City Council Revives Proposal for Civilian Intake of Police Complaints

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Nikolas Zelinski

The Oakland Public Safety Committee at its meeting this week unanimously approved consolidation of all complaints against police to go through the Citizens’ Police Review Board (CPRB).

For many years, complaints against the Oakland Police Department have gone two different agencies: the Internal Affairs Division (IAD) of the Oakland Police Department and the CPRB.

There have been serious concerns in the community that this dual system has created administrative problems and a confusing situation for people who want to know how to file a complaint.

It is expensive to continue to have sworn officers sitting behind a desk doing complaint intake at a time when the community wants more police. In addition, a number of residents have said over the years that they were pressured to withdraw the complaints they had tried to file with Internal Affairs.

The decision came as a relief for those who have been working on the issue for years. Rashidah Grinage, former Executive Director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO), thanked Committee Chairperson Desley Brooks and Councilmember Noel Gallo for their leadership on the issue.

Grinage said PUEBLO and the City of Oakland conducted a survey of Oakland residents in 2005 and found that only one in 10 people who had negative experiences with law enforcement actually reported the incident.

When people were asked why they did not report anything, the most common response was that they did not see the purpose, because nothing would become of it, said Grinage.

After much work by PUEBLO, the City Council voted to house intake of all complaints against OPD officers outside of the department’s Internal Affairs Division. However, former City Administrator Deanna Santana said she would not move ahead with the implementing the decision until she had met with the Oakland Police Officers Association.

Finally, intake of complaints by the CPRB was set to move ahead when it was overruled by federal Compliance Director Thomas Frazier, who was removed from his position soon afterwards by federal Judge Thelton Henderson.

Anthony Finnell, executive director of the CPRB, sees the council committee’s vote as a step forward.

“Having dual sources to file complaints makes it difficult to keep track of them, and also makes it difficult for people to know what to do,” he said in an in interview with the Post, adding that it is important that people do not give up on filing a complaint because of frustration with the system.

“There is a trust factor in having to look at these cases independently from the IAD,” Finnell said.

Councilmember Gallo made the motion to send the proposed change to the full council.

“I have all the faith and trust in the leadership of the CPRB, and have witnessed the work personally. It’s the right thing to do for the citizens of Oakland,” said Gallo.

Before the proposal goes to the full council, OPD will prepare a report on technical and administrative issues related to the switch, which will be discussed at the April 21 meeting of the Public Safety Committee.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 27, 2015 (postenewsgroup.com)