Category: Police-Public Safety

City of Oakland Declares Humanist Hall a Neighborhood Nuisance

Gentrifying neighborhood threatens historic venue’s survival, according to staff.

Celebration at Humanist Hall. Photo courtesy of Humanist Hall.

By Tulio Ospina

Humanist Hall, a non-theistic church that has been a cultural resource for under-served communities in Oakland since 1941, has been designated a public nuisance by the City of Oakland, based on complaints of neighborhood residents.

According to the staff at the hall, located at 390 27th Street between Telegraph Avenue and Broadway, recent gentrification in the area around the venue has led to new residents repeatedly filing complaints against its hours of operation, noise levels, presence of children outdoors and patrons “loitering” outside the building.

Humanist Hall at 390 27th St. in Oakland has been in operation since 1941. Photo courtesy of the East Bay Express

Humanist Hall at 390 27th St. in Oakland has been in operation since 1941. Photo courtesy of the East Bay Express

After nuisances are reported, the city can impose penalties such as fines and evictions if the annoyances continue. Since June of this year, Humanist Hall has been fined $4,000 due to noise complaints—$1,000 per offense—a sum that could put the hall out of business.

“We host a lot of cultural events for people who otherwise couldn’t afford them,” said David Oertel, Humanist Hall president, pointing out that the church hosts community events, which include Mexican family occasions—such as quinceañeras and baptisms—transgender weddings, cultural dances, barbecues and political meetings.

Once a year, the Humanist Hall hosts a voodoo festival that brings international patrons to Oakland from as far away as Trinidad and Puerto Rico, said Oertel.

The Humanist church is not a profit-seeking entity but is dedicated to offering its space to support the political, spiritual, cultural and ethnic values of minority communities, he said.

Greg Minor, assistant to the city administrator, states the city has had issues with the venue for the past 10 years, mostly due to noise levels during the day and especially after curfew.

With regard to steps to mediate or encourage conflict resolution between the neighbors before resorting to punitive measures, Minor responded that mediation is a usual first step for the city in these situations.

Nonetheless, he was unsure what steps had been taken in this circumstance because he has only been working in his current position for a short time.

Minor said complaining residents have been unwilling to speak publically with the press for fear of retaliation.

Oertel said he has not been able to talk to those who have complaints, claiming they have been secretive and aloof and “not very interested in being in a community with the people who they are in the community with.”

Humanist Hall entered into a settlement agreement with the city last month and agreed to start complying with the city’s conditions in order to avoid paying the fines.

Oertel claims that obeying every regulation has been difficult for the church.

“One of the agreement’s conditions is that we have to report to the city the expected number of guests that will be attending each event,” said Oertel. “But a lot of these people come to family occasions and bring their extended families and we end up with a hundred people.”

Last week, the organization launched an online petition calling on Mayor Libby Schaaf to “encourage condo owners and renters to respect the social norms of the neighborhood – our neighborhood – that they have moved into.”

“Apparently, one homeowner complaining to the city is enough to shut down Humanist Hall, even though 20,000 people per year who use our hall would have to go without it,” says the petition.

Within a week, the online petition has garnered over 1,600 signers.

Churches Fight Terror with “Week of Righteous Resistance”

(L to R): Rev. Ben McBride, Andrea Marta, Rev. Michael McBride, Mollie Costello and Devonte Jackson discuss their community organizing at The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley.

(L to R): Rev. Ben McBride, Andrea Marta, Rev. Michael McBride, Mollie Costello and Devonte Jackson discuss their community organizing at The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley.

By Tulio Ospina

Last Sunday was the beginning of a weeklong faith-based campaign to spread a message of resistance against bigotry and acts of systemic violence. Hundreds of churches, mosques and temples across the country are participating in the campaign, called the “Week of Righteous Resistance” (WORR).

The campaign was sparked by the burnings of several Black churches that have been terrorizing communities in the South since the killing of the Charleston nine.

Rev. Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in West Berkeley helped plan the national actions of faith congregations around the country, which will raise money to help rebuild the churches that were set ablaze.

Planned actions included marches, special services, educational teach-ins and film screenings.

Rev. McBride’s service on Sunday focused on this theme of resistance and tied his teachings to recent events in the South, hence the title of his sermon, “Fight Fire with Fire.”

“What I noticed was that the church had yet to bring the kind of force of faith and impact to match the terror that is being unleashed all across the country,” said Rev. McBride during the sermon.

“The churches burning, while tragic as it is, is indicative of the kind of fires that are burning in many of our lives every single day,” he said. “Fires of oppression, fires of poverty, fire of exploitation, fires of police terror and killings. We wanted to create a space where the church can respond and resist through the Week of Righteous Resistance.”

Also on Sunday at The Way Christian Center, Rev. McBride kicked off the Week of Righteous Resistance with a panel of community organizers, who spoke to churchgoers about the work they are doing to address issues of systemic violence.

Panel members, some of whom Rev. McBride had protested alongside in Ferguson, Missouri, included Devonte Jackson—Bay Area organizer for Black Alliance for Just Immigration (BAJI), Mollie Costello—co-director of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice, Andrea Marta of the Pacific Institute for Community Organizations (PICO) and Rev. Ben McBride—founder of the Empower Initiative.

Panelists spoke about the community organizing work they participate in and offered advice on how faith can be used to fuel resistance.

“I’ve noticed that African American communities are often pitted against immigrant communities, that immigrant rights are pinned as a Latino issue. But there’s a lot of Black immigrants out there who are just as under-resourced,” said Jackson of BAJI

“I think a lot of the church congregations can bring multiple generations and communities together to really take action against these issues,” he said.

According to a number of the panelists, resistance comes in many forms, from protests and marches to simply holding a space where people can come together to heal or express themselves.

“Everybody wants to be Jesus, but nobody wants to be John,” said Rev. Ben McBride. “We have not been called to be a messianic figure in the empire. We’ve been called to be the prophet who speaks truth to power.”

The faith-based Week of Righteous Resistance continues into the weekend with Peace Walks on Friday responding to intercommunal violence in neighborhoods and a massive counter-rally at state capitols on Saturday in response to a planned South Carolina Ku Klux Klan rally.

As a reminder of the revolutionary nature of the history that is presented in the Bible, Rev. Ben McBride wrapped up his words with an anecdote from when he and several church leaders, including his brother, Rev. Michael McBride, were arrested together in Ferguson.

“We all got arrested and we were in jail, and the police asked us, ‘Who started the protest,’” said McBride. “And one of us yelled—‘Jesus!’”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (

OPD Still Refusing to Release Evidence in Demouria Hogg Shooting Death

OPD May be Breaking Law by Withholding Name of Officer Who Killed Hogg

Scene of the June 6 police kiling of Demouria Hogg, 30, in Oakland. Photo courtesy of ABC7 News.

Scene of the June 6 police kiling of Demouria Hogg, 30, in Oakland. Photo courtesy of ABC7 News.

By Ken Epstein

Almost six weeks after the shooting death of Demouria Hogg, the Oakland Police Department and the City of Oakland have not released information related to the killing, including the name of the OPD officer who shot Hogg or the video evidence, police reports or coroner’s reports.

A Public Records Act request to OPD from the Post was denied on June 18.

On July 14, a police spokesperson told the Post, “The investigation is still ongoing, and because there are multiple investigations (OPD, Internal Affairs and the DA’s office), the release of information will take some time. Additionally, we are not releasing the name of the officer due to officer safety concerns.”

However, a May 2014 ruling of the California Supreme Court indicates that OPD may be in violation of the state law in refusing to release the officer’s name.

Demouria Hogg, 30,

Demouria Hogg, 30,

“If it is essential to protect an officer’s anonymity for safety reasons or for reasons peculiar to the officer’s duties — as, for example, in the case of an undercover officer — then the public interest in disclosure of the officer’s name may need to give way,” according to the ruling. “That determination, however, would need to be based on a particularized showing.”

“Vague safety concerns that apply to all officers involved in shootings are insufficient to tip the balance against disclosure of officer names,” the ruling said.

“This is big decision,” said attorney James Chanin, who is involved in the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) that resulted in Judge Thelton Henderson’s oversight of OPD.

“There is a presumption that the public has a right to know the identities of officers involved in shooting incidents,” said Chanin.

The Post contacted City Attorney Barbara Parker, asking her legal opinion on OPD’s refusal to release the officer’s name. By press time, she did not reply.

Hogg, 30, a Hayward resident, was killed on Saturday, June 6 near Lake Merritt. At about 7:30 a.m., Oakland firefighters saw a man unconscious or asleep in a BMW stopped on the Lakeshore Avenue exit of Interstate 580.

When firefighters saw a handgun on the passenger seat, they called police, who arrived and set up a perimeter around the car.

Police repeated attempted to wake the man, using a bullhorn and tried to break the car windows with beanbag rounds. When Hogg awoke, one officer fired a Taser, and a second officer shot him with her gun. Hogg was taken to Highland Hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

OPD Chief Sean When had originally said in a press conference after the shooting that the name of the officer who killed Hogg would be released shortly. Since then, OPD has changed its mind.

A local group, Anti Police-Terror Project, held a demonstration on June 12 at the site of Hogg’s death, demanding that police release any footage that captured the shooting and police or coroners reports.

Relatives also have demanded that an independent investigator be brought in to investigate the fatal shooting.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 17, 2015 (

The Government’s Response to Church Burnings Must Have “Real Teeth,” Say Clergy

Church Fire

By Ashley Chambers

The discussion of entrenched of racism in America is intensifying in the wake of the recent killing of nine parishioners at Emanuel AME Church in Charleston, South Carolina by a young white supremacist, followed by fires at eight predominantly Black churches in the South.

Though most the church fires have not yet been confirmed as arson, at least three fires have been found to be intentional. These incidents bring to memory the rampant church burnings during the Civil Rights Movement that targeted Black families and congregations in the South as a form of intimidation.

There has been a national outcry on social media and in the faith community denouncing these acts of arson and white supremacy that are hovering over the country.

As part of the national outcry, Bay Area clergy are calling for the federal government to exercise its authority to halt the assaults on Black churches.

“Our country needs to respond with a lot more empathy and swiftness to make sure that our Black institutions can be protected,” said Pastor Michael McBride of The Way Christian Center in Berkeley.

The government response must be forthcoming with a sense of urgency, he said.

“There’s never a moment where people even think that Black folks are being afforded due process,” he said. “When we are experiencing terror, we are always being asked to wait for more information, rather than just acknowledging that what’s happening is terrorizing our communities. But the system rarely waits for more information when it’s our time to go on trial.”

Pastor Michael McBride

Pastor Michael McBride

In an effort to combat a rise in attacks on Black churches, the federal government established the Church Arson Prevention Act in 1996. The act reads, “Whoever intentionally defaces, damages, or destroys any religious real property because of the race, color, or ethnic characteristics of any individual associated with that religious property, or attempts to do so, shall be punished.”

However, federal officials have not identified the recent arsons as hate crimes. Since 2009, the FBI has recorded one racially motivated church burning, Fusion reports.

“There have been other acts of hatred that we’ve seen across the years with delayed action, if any, from the federal government,” said Pastor Harold Mayberry of First AME Church in Oakland.


Pastor Harold Mayberry of First AME Church in Oakland.

Mayberry says he wants the federal government to sit down with people of color to have real discussion around racism in America. Also, any legislation against church burning must have real teeth, he said, “not just a law passed to pacify [those affected] people, but prosecutes to the fullest extent of the law those who participate in those acts of hatred.”

Clergy around the country this week are calling for a “Week of Righteous Resistance (WORR),” July 12 through July 18, with national religious partners, PICO, as well as members of the AME Church.

“We have to help amplify the need for a courageous, faith-based call to end white supremacy and racial terror,” said McBride.

For more information, search hashtag #thisisWORR or visit information.

Courtesy of the Post News Group, July 11, 2015 (

Oakland Youth Make Their Voices Heard on Police Reform

Young people discussed their proposals for police reform

Young people discuss their proposals for police reform.

By Tulio Ospina

The City of Oakland’s Youth Advisory Commission, which serves as a liaison between local policymakers and young people, recently released its recommendations on improving relations between local law enforcement, the communities they police and the city’s youth.

Several young people presented the recommendations at last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting, advising councilmembers about issues the impact their lives.

The Youth Commission brought together nearly 75 participants between the ages of 13 to 21 from many community-based organizations. The young people discussed what steps can be taken to ensure the welfare of their communities.

“We asked each of the groups to come with five recommendations ready, and then the entire assembly chose their top five,” said Chantal Reynolds, a member of the commission’s staff.

“Now they’re having those conversations with city officials, and some of the youth met with the Chief of Police and went through the recommendations with him,” she said.

Brooklyn Williams, a youth leadership advocate who helped convene the youth meetings, said she was responding to absence of young people’s voices in many hearings and decision-making meetings.

“What adults need to understand is that when you partner with youth, you automatically increase efficiency and maximize resources because they are our most valuable resources,” said Williams.

Mack McGhee, who was a Student Voice Ambassador for Oakland Unified School District’s All City Council at the time, was one of the students who spoke with Chief Sean Whent and presented at the Public Safety Committee.

“Before going through this process, I wouldn’t have even spoken to a police officer unless there was no way around it, because of the way things are happening throughout the country,” said McGhee.

“What the experience did was it re-humanized police officers for me but also taught me there’s a lot that needs to change with law enforcement as a system,” he said.

The top five recommendations selected by the youth were:

Create a committee to retrain law enforcement officers to use non-lethal force when subduing suspects. Also implement Youth Lead Trainings that would help teach officers about the culture and lives of Oakland’s inhabitants;

De-militarize the Oakland Police Department (OPD). The report states that, “OPD should not use weapons used in war (e.g. tanks, military trucks, other military weaponry, etc.) against the residents and citizens of Oakland;”

Youth should be asked to serve on police hiring panels and committees;

The city should hold “Know Your Rights” trainings throughout Oakland for residents to understand the proper ways to “safely navigate encounters with law enforcement officers;”

Police officers should be required to live in the communities they patrol for a certain number of days per week, and law enforcement agencies should develop a more diversified police force.

According to the report, youth feel that law enforcement does not reflect the population it comes in contact with, and many officers are not from Oakland. Instead, they come to Oakland to police residents and then go home.

“This does not lead to vested interests in a community or sustained relationships with residents,” says the report.

Some additional recommendations in the report include the establishment of a Youth Citizens’ Review Board for all law enforcement agencies; eliminating paid leave when officers are suspended during investigations for misconduct and officer-involved shootings; a database to document the victims of officer-involved homicides and brutality; and a special prosecutor from outside the local system assigned to review all officer-involved shootings.

According to Williams, the youth groups had created the recommendations about a month before President Obama’s Task Force—a team of experts researching policing— unveiled their own recommendations in the wake of the Ferguson protests.

What the Youth Commission saw was that most of the experts’ proposals for improving relations between law enforcement and communities directly aligned with those that had been made by the team of young people.

“The level of brilliance of our Oakland youth is really inspiring,” said Williams. “I’m hoping that more leaders and decision-makers have this awakening so that all of our departments eventually have their own youth panels and advisory councils.”

 Courtesy of the Oakland Post, July 5, 2015 (

Lawsuits Challenge Solitary Confinement in State Prisons as “Inhumane and Degrading”

The “solitary confinement regime…will bring you to the edge of madness,” says Justice Kennedy

San Quentin State Prison, located in Marin County, is California's only prison for men on death row. Photo courtesy of San Quentin News.

San Quentin State Prison, located in Marin County, is California’s only prison for men on death row. Photo courtesy of San Quentin News.

This is the second lawsuit in three years that has been filed in California by prisoners who have spent years living in extreme isolation.

Dan Siegel

Dan Siegel

California has more prisoners and utilizes solitary confinement more than any other prison system in the country.

Both cases assert that long-term solitary confinement violates the Eighth Amendment’s prohibition against cruel and unusual punishment and that the California Department of Corrections and Rehabilitation (CDCR) has denied them meaningful review of their placement, violating their Fourteenth Amendment right to due process.

These lawsuits seek to end indefinite solitary confinement in California, which prisoners claim has brought them serious mental and physical suffering.

Prisoners in solitary are condemned to living in windowless cells, no larger than a typical parking spot, some for up to 20 years without consequential reviews of their placement.

The lawsuit filed by Siegel last week names six death row prisoners suing in San Quentin’s Adjustment Center, claiming they are deprived of basic human needs such as human contact, sunlight, adequate recreation and proper medical care.

“Experts have shown that being in solitary conditions for longer than 15 days causes irreversible psychological damage and constitutes torture,” said Dan Siegel, citing the consensus of many leading experts in the U.S. and around the world.

“Prisoners are human beings, and the law and Constitution state that people should be treated humanely, even in prisons, and have the right to be treated like other prisoners unless for misconduct,” said Siegel.

“Even then, fair procedures are needed to decide who goes in and for how long because indefinite solitary confinement constitutes cruel and unusual punishment.”

The plaintiffs in both cases have been assigned to solitary solely for alleged gang affiliation. The lawsuit asserts that these accusations rely more on perception than actual evidence that a prisoner has participated in gang activity.

According to Siegel, accusations by a prison informant, flashing a gang sign or even greeting a suspected gang member is enough evidence to send an inmate to solitary indefinitely, as long as several decades.

The prisoners claim they are then denied meaningful reviews of the evidence that condemned them to isolation.

“These two lawsuits are part of a growing movement in the US to reign in abuses of law enforcement that have not been seriously examined by courts,” said Carol Strickman, an attorney with Legal Services for Prisoners with Children (LSPC) representing the plaintiffs in Pelican Bay’s Secure Housing Unit (SHU).

These lawsuits are part a larger movement to challenge the use of indefinite isolation as a punishment, awakened by hunger strikes in 2011 and 2013 that were initiated by prisoners in Pelican Bay’s SHU.

The hunger strikes grew to include 30,000 participants in prisons across the country, including those is San Quentin’s Adjustment Center.

Just last week, US Supreme Court Justice Anthony Kennedy fiercely condemned the widespread use of solitary confinement in state prisons, writing that “the penal system has a solitary confinement regime that will bring you to the edge of madness, perhaps to madness itself” if left unchecked by the courts.

Coutesy of the Oakland Post, June 28 2015 (

Community Wants Attorney General Kamala Harris to Investigate Officer-involved Killing

Family Demands Answers

Daughter of Demouria Hogg speaks to KTVU Channel 2.

Daughter of Demouria Hogg speaks to KTVU Channel 2.


By Ashley Chambers and Ken Epstein

Community members and the family of Demouria Hogg are calling on the Oakland Police Department and City of Oakland officials to release police-recorded videos that will reveal exactly what happened last Saturday

Demouria Hogg, 30,

Demouria Hogg, 30,

morning in the moment or two before one police officer fired a Taser and a rookie woman officer shot and killed the 30-year-old father of three.

Hogg’s 10-year-old daughter Damaria Hogg wants answers.

“What I wonder is, why did the police shoot him?” Damaria asked in an interview with KTVU Channel 2.

“I want my dad to know that I love him, and I want him to watch over me,” she said.

“He was a father to all of his kids,” said Tylena Livingston, Damaria’s mother. “He was asleep in his car. They could have prevented that. If they tased him, what did he get shot for?”

Teandra Butler, mother of Demouria Hogg Jr., said the hardest part was not being able to tell the children why their father is gone. She wants OPD to answer that question.

At about 7:30 last Saturday morning, Hogg was found asleep or unconscious in a BMW on the Lakeshore Avenue off-ramp of Highway 580. The Oakland Fire Department, instead of trying to awake him, called police when they noticed a gun on the front seat next to the man, according to police.

Over the next hour, police used bullhorns and shot at the car’s windows with beanbag projectiles, but he still did not wake up.

Finally, when he did wake up at about 8:40 a.m. – his car surrounded by about 12 officers – one officer fired a Taser, and he was shot and killed by a woman rookie officer.

OPD so far has not released any of the videos or offered an explanation of what happened in the few moments after Hogg woke up.

Libby Schaaf

Mayor Libby Schaaf

However, attorney Steven Betz, who represents the woman officer who killed Hogg, presented her version of events in an interview with the S.F. Chronicle.

When police used a crowbar to break a driver-side window, Hogg “reached over with his hands to the firearm,” and the officer fired her gun twice, according to the attorney.

Betz told the Chronicle his client “absolutely” acted appropriately and could not wait “until he has drawn (his gun) on them.” The officer “knows he’s going for a gun in an area where it is, he’s lunging for it and had been given multiple commands to comply, to surrender.”


Attorney General Kamala Harris

Members of the public are looking for leadership from Mayor Libby Schaaf who has been a strong advocate for public safety and improved police-community relations. They want her to ensure that OPD provides full disclosure of what happened and the family gets the answers it wants.

As the family seeks answers, activist Cat Brooks says the community intends to hold the mayor, OPD and the city accountable.

“Mayor Schaaf and the City of Oakland have the opportunity to step up to the plate and show that they hear the community’s concerns…and honor that this family had their family member stolen from them,” said Brooks, chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee and a member of the Anti Police Terror Project.

“We intend to hold them accountable to do just that.”

Mayor Schaaf’s released a statement several days ago but did not respond to questions from the Post.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee.

The Anti Police Terror Project is demanding that the mayor, City and OPD immediately release the names of the officer(s) involved in the shooting and release the dash cam, officers’ body cam and all street surveillance videos of the entire event.

They also want the OPD to release the coroner’s and police reports to the family; and, immediately request that the Attorney General appoint an independent investigator to this case.

They want an independent investigation of the killing because they say Alameda County District Attorney Nancy O’Malley’s close ties to the local police department and her handling of other cases – including the Alan Blueford case in 2012 and the Black Friday 14 – call into question an investigation conducted by her office.

“We do not trust Nancy O’Malley to investigate the Oakland Police Department,” said Brooks, adding that she has “demonstrated racial bias.”

At press time, the District Attorney’s office said they are unable to provide details because the investigation is “active and ongoing.”

John Burris

John Burris

In a number of other officer-involved shootings, communities have requested involvement of the State Attorney General to oversee the work of the county district attorney.

Contacted by the Post, a spokesperson for Attorney General Kamala Harris responded: “This is an ongoing investigation. It is important for that process to conclude before we comment.”

City Attorney Barbara Parker was asked by the Post what she was doing to ensure the release of the shooting videos and that the police are fully accountable. Her office replied by email: “You should email (OPD Public Relations Officer) Johnna Watson re: officer’s name and video.”

In an interview with the Post, Civil rights attorney John Burris talked about some of his observations, based on his involvement in investigations of many police shootings.

“The police created the confrontation,” said Burris. “(Hogg) was not out looking for a confrontation. He did he not know the police were there. It seems wrong that a person could be asleep, and he wakes up and gets shot and killed.”

The question, he said, is whether police were in “imminent danger.” Another question is why the department would place a rookie at the car to hold the gun and make the decision to shoot, he said.

“The family has a right to see these videos, sooner rather than later,” Burris continued. “(Police) killed a person who was minding his own business. The family can look at the tapes to see if they corroborate what the police have said. “

The Anti Police Terror Project is holding a vigil for Demouria Hogg on Friday, June 12 at 6 p.m. at the site where he was killed by the gas station at the corner of Lakeshore and Lake Park avenues.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 12, 2015 (



Judge Thelton Henderson Will Monitor Investigations of Three OPD Shootings in 2015

Judge will also review Mayor Schaaf’s nighttime protest restrictions

Oakland protesters, May 23. Photo courtesy of the SF Chronicle/Leah Mills via AP.

Oakland protesters, May 23. Photo courtesy of the SF Chronicle/Leah Mills via AP.

 By Ken A. Epstein

Federal Judge Thelton Henderson is monitoring how the Oakland Police Department (OPD) is handling the investigations of three officer-involved shootings this year, including the killing this past weekend of Demouria Hogg, 30, of Hayward.

Judge Thelton Henderson

Judge Thelton Henderson

“We will closely monitor the (OPD) investigations and (internal review board) presentations on these incidents,” wrote Compliance Director Robert Warshaw in a report issued June 8 on the progress of police department reforms.

Warshaw was appointed by Judge Henderson to oversee Oakland’s efforts to comply with the Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA), which requires the city to institute polices and practices that protect the constitutional rights of local residents.

Warshaw noted that prior to these shootings in 2015, OPD had not been involved in an officer-involved shooting for about for about two years.

Besides the killing of Hogg on Saturday at the Lakeshore off-ramp of Highway 580, two other incidents this year involved “mentally disturbed” suspects.

Barbara Parker

Barbara Parker

“In the first case, the officer’s two rounds missed the mentally disturbed subject, who retreated and surrendered; in the second case – which also involved a mentally disturbed suspect whose erratic behavior prompted calls to OPD – the officer’s round struck the subject, who is expected to survive.”

Pointing out a positive development, Warshaw wrote in the report that the department has found it can reduce shootings without reducing policing.

“In the last year, the department has demonstrated reductions in

uses of force without reducing the number of arrests or showing any other indications of what is sometimes referred to a ‘depolicing,’” he wrote.

Warshaw is also involved in discussions that are taking place in the wake of the city’s new policy that curtails nighttime protest marches.

“I have commended the department for its more thoughtful and cautious approach to crowd control in the past,” he said. “Recently, however, the city has begun interpreting its crowd control policy more broadly and has appeared to restrict the routes of nighttime marches following several protests that involved looting and serious destruction of public property.”

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent speak to members of the media. Photo by  Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Image.

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and Oakland Police Chief Sean Whent speak to members of the media. Photo by Josh Edelson/AFP/Getty Image.

“I will continue to facilitate discussions between the department and local attorneys,” including representatives of the National Lawyers Guild, he said.

Another major issue raised by the report is that the court has begun to address the failure of city staff, including City Attorney Barbara Parker’s office, to adequately handle cases of officers who have been terminated for serious misconduct, resulting in loss of arbitrations and reinstatement of the officers.

Warshaw cited a recent report by a court-appointed investigator who found that Oakland’s “police discipline process is ‘broken,’ because, among other reasons, it fails to ‘deliver fair, consistent, and effective discipline.’”

The report quoted Judge Hendson, who wrote, “It is difficult to reach any conclusion other than that the city has been indifferent, at best, to whether its disciplinary decisions are upheld at arbitration.”

The report blames these failures on the “lack of accountability” of officials in both the OPD and Office of the City Attorney.

Warshaw commended the City Attorney’s recent involvement in resolving the court’s complaints.

“City Attorney (Parker) has become more engaged in matters relevant to the recent report about discipline and arbitration – as well as developments regarding crowd control policy…We look forward to a measure of collaboration with her and her office.”

In response Parker said in a statement that she had begun to address the problems in handling police discipline cases even before the court had begun its investigation.

“Before the Court ordered its investigation, I conducted my own internal review of my office’s handling of police arbitration cases when issues came to my attention including the timing of assignments of attorneys to police arbitrations,” said Parker in a statement released in April.

“We recognize police discipline has been a difficult issue for the city over the years. We agree with many of the investigator’s recommendations, a number of which we implemented or addressed prior to the Court’s investigation.”

On Wednesday night, protesters marched without a permit in defiance of Schaaf’s restrictions. No police showed up, and no one was arrested.

Despite the inconsistent enforcement, the Mayor’s Office told the Post the city’s policy remains unchanged.

The city “has not banned nighttime protests…(or) imposed a curfew. Consistent with our existing policy, we are simply implementing time, place and manner provisions to better protect public safety and prevent vandalism and violence.”

“Marcher on roadways without permits may be subject to citation or arrest.”

“An OPD officer who issues permits told the media recently he could not remember ever having issued a permit for a nighttime protest.

“This gives the impression that the mayor and the city attorney are opting to use selective enforcement when it suits their needs,” said Post Publisher Paul Cobb, who intends to sponsor a nighttime march for jobs for the formerly incarcerated and youth – without a permit.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, June 12, 2015 (

Residents Want City to Keep an Eye on Police Surveillance

By Ashley Chambers

Oakland residents are strongly advocating for a citywide privacy policy that would monitor the use o Three_Surveillance_cameras  f a surveillance system used to collect and monitor data, respond to emergencies and crime in the City of Oakland, unanimously passed by the Public Safety Committee this week.

The Port Doman Awareness Center (DAC) is currently limited to use at the Port of Oakland and applies technology systems to respond to emergencies, crime and maritime related operations.

r-CALIFORNIA-POLICE-SURVEILLANCE-large570This new privacy policy would expand the DAC to monitor and respond to emergency and criminal activity citywide with oversight and reporting requirements.

Strongly supported by community members, the recommendation from the city’s Ad Hoc Privacy Committee calls for the City Council to create a permanent Privacy Policy Advisory Committee that would oversee citywide use of the DAC.

Speakers at Tuesday’s Public Safety meeting urged the council to make sure the policy has teeth.

“This has to be an enforceable policy – a policy or resolution (by itself) is useless,” said Brian Hofer, chair of the Ad Hoc Privacy Committee, noting that the city in the past did not comply with approved policies.20130815_151852

“We built the audits and compliance reporting so that it must happen and that trust will be established over the use of this equipment,” he said.

Allowable uses of the DAC would include: active shooter, bomb or explosion, hostage situation, major emergency, missing or abducted person, power outage, street racing/side show, and a list of many others.

The Oakland Police Department (OPD) recommended adding protests and special events to the list.

Referring to the 2013 Boston Marathon bombings, OPD’s Captain David Downing said, “Nationwide, as far as what has happened out there, we want the ability to monitor events, and if nothing happens, the video is destroyed.”

Also at Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting, councilmembers approved a joint workspace with the FBI’s Violent Criminal Threat Section in OPD’s administration building.

FBI personnel would partner with OPD on a Safe Streets Taskforce, dedicating 10 FBI agents to work with the department’s Criminal Investigation Division. OPD would allocate $63,000 to cover costs of equipment, furniture, and network security.

The privacy policy goes to the City Council on June 2.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 30, 2015 (


Council Decision Could Mean a Step Forward on Police Accountability

By Ashley Chambers

Ashley Chambers

Ashley Chambers

The City Council took a first step this week to enact a policy that has been four years in the making and could improve the level of police accountability in Oakland, unanimously voting to consolidate all walk-in complaints against police at the Citizens’ Police Review Board (CPRB).

Rashidah Grinage

Rashidah Grinage

The council on Tuesday night confirmed its 2011 decision to transfer all walk-in complaints from the Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) at the CPRB after months of discussion from residents, activists, and community leaders at city meetings, who have stressed that OPD cannot investigate itself.

Additionally, this action will help to rebuild residents’ trust in the system that is used to file complaints against police, whereas with the IAD, some residents have said they have been discouraged from filing a complaint or that they felt intimidated by intake staff.

In 2014, the CPRB filed 47 complaints, of which 60 percent were from African Americans. Reports show that law enforcement and private security organizations disproportionately target people of color for investigation and enforcement, according to the American Civil Liberties Union.

Consolidating complaints to CPRB could begin the process of rectifying police misconduct and will shed light on cases of racial profiling that are otherwise unattended, and holding OPD accountable, according to activists.

“This has been a long time coming, and I know you all have been waiting a long time to get here,” said Council President Lynette McElhaney, speaking at Tuesday’s council meeting.

“We all know what the catchword is here in the whole nation, not just Oakland. The word is accountability,” said Molly Costello of the Alan Blueford Center for Justice and member of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

The CPRB will add one Intake Technician from OPD and hire an additional Intake staff to handle the expected increase in filed citizen complaints.

“One of the great advantages of consolidating the intake of complaints at the CPRB is so that when you receive reports, you will be then getting a report on 100 percent of the complaints that are filed,” said Rashidah Grinage, member of the Coalition for Police Accountability and former executive director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO).

“In the last 10 to 15 years, when you have received CPRB reports, they’ve been basically on 10 percent of the actual complaints because most of them were filed with Internal Affairs, and they don’t like reporting publicly,” she said.

“Invest in what will prevent millions and millions of dollars of payouts, not to mention injuries and deaths,” Grinage added.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 23, 2015 (