Category: Police-Public Safety

Mothers Alleges Her Son Was Beaten by Five Officers in Santa Rita

By Post staff

In an interview with the Post, Mary Cook said her son was physically beaten while a prisoner at Santa Rita jail in San Ramon and wants to warn others about what is happening right here in Alameda

Nathan Cook

Nathan Cook

County.

By press time, police and jail officials had no responded to calls for comment.

Nathan Cook, 32, who has had mental problems and was receiving medication for his condition while in jail awaiting trial, was convicted of attempted murder of a police officer, receiving two 25-year sentences.

He is currently housed at San Quentin Prison.

According to Mrs. Cook, she and several family friends saw her son following the beating they said occurred on Jan. 6, 2015 They said he was beaten unconscious, had a black eye and a number of bruises.

Nathan Cook when he was working on the new Bay Bridge.

Nathan Cook when he was working on the new Bay Bridge.

Mrs. Cook, a minister, says she doesn’t want to see anyone else’s child suffer the same sort of treatment. She said she has contacted lawyer, but her case was rejected.

She said has repeatedly tried to get answers, to no avail. The few people who she talked to her refused to comment on the incident.

“I guess this is common place,” Ms. Cook said. “But that doesn’t make it right.”

Nathan Cook was arrested on Jan. 25, 2013 in Oakland after being

Mary Cook

Mary Cook

chased on foot by police. Police reports say Cook shot and wounded a police officer while the officer and his partner were attempting to arrest him.

The officer’s injury was not life threatening, and he was treated and released from the hospital within several hours of the shooting.

Ms. Cook said her son accidentally shot the officer in the leg. He was on drugs at the time and extremely paranoid. He was trying to get to the Fruitvale BART station and had a paranoid episode, stole a bicycle, and when a police officer, who he said didn’t identify himself, chased him, he ran and hid behind a car.

When he shot the gun into a vacant car he hid behind, the bullet ricocheted and hit the officer, according to Mrs. Cook, who also said that her son was not injured in the incident.

Cook was housed at Santa Rita Jail for several years and went to trial in January 2015. Ms. Cook said he went to court on Jan. 6 and when he was returned to a holding area.

She said he fell asleep in the area and was awakened by five police officers who beat him unconscious. She said didn’t take him to infirmary though he was in excruciating pain.

“They had him sign a form that he didn’t need attention,” she said.

Ms. Cook said her son told her that after the incident he couldn’t walk, his jaw wasn’t broken but was severely bruised, and he couldn’t lie on his back for two weeks.

“It was heartbreaking to read the report,” she said. “When the trial started he still had a black eye. We could all see that he had been beaten up.”

Several of Ms. Cook’s friends tried to get answers and to call the jail and police, but said they got no answers about the situation.

 Courtesy of the Post News Group, May 17, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Commentary: Oakland Needs a Department to Address Institutionalized Injustice

By Kitty Kelly Epstein

Two-thirds of the people who live in Oakland are not white and Oakland has a long history of struggle for racial justice.

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Dr. Kitty Kelly Epstein

Yet the situation of most whites is quite different from the situation of many Latinos, African-Americans, Asians and indigenous people.  In fact, Oakland has the seventh worst income inequality of any major city in the country. (Statistics on wealth gaps for Asians and indigenous groups are not available from those doing these calculations.)

We need to put changing this at the center of the city’s efforts. In the one place where we have some real power, local government, we need to say that we understand institutional racism still exists and we want to do something about it – officially

It won’t be easy. The whole country is full of policies that uphold racism, but there is a lot more we could do if we focused and strategized, especially on the policies and practices that produce the racial wealth gap.

We need a city Department of Race and Equity because the racial wealth gap in the U.S. is 13 to 1 between the median white and the median African-American family and 10 to 1 between the median white and the median Latino family.

These gaps in wealth and income result from a national history of overt and covert racial discrimination – slavery, U.S. seizure of Mexican land, share-cropping, red-lining; English-only policies; bracero programs; immigration policies and a thousand other events and policies.

And these gaps contribute to housing, health, and policing inequities as well. Here are just a few current local specifics which a department of Race and Equity might look into:

African Americans are 28 percent of the Oakland population. Yet they were hired for only 5 percent of the hours on city-funded construction projects last year;

Latinos are 41 percent of Oakland students, but only 13 percent of its teachers. A city department would, of course, need to work collaboratively with the school district if it were to help in rectifying this imbalance.

Oakland is lauded for multi-cultural music and art. Yet city support for minority-owned venues is often lacking;

Oakland has lots of new fancy restaurants, but not many Black or Latino or Asian folk earn the fancy tips at the front-end of these houses.

Some city departments seem to have many employees of every ethnicity. Yet the department that plans the city’s economic future seems to be overwhelmingly white.

The last “disparity study” commissioned by the city showed statistically significant underutilization of “minority” owned and women owned firms in both construction and professional services contracts.   There was also a significant underutilization of Asian, Latino, and African-American firms in construction sub-contracts.

Non-white contractors have reported a good-old-boys network, difficulty in receiving information on the bid process, difficulty in obtaining financing, and other issues.

Oakland is blessed with dozens of activist and non-profit organizations that work on these issues, but we often feel that we are fighting a multiple-headed beast, winning in one place, only to lose again when someone forgets that a new policy or procedure is supposed to be in place.

We need an official department in city government that is responsible for caring whether two-thirds of the residents receive the same economic, political, and social benefits as the other third.

We need a Department of Race and Equity

Kitty Kelly Epstein, PhD is author of “Organizing to Change a City” (2012), Peter Lang, and host of Education Today on KPFA 94.1 FM.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 16, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

Protesters Shut Down Council Meeting , Demand Affordable Housing Not Luxury Apartments

Jos Healey was one of the spekers on the bullhorn when protesters  shut down the City Council meeting Tuesday. Photo by Ken Epstein

Jos Healey was one of the speakers on a bullhorn Tuesday when protesters shut down the City Council meeting. Photo by Ken Epstein

 By Ken Epstein

Oakland City Council chambers became ground zero for protests against gentrification and displacement this week as young activists chained themselves together to keep the City Council meeting from taking place, instead holding a rally for several hours in the chambers to voice their anger and frustration with the city’s leadership.

At the close of a public hearing on the proposed city budget for next year, but before the city council meeting could get underway, activists entered the well area behind the low barrier between the council dais and the public.

Some chained themselves together, standing in a line below the shocked council members. Others produced a bullhorn and began speaking about their issues and invited others to speak.

Many members of the audience stood, chanted and shouted in solidarity with the protesters. Police made no moves to intervene, but police and security attempted to keep more people from entering the chambers.

While people spoke, a projector flashed the group’s issues on an overhead screen:

“You can fight city hall,” “Development without displacement;” “A people’s budget, not a policing budget;” and “Public service, not lip service,” the projected signs said.

The focus of the protest was the seeming willingness of most council members to vote Tuesday night to approve the sale of a one-acre, city-owned parcel on East 12th Street across from Lake Merritt to build a 24-story luxury apartment building.

The proposed building includes no affordable housing and will have a median rent of $3,150 for a one-bedroom apartment, making the units affordable only to households that make $120,000 or more a year, according to activists who say the median household income in Eastlake around the proposed building is $38,363.

The coalition against the high rise is led by a neighborhood group, Eastlake United for Justice and includes Causa Justa/Just Cause, East Bay Housing Organizations, Black Seed, SEIU 1021, Oakland Rising, and the Oakland Tenants Union.

Calling for public land to be used only for affordable housing and other public needs, the groups are concerned that the development will lead to displacement of working class residents on the east side of Lake Merritt, as well as the development’s inadequate community engagement process.

At a rally in front of City Hall before the council meeting, members of Eastlake United for Justice and others spoke about their concerns.

Huan Bao Yu spoke at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday opposing the E. 12th Street highrise. Mari Rose Taruc held the bulllhorn. Photo by Ken Ken

Huan Bao Yu speaks at a rally in front of Oakland City Hall Tuesday opposing the E. 12th Street highrise. Mari Rose Taruc held the bulllhorn. Photo by Ken Epstein.

“We are here because there are people in there (City Hall) who are trying to sell out our land,” said Josh Healey, also part of the Eastlake group.

“We’ve been here to talk to the mayor and city council, and they haven’t been hearing us,” he said.

Mari Rose Taruc, also of the Eastlake neighborhood group, said, “Oakland is 62 percent renters. We don’t want luxury condos at Eastlake. We want affordable housing.”

Asked Huan Bao Yu, a senior citizens speaking for Asian Pacific Environmental Network (APEN), “Who is (this development) for? “Is it for us? No, it’s to kick us out.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

 

Commentary: Longshore Union Shut Down Port of Oakland to Protest Police Killings

Members of Longshore union ILWU Local 10 and community members march  on May Day, May 1,, from the Port of Oakland to  the Oscar Grant Plaza at Oakland City Hall to protest police murders of Black and Brown people across the country. Photo courtesy of Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography.

Longshore union ILWU Local 10 and community members march on May Day, May 1, from the Port of Oakland to Oscar Grant Plaza at Oakland City Hall to protest police murders of Black and Brown people across the country. Photo courtesy of Kelly Johnson Revolutionary Photography.

 

 By Stacey Rodgers

Stacey Rodgers

Stacey Rodgers

On Friday, May 1 – International Workers Day, about 2,000 people came together to march and protest the unjust murders of mainly Black and Brown people in the U.S. at the hands of police.

The event, “Labor Against Police Terror,” drew labor unions and community groups to the Port of Oakland.

The International Longshore and Warehouse Union (ILWU) Local 10 led the day of action marching from the Port of Oakland to Oscar Grant Plaza (at Oakland City Hall).

Thus us the first time in U.S history that a labor union had initiated a protest against the police.

ILWU has a long and proud history of participating in actions against social injustice, starting with its formation during the San Francisco strike of 1934 where two workers were killed by police.

Other actions have included anti-apartheid actions against South Africa, shutting down the Port of Oakland in 2010 in support of justice for Oscar Grant, and protest of Israeli Zim ships.

Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. was made an honorary member of Local 10 just six months before his death.

The impetus behind the May Day 2015 action was the murder of Walter Scott in Charleston, South Carolina.

Scott was related to several Charleston longshoremen of the International Longshoreman Association (ILA) Local 1422.  ILA Local 1422 and ILWU Local 10 have a strong history of solidarity.

Both locals are predominantly Black and have supported each other in actions throughout the years.

In addition, Local 10 has suffered its share of police terror.  In 2012, Jerimiah Moore was killed by Vallejo police, and last year Pedie Perez was killed by Richmond police. Both are families of longshoremen.

During April’s Local 10 executive board meeting, a motion was made to support the Charleston longshoremen in whatever action they choose to seek justice for Walter Scott.

A amendment to the motion was made that ILWU Local 10 hold its monthly stop work meeting on May 1, effectively shutting down the Port of Oakland and march and protest the senseless murders of mainly Black and Brown people by police.

The motion passed at the general membership meeting two days later.

With two weeks to plan and implement the march, the call went out to other unions and community groups. The response was far better than expected.

Several unions joined in solidarity, as did various community groups in and around Oakland.

The rally started at Berth 62 at the port.

The march, led by the Local 10 drill team, began at 10 a.m. wound through the Acorn community of West Oakland and ended with a rally at Oscar Grant Plaza.

The goal of the protest was to call attention to the onslaught of police killings and demand that that killings must stop and those responsible be held accountable.

ILWU recognizes its role in the community and knows that when labor disrupts commerce, the 1% will listen and act when their bottom line is affected or threatened.

Workers, union and non-union alike, must come together to take the lead in these actions and exert their rank and file power and not rest upon elected officials.

For far too long the labor community has been silent on these issues and now is the time to renew our role in making things better.

An injury to one is an injury to all.

 Stacey Rodgers is a member of the ILWU Local 10 Executive Board.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, May 9, 2015 (www.postnewsgroup.com)

 

City Proposes “Bleak” Budget for Jobs and Training Programs

Frank Tucker Removed from WIB Board, Reinstated by Mayor’s Office

 By Ken Epstein

 

The Oakland Workforce Investment Board (WIB) this week released a “bleak” budget proposal for 2015-1016 that would slash funding for jobs and job training between 19 percent and 22 percent and 50 percent for the Summer Youth Program.

Frank Tucker

Frank Tucker

While the federal money – $4.6 million – that the city receives from the state will remain steady, city staff says that this will represent a 30 percent or $2 million cut in the pot of money that can be used to support job seekers.

Despite repeated requests by the City Council, no city money has been directed to these job programs. “At this time, staff is not anticipating an infusion of City General Purpose Funds to support our federally funded Workforce Investment System,” the report said.

At the meeting of the WIB Executive Committee Wednesday, members questioned why the city says there is a decline in funding when the federal money the city receives remains flat. They also discussed the drastic impact these cuts will have on the jobs of workers at service provider agencies and the loss of services for youth, particularly out-of-school youth, and the formerly incarcerated and chronically unemployed.

“We’ve presented this fairly bleak … budget picture, (but) this should come as no surprise,” said Al Auletta, city development/redevelopment program manager.

The current year’s budget has not been impacted, said WIB Director John Bailey, because it has contained money that had been unspent in the previous year. However, there will be no unspent money to carry forward into next year.

Said Gay Plair Cobb, CEO of the Oakland Private Industry Council: “What has been lacking (in these budget discussions) is analysis of the impact on the public, the end users – both service providers that may have to close their doors and the many people who won’t be served, unless the city steps up to the plate and covers some of its own extraordinary costs of administering the system.”

Also at the meeting, there was of discussion of why local businessman Frank Tucker had been precipitously removed from board but later reinstated this week. Tucker, a longtime WIB member, had been asking questions about why the WIB takes so much of the money off the top for overhead.

He also was pushing for the WIB to adopt a resolution calling on the City Council to take action to ensure police accountability in the wake of the shooting of Walter Scott in South Carolina and other unjustified police killings.

Tucker met with WIB Director Bailey on Monday for over an hour, unsuccessfully trying to get Bailey to put the police issue on the executive board agenda.

After that discussion, Bailey told Tucker that his term as a WIB member had expired in November and that he was no longer on the board. Asked why he had taken to so longer to deliver the news, Tucker said Bailey told him that he had “procrastinated.”

However, Tucker soon heard from Mayor Libby Schaaf’s office that he had been reappointed to the board, at least until the end of October.

“I am not a large corporation. I am the CEO of a small business, and this (work) takes me away from growing my business and my commitments to my customers,” said Tucker. “But as a small business owner, I have stayed on the board to work to solve Oakland’s high levels of unemployment.”

In a reply to question from the Oakland Post, Bailey wrote: “As a result of an administrative oversight, (Tucker) was not informed that he was not reappointed in November after serving more than 14 years as a member of the WIB. Staff worked with the Mayor’s office to rectify that situation, and Mr. Tucker was reappointed to serve on the board until Nov. 1.

 

 

Opinion: Oakland Needs Office of Race and Equity

“Allow ourselves to become comfortable with being uncomfortable”

 By Desley Brooks

It is widely known now that I have called for an office of Race and Equity to be established in the City of Oakland. Voices have risen up across our entire city from residents, community

Desley Brooks

Desley Brooks

organizations, agencies, and other elected officials discussing the need for such an office in our city.

The most resounding voice on the issue is in absolute agreement of a need for an office of Race and Equity. However there are other opinions as well ranging from moderate consideration, outright disagreement, as well as those who are undecided.

Race is a subject that we handle very interestingly in America. It impacts so much of the atmosphere in the worlds of business, politics, education, and family life, whether we admit it or not.

Yet we are largely uncomfortable having meaningful discourse around this thing that is so prevalent in our day-to-day lives. Because we are uncomfortable talking about race, many of us tend to pick a side on an issue concerning race and just stand on that square, unwilling to really hear the perspective of others.

If we are going to address racial inequalities in our city, we are going to have to get comfortable being uncomfortable.

We are going to have to be willing to respectfully listen to the opinions and ideas of others that may not always sit well with us or even stir up emotions of fear, anger, and guilt.

Racial equity is not an issue of politics – it is an issue of humanity that can be addressed through a political process.

I obviously believe in the need for such an office in our city, but I’m not asking anyone to blindly join this cause or agree with me automatically.

I invite all of us to explore the facts and consider the climate in our city as it relates to race and equity in Oakland.

My hope is that we all will allow ourselves to be comfortable being uncomfortable and asking ourselves questions and reflecting personally on our experiences and beliefs relating to race and racism.

Desley Brooks is a member of the Oakland City Council, representing District 6.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 11, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

State of Black Oakland (SOBO) Holds “People’s Assembly”

State of Black Oakland, March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

State of Black Oakland, March 28. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

By Rasheed Shabazz

Hundreds of Black activists, educators, entrepreneurs, healers and artists convened last weekend for “a People’s Assembly” to discuss and strategize solutions to improve life for Black Oakland.

The enthusiastic daylong “State of Black Oakland (SOBO) gathering was held Saturday, March 28 at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle in downtown Oakland.

The assembly was a “listening space” where a coalition of Black-led organizations called on attendees to discuss what needs to be done to improve the lives of f Black people in the city.

Over a quarter of Oakland’s Black population left the city since 2000. Organizers wanted to bring Black people together to build on Oakland’s unique contributions to the Black Power Movement.

“It’s really important to remember that Oakland was the epicenter of the Black Power Movement on the West Coast,” said Liz Derias, co-convener of SOBO and an organizer of the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement.

One of the discussion circles at the State of Black Oakland, which was held at Geoffrey's Inner Circle on March 28. Ovr 500 peeople attended the day, according to event organizers, to discussion solutins to the challenges facing Black residents of Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

One of the discussion circles at the State of Black Oakland, which was held at Geoffrey’s Inner Circle on March 28. Over 500 peeople attended the day, according to event organizers, to discuss solutions to the challenges facing Black residents of Oakland. Photo by Rasheed Shabazz.

The legacy of the Black Panther Party and other Black “do-for-self” organizations was evoked throughout the day.

“We say Black Lives Matter, but we have to have some Black Power to enforce it,” said Community Ready Corps (CRC) Founder Tur-Ha Ak. The assembly focused on CRC’s Nine Areas of Self-Determination: economics, politics, education, health, family, media, art, traditions and ways, and self-defense.

The common thread between all of the areas was Black self-determination.

During three facilitated sessions, attendees joined smaller discussion-circles to talk about solutions in the nine areas. Within the circles, participants discussed their experience within that area and explained what “self-determination” looked like within that context, and shared potential solutions.

In the area of economics, attendees talked about past and possible solutions, such as a Black business listing, food and housing cooperatives, changes in Black consumer spending and workforce training for the tech economy.

The media session, facilitated by Cat Brooks, co-chair of the ONYX Organizing Committee, discussed the need to challenge negative images of Black people in media and the need for Black ownership of media outlets and cultural spaces.

The self-defense session focused on broadening the notion of what self-defense means. “Self-defense is not only individual or physical, but it is collective and connects to all the other areas”, Ak said.

Participants discussed the need for Black people to protect themselves from what CRC defines as “primary predators”  – white supremacy – and “secondary perpetrators” – so-called ‘Black-on-Black crime’.

Organizers noted that this first “State of Black Oakland” builds on a history of collective convening of Black people in the Bay Area to assess the status of Black folk.

During the 1970s, annual “State of the Race” conferences regularly convened in the Bay Area following the 1974 Pan-African Congress in Tanzania.

Reflecting on SOBO, Oba T’Shaka, professor emeritus of Africana Studies at San Francisco State University, said, “It’s very positive. It builds on the Black Lives Matters Movement and is pulling in people from different walks of life.” He added, “The democratic way has been consistent with our culture.”

Organizers see this assembly as part of a process to develop a Black “People’s Agenda.” Event organizers did street outreach in the weeks ahead of the event to get input from Oakland residents. The plan is to host two more assemblies this summer, in West Oakland and East Oakland, analyze the information within the nine areas, and develop an agenda.

SOBO was organized by a coalition of organizations, including Eastside Arts Alliance, Black Organizing Project, All-African People’s Revolutionary Party, African American Studies at Merritt College, Onyx Organizing Committee, the Community Ready Corps, Malcolm X Grassroots Movement, and Race for the Times.

For more information about SOBO, visit Facebook.com/sobo2015 or email stateofblackoakland@yahoo.com.

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, April 3, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

New City Report on Protest Arrests Raises Ferguson-like Concerns

Standing at the podium during the City Council's public hearing were (L to R): Karissa Lewis, Black Radical Farmer, Black Friday 14; Robbie Clark, Black Friday 14, Black Lives Matter; Mollie Costello, Black Friday 14, Alan Blueford Center for Justice; Nell Myhand, Black Friday 14; and Cat Brooks, ONYX, Black Power Network, Black Friday 14. Photo by Ken Epstein.

Standing at the podium during a recent public hearing at City Hall  were (L to R): Karissa Lewis, Black Radical Farmer, Black Friday 14; Robbie Clark, Black Friday 14, Black Lives Matter; Mollie Costello, Black Friday 14, Alan Blueford Center for Justice; Nell Myhand, Black Friday 14; and Cat Brooks, ONYX, Black Power Network, Black Friday 14. Photo by Ken Epstein.

By Ashley Chambers

A new city report highlighting how Oakland police responded to protests in the city last year – sparked by the failure to indict police officers in killings of unarmed Black men by law enforcement around the country – has raised concerns of Oakland residents.

According to the report recently released to the public by the Oakland Police Department (OPD), 23 protests took place between Nov. 24 and Dec.31 last year, resulting in 116 arrests and 230 citations issued.

The Alameda County District Attorney’s office has charged 14 protesters from cases reported by OPD, which is nearly half of the charges against protesters in Alameda County during the same time period. There are still ongoing investigations.

As of March 24, 2015, “We have charged 39 individuals from cases brought to us by Oakland PD, Berkeley PD, BART PD, CHP Oakland and the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office with incident dates between Nov. 24 and Dec. 31,” said Rebecca Richardson, Communications and Publications manager at the D.A.’s office, in an email to the Post.

This number also includes the 14 Black Friday protesters who shut down service at the West Oakland BART station on Nov. 28, 2014.

Community members are questioning why the report does not provide a breakdown of arrests, citations and charges based on race.

“I hope we go back to this issue to talk about some of the inequities that happened during those demonstrations,” an Oakland resident said at a recent City Council meeting.

“One of the questions I get about this from constituents is, where are the police to fight crime when they’re being redeployed to demonstrations,” said Vice Mayor Rebecca Kaplan. She also suggested that the city “look at bringing civil enforcement actions against those who engage in destruction…so that we can sue them civilly for the costs” of the damage they’ve caused.

Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee and one of the Black Friday 14, agrees that “For that report to mean something or to be able to be utilized by community, it would need to be disaggregated by race.”

“What I’m betting that we’re going to find is that the vast majority of folks that had charges actually brought against them were people of color,” Brooks said.

“If you look at the Black Friday 14, an all-Black planned and executed action – we are being prosecuted, and they’re refusing to drop the charges and pushing the issue,” Brooks continued.

“Whereas, we knew before this report that there were protesters who utilized a diversity of tactics that resulted in property damage etc., who were also white, who are being released with a slap on the wrist,” she said.

“It just continues the conversation about the racial disparity and inequity in Oakland,” Brooks said.

The concerns of local business owners were also raised at the City Council meeting, including those whose establishments were damaged during protests. One of the cases reported by OPD involved an individual charged with vandalism, the report shows.

“What this shows is that there were a couple dozen criminals who committed violent acts against either fellow residents or small businesses and were arrested, and some will be prosecuted,” said Councilmember Dan Kalb.

He continued: “That’s how it should be, in contrast to the 97 or 98 percent of legitimate protesters who were marching passionately with a very righteous and very important message to share. I just want to highlight that dichotomy because it’s very important that we continue to acknowledge that.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 28, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)

City Council Revives Proposal for Civilian Intake of Police Complaints

OccupyOaklandStrikePolice

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)

A Push for Alameda County to Fund Reentry Programs

By Ashley Chambers

A number of local groups are challenging how Allemda County is spending the  millions of dollars a year it has  begun receiving to partially offset the state decision to save money by shifting many inmates from state prisons to local jails.

Keith Carson

Keith Carson

The Urban Strategies Council and a number of other organizations, including the Ella Baker Center through its Jobs Not Jails campaign, disagree with how the funds are divvied up, saying not enough public safety funds in Alameda County go to support individuals reentering society from prison.

The Jobs Not Jails campaign is asking that half of the $34 million a year, or $17 million, go to reentry services.

In a letter to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors, the Ella Baker Center cited statistics that show that a shift in how these funds are invested could reduce recidivism and produce savings for the county.

Over half of the county’s budget – in excess of 60 percent – currently goes to the sheriff’s and probation department.

The  Ella Baker letter also cites statistics that show a decline in the total number of felony arrests in Oakland by nearly 28 percent since 2011 when Assembly Bill 109 was passed to reduce the number of inmates in state prisons.

Prop. 47 was passed last year reducing penalties for some nonviolent crimes from a felony to a misdemeanor and has resulted in further decline in the jail population.

Local organizers say now is the best time for the Board of Supervisors to start shifting how they are spending the money.

Junious Williams

Junious Williams

“The way we’ve operated our system hasn’t worked,” said Junious Williams, CEO of The Urban Strategies Council, pointing to a continuing high recidivism rate in Alameda County.

“There’s too much investment on incarceration, parole, and probation, and it’s not very effective,” he said.

“There is an imbalance in our investments, and that is not very constructive for our society,” Williams added, noting that funds are directed toward enforcement and incarceration rather than reentry programs and supportive services.

Nearly 27 percent of the county’s 2013-14 public safety budget went towards reentry programs.

“What would it mean to invest in more programs and services to help people on probation and that are coming out of prison to be successful?” Asked Williams.

Investing half or more of funds to job training, housing, and wraparound services for the reentry community would not only reduce the number of people going back to jail for a crime committed after their release, but also contribute to safe and strong communities, say organizers.

The Ella Baker letter says: “Jail beds cost nearly $50,000 a year while providing an ‘On the Job Training’ (OJT) employment opportunity costs $4,000 and can provide paid job experience that can lead to a long-term position.”

Supervisor Keith Carson is supporting a proposal to begin directing the funds – $17 million – to community-based organizations that work with the reentry population beginning July 1, 2015.

Ella Baker Center campaigns for "Jobs Not Jails"

Ella Baker Center campaigns for “Jobs Not Jails”

“I think it’s very important that we have community funds,” said Supervisor Carson, “and that 50 percent are spent on reentry programs that are community-based, that are diversified and that work.”

The county recently formed a Community Advisory Board, made up of community members from all five districts who work with the formerly incarcerated. This board will guide the process of how community-based groups are chosen to receive funds for their work to support reentry individuals.

“There are very few community-based groups providing mental health services, drug and alcohol treatment, workforce development,” and other services, Carson said.

“This is really about independent programs that are community-based, since there hasn’t been monies going into that direction, to provide those services for the purposes of serving everybody, including the reentry population,” he said.

He continued, “Now, locally we have an open democratic process to try to figure out how to have the best impact for the reentry population.”

Courtesy of the Oakland Post, March 15, 2015 (postnewsgroup.com)