fill out a speaker card online or get a card at the meeting and submit it before the agenda item is called. These ordinances are agenda items 10, 11 and 12.

Understanding OPD’s New $1 Million Gun Tracing Plan

Last week, the Public Safety Committee met to discuss the Oakland Police Department’s $1 million spending plan to reduce gun violence and trafficking over the next two years. (Watch the full discussion here and read the Oakland Tribune’s summary of the plan.)

With this new budget allocation, OPD will hire a police records specialist and two crime analysts, plus fund overtime for a team that will investigate ShotSpotter calls. The department will also invest in new equipment: three gun microscope cameras, a gun laser scanner, and other technology to support gun database entry and automation.

You can see a breakdown of the costs below.

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(Read OPD’s full informational report here: Implementation of a $1M Gun Tracing Allocation in FY 2015-2017 Budget.)

The committee agreed that the new equipment is absolutely necessary and replaces time-consuming analysis and outdated technology. “Picture an 1800s camera, where you have to stand still and not smile. That’s where we’re at,” said Lieutenant Brandon Wehrly, from OPD’s Criminal Investigations Division.

The new scanners and cameras mean better forensics, efficient investigations, and stronger cases against illegal gun owners and traffickers.

But there was some disagreement, and confusion, about the new personnel. Councilmember Desley Brooks, the chair of the public safety committee, questioned the costs. Would these hires turn into an “ongoing obligation” for Oakland? Would there be a clear way to measure their impact?

During the meeting, it was reemphasized that this is a pilot program. The two crime analyst positions are limited to two years and will only be extended after assessment by the City Council. Additionally, if funding for the police records specialist is not renewed, it will be absorbed into OPD filling a vacant position.

There was also some dispute over the overtime funding for the ShotSpotter team.  Councilmember Abel Guillén asked why not hire more officers or staff instead of paying out $360,000 in overtime?

“Hiring more cops is great,” councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, a strong advocate for the plan, told Oakland North, “but because this is a two-year pilot program, it takes two years to hire a cop.

“The specific concern…was that overtime costs more than hiring new cops. But it actually doesn’t, because for each new cop you have not only the salary but medical, dental, vision, retirement, uniform, equipment, cars.”

The importance of turning ShotSpotter data into action is clear. In 2015, ShotSpotter has been activated just under 2,900 times—sometimes about 30 incidents a day. OPD’s Assistant Police Chief Paul Figueroa said that while this gunfire doesn’t always result in injuries, getting officers out in the community, to “knock on doors,” is an important way of building trust.

In the end councilmember Kaplan, who took credit for pushing City Council to approve the $1 million budget, said the plan is about better gun control and reducing gun violence at the source.

“Every time there’s a murder people ask, ‘Did he hate this guy?’ or ‘Where did he know him from?’ or ‘How did this happen?’ But every shooting happened because there was a gun…and the widespread, easy proliferation of illegal guns in our community is a serious public safety threat.”

Tonight, the City Council will review the informational report and weigh in.

Joint Statement of Jobs and Housing Coalition and Make Oakland Better Now! Concerning Crowd Control and Crowd Management During Public Demonstrations

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  • We strongly support the efforts by Mayor Schaaf to accommodate and facilitate the exercise of free speech while at the same time protecting persons and property from attack by vandals and others who embed themselves within otherwise lawful and peaceful demonstrations.
  • We believe it is both appropriate, Constitutionally permissible and consistent with Oakland’s Crowd Control and Crowd Management Policy to impose narrowly tailored restrictions on the time and place of demonstrations, including a permit requirement (with streamlined, rapid processing and no or minimal cost), limitations on nighttime demonstrations and reasonable limitations on demonstration locations, including the blocking of streets.
  • We believe that the City Council, the Mayor, the City Administrator and the Oakland Police Department must bring an end to the hijacking of the democratic process such as occurred at the regular City Council Meeting of May 5, 2015. All residents of Oakland and businesses in our city have a right to public governmental meeting conducted by their elected representatives in an atmosphere free of intimidation, disruption and stoppage, protecting the participation rights of all members of the public. Our democracy is damaged when a small number of demonstrators is allowed to halt the business of that democracy, and this is true regardless of the cause they espouse.
  • City government and OPD should make every possible effort to keep communications open with demonstrators before and during demonstrations. If, despite these efforts, demonstrations interfere with the democratic process, or violate reasonable, narrow and constitutionally permissible restrictions, or are embedded with individuals committing violence to persons or property, those demonstrations should be declared unlawful, and participants should be lawfully disbursed.
  • To the extent it is necessary to obtain Court permission to modify Oakland’s Crowd Control and Crowd Management Policy, we urge the City, and all other parties in the Coles v. City of Oakland, Local 10, ILWU v. City of Oakland and Spalding v. City of Oakland matters to enter into a meaningful, cooperative meet and confer process, and if that process does not succeed, we urge the City to petition the Federal Court for appropriate relief.