Category: Racial profiling

Oakland May Name Road in Honor of Oscar Grant

Community leaders join together to endorse naming road next to the Fruitvale BART station as “Oscar Grant Way.” Shown (L to R) are: BART Board President Bevan Dufty, BART Director Lateefah Simon, Oscar Grant’s aunt Bernice Johnson, Council President Rebecca Kaplan, Oscar Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson and Cephus “Uncle Bobby” Johnson. Photo by Gene Hazzard.

 

By Post Staff

The Oakland City Coun­cil’s Life Enrichment Com­mittee passed a resolution this week to name the un­named road adjacent to the West side of the Fruitvale BART Station between 33rd to 35th Avenues as “Oscar Grant Way.”

The resolution was in­troduced last year by Coun­cilmember Desley Brooks in one of her last official acts and co-authored by Council President Rebecca Kaplan. At the Tuesday meeting, Councilmembers Loren Taylor and Lynette McElhaney were added as co-sponsors of the resolu­tion, which will be heard at the council meeting on Tuesday, Jan. 22.

It was determined the street was on BART prop­erty, and, BART Board Presi­dent Bevan Dufty and BART Director Lateefah Simon spoke at the committee meeting in fa­vor of the resolution.

“I want to thank Desley Brooks for putting in an effort to put this in today,” said Oscar Grant’s relative, Ceogus “Un­cle Bobby” Cephus Johnson.

“For 10 years I have been saying it is because of the com­munity and political figures and clergy and activists in the streets that prayed with and for us and speaking on behalf of us for Oscar’s name to never be forgotten. Thank you. We will do what we’ve got to do to name this street,” he said.

Said Oscar Grant’s mother Wanda Johnson, “I would first like to thank God and to the BART Directors for carrying this forward. I am so grateful today that you all see that Os­car’s life lost was not in vain.”

“His death has sparked a movement. One of the atone­ments is for BART to name the street after my son, Oscar Grant. Thank you for seeing this injustice and not ignoring it but acting,” she said.

Council President Kaplan said, “We are here…to honor a life that was tragically cut short at the Fruitvale BART station. The activism of the family and the community sparked an international move­ment. We need to honor the life of Oscar Grant, the activism his death has sparked, and we need to continue to fight for a world where Black men and boys are not targets of these types of killings.”

Said BART Board President Dufty: “I want to thank Oscar’s mother for working with me. I want to apologize to the com­munity, and to take account­ability for the delays that have occurred in naming this road. I am 100 percent in support and am committed to working with my colleague Lateefah Simon to correct this at the upcoming BART Board meeting on Feb. 14.”

In her remarks, Simon said, “We are 10 years too late. I apologize to the community. The BART Board will move mountains to name this street after Oscar Grant. We will or­ganize like Oscar’s mother has organized internationally. We will do this. We have no choice.”

Oscar Grant III was a 22-year-old African-American man who was fatally shot in the early morning hours of New Year’s Day 2009 by BART Po­lice Officer Johannes Mehserle in Oakland.

Responding to reports of a fight on a crowded Bay Area Rapid Transit train returning from San Francisco, BART Police officers detained Grant and several other passengers on the platform at the Fruitvale BART Station. Two officers, including Mehserle, forced the unarmed Grant to lie face down on the platform.

Mehserle drew his pistol and shot Grant in the back. Grant was rushed to Highland Hospi­tal in Oakland and pronounced dead later that day.

The events were captured on multiple official and pri­vate digital video and private­ly-owned cell phone cameras and went viral. Huge protests against police actions took place in the following days.

Published January 18, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: We Must Reduce Gentrification in Our Classrooms

The lack of teachers of color, particularly Black and Latino, is undermining the education
of students in our schools, says Alexandra Mejia.

By Alexandra Mejia

Gentrification of Oakland leaves many of us with empty pockets and anxiety about a rent increase, but have we ever thought about gentrification af­fecting more than just where we live?

As families and educators, we are facing gentrification in our classrooms. Students are being referred to special edu­cation classes, missing out on class lectures, and being put in situations where they are at risk of dropping out.

There is a disconnect between our highly diverse youth and the teachers who educate them. One issue many students face is the educators’ idea of “safety.”

Because frequently teachers are not from Oakland commu­nities or similar communities, they struggle to connect with students who have been shaped by the communities in which they live.

These new white educators do not comprehend the every­day struggles and traumatic situations that the students of Oakland may face. These teach­ers are caught off guard by the culture shock they have been hired into, and they may adopt a narrative that their students make them feel unsafe or en­dangered.

Our students face every day issues that these new, naïve teachers are not prepared to ad­dress, and so they simply teach to the small portion that they feel comfortable with and deem the rest as low-performing.

These “low performing” stu­dents are taken out of class to re­ceive some sort of punishment, referred to special education classes for behavior problems, or even expelled.

Thus, students are placed on a path that leads to the teachers’ self-fulfilling prophecy. They believe that because everyone thinks they are “bad” and, that is what they must become.

Frequently these new teach­ers give up and resign, begin­ning a new cycle of inexperi­enced, ill prepared teachers. Education becomes associated with institutionalized oppres­sion and students reject the school system that treats them like outsiders in their own com­munities.

There is an immediate need to hire teachers devoid of the systematic biases that target our students of color.

So why is this influx of white middle class educators such a trend? It is easy to assume that there are just simply not enough teachers coming out of the Oak­land community, but that as­sumption is entirely false.

The reality is that there are teachers who are shaped by these types of communities who are exploding with pas­sion about teaching the youth that they see themselves in, but simply struggle to survive eco­nomically as a teacher.

After four years of racking up student debt to earn a bachelor’s degree, prospective teachers must partake in an intensive credential program that requires them to volunteer themselves for a year of free teaching and pay hundreds of dollars to pass a series of tests in order to gain their credential.

Then, when hired on as teachers, they are barely mak­ing enough money to pay their rent. Many teachers face the choice to either sacrifice finan­cial stability, or sacrifice having a career where they can shape and educate youth in an effec­tive way.

If we begin to support and value effective teachers, we will see a change in the community. The city of Oakland would ben­efit immensely by hiring teach­ers in their own communities as educators, but what steps must be taken to make this possible?

The students of Holy Names University propose that afford­able housing for public school teachers from the Oakland community would lead to an in­crease in student performance, a greater teacher retention rate, strengthening of the Oakland community and an overall more productive, welcoming school environment.

Alexandra Mejia is an Oakland resident preparing to be a teacher and a graduate student at Holy Names University.

Published January 12, 2019, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Council Rushes to Approve Five-Year Police Agreement

APTP activist James Burch tells City Council to stop putting the Oakland Police Officers Association’s needs above those of the community at Tuesday’s meeting. Photo by Zack Haber.

Zack Haber

 At a meeting that lasted over eight hours, continuing from Tuesday evening until 2 a.m. Wednesday morning, community members and activists from the Anti Police-Terror Project, the Coalition for Police Accountability, Alliance of Californians for Community Empowerment (ACCE) and the First Congregational Church of Oakland criticized a proposed new Memorandum of Understanding (MOU) between the City of Oakland and the Oakland Police Officers Association.

The new MOU grants officers a 12.5 percent salary increase spread over five years.

All council members voted in favor of the MOU except Rebecca Kaplan, who voted no. Noel Gallo abstained, and Desley Brooks was absent.

James Burch, an activist with the Anti Police-Terror Project, wanted the council to delay the vote to seek input from the community.

“In crafting a new MOU, the City Council is more concerned with their relationship with the Oakland Police Officers Association than they are with the wants and needs of the people of Oakland,” he said.

Burch said the timing of the vote shows the council does not respect the will of Oakland residents. The current OPOA agreement does not expire for over six months, leaving plenty of time to seek the views of the police commission and other city residents.

By settling the agreement early, the council and the administration locked up wages and rules governing the police before recently elected City Councilmembers Nikki Fortunato Bas, Loren Taylor and Sheng Thao take office.

“Nikki Fortunato Bas was voted in over Abel Gullén because Gullén was being held accountable for his failure to work with community over the last several years,” Burch said. “Bas has promised to work with community, and I believe her.” But Oakland’s newly elected council members will not have a say in Oakland’s MOU with its police union.

Rashidah Grinage, a member of the Coalition for Police Accountability, was also concerned with the rush to vote on the agreement. “The whole thing was a stealth attack,” Grinage said. “We had no advance knowledge that this was on the agenda, so we had no time to organize around it.”

Grinage said parts of the MOU were overlooked like the overtime budget, how officers are promoted and oversight on police discipline is handled. She said the newly elected Council members might have wanted to work with Oakland residents to change the language in the MOU before voting on it.

Published December 15 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: City Agency Set to Seize Black Veteran’s Home

Leonard Powell is facing “an unconscionable and unwarranted debt”

Leonard Powell (right) with relative.

By Steve Martinot

The City of Berkeley is campaigning right now to drive Leonard Powell, a 76-year-old Black veteran, and his family out of their home at 1911 Harmon St. in south Berkeley.

This family has lived there for 44 years and owned the house free and clear. By a legal process called receivership, the city has succeeded in placing Mr. Powell in a financial position beyond his means, in order for him to lose the house to foreclosure or sale.

Receivership means that the house, after it is found to be in violation of the city’s housing code, is placed under the control of a “receiver,” who then he takes over the job of repairing the house.

Where initial estimates of repair expenses were around $200,000, the receiver has racked up expenses of $700,000, a debt which ultimately falls on Mr. Powell’s shoulders.

Right now, the case is in Superior Court, and the judge has demanded that Mr. Powell come up with the full amount right away. Clearly, he is acting to protect the interest of the receiver, who is white.

This writer would ask that the legal system be as diligent in protecting the interests of the Black family, who are now faced with an unconscionable and unwarranted debt.

This kind of thing has happened to other families. It has also been accomplished through Probate Court, as well as through receivership. But Mr. Powell’s case is instructive.

It occurred through three stages. And it is important to note that at no time did Mr. Powell object to doing the repairs on his house. He simply asked the city for assistance and negotiation, which the city subtly declined.

First, there was a police raid on the house, ostensibly to arrest a person who didn’t live there. The entire raid was fake, reporting fabricated evidence, and no charges were ever filed. But it gave city officials a chance to inspect the house without prior notice.

The city knew Mr. Powell’s financial situation, and that he had family members in the house in ill health who depended on the house.

Second, though inspection found some 23 code violations, all were of housing maintenance. Mr. Powell was given deadlines, negotiation on those deadlines were refused, and missed deadlines allowed the city to label the house a public “nuisance.”

The label made the city’s desire for receivership much stronger (though without evidence of any specific danger to the neighborhood). Without material foundation, this essentially admitted that for the white power structure, black people are just a nuisance.

Third, there is the receivership process. Mr. Powell opposed the house being placed under receivership in court declarations, but his objections were ignored.

The city’s petition was granted, and a white man appointed as receiver to repair the violations. The receiver then violated his mandate by having his contractor reconstruct the house rather than simply repair the code violations.

This is what tripled his expenses, and tripled the debt placed on Mr. Powell. The receiver admitted, in a later report to the court, that in shifting the work on the house from repairs to reconstruction, he was following city directions in doing so.

The receiver must have sensed a vulnerability, because he has asked the judge to get full payment from Mr. Powell immediately, and the judge has done so.

 

Leonard Powell’s case is scheduled to be heard Monday, Dec. 17, 10:30 a.m., at Alameda County Superior Court, Second Floor, Room 511, 24405 Amador St., Hayward. For more information or to support Mr. Powell, contact Friends of Adeline at (510) 338-7843 or friendsofadeline@gmail.com

Published December 12, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

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Oakland Race & Equity Dept. Report Calls for End to Systemic Racial Disparities

Affordable housing protest at Oakland City Hall

City Councilmembers  this week took the “first step” to implement the “2018 Oakland Equity Indicators Report,” a recent study that provides data on racial disparities experienced by African Americans and Latinos in nearly all areas of life in Oakland, including housing, health, public safety and education.

Darlene Flynn

The report, a joint project of the Resilient Oakland Office and the city’s Department of Race and Equity, was released in July. The plan now calls for the council and city departments to begin to examine policies and programs “through intentional focus on race and ethnic disparities and their root causes,” said Darlene Flynn, director of the Department of Race & Equity, speaking at Tuesday’s meeting of the council’s Life Enrichment Committee.

The report was funded by a $140,000 grant from the Rockefeller Foundation,

The ultimate goal is “fairness,” which means that “identity—such as race, ethnicity, gender, age, disability, sexual orientation or expression—has no detrimental effect on the distribution of resources, opportunities and outcomes for our city’s residents,” according to the report to the council submitted by Flynn.

The report will be updated each year, “measuring how much we have changed (in terms of) what our outcomes are,” because “if we keep doing things the same way we are doing them, we will keep getting the same outcomes,” Flynn said.

The report looked at Oaklanders’ quality of life based on 72 indicators in six areas: economy, education, public health, housing, public safety and neighborhood and civic life.

On a scale of 1 to 100, the report gave the city an overall average score of 33.5. The number 1 represents the highest possible inequity, while 100 represents the highest possible equity.

“This is not good news. It should also not be surprising news for people who are paying to attention to how people’s lives are going in (Oakland),” Flynn said.

“This (report) shows that race does matter. Every area that we looked showed some level of disparity by race and usually quite a bit of disparity,” she said.
One indicator, “Oakland Poverty Rate by Race/Ethnicity,” shows that 26.1 percent of African Americans live at or below the poverty line, while only 8.4 percent of whites are classified as poor.

In other words, “African Americans are three times more likely to live in poverty than whites,” she said.

In addition, one of five Latinos, 21.9 percent, live in poverty. Overall, the poverty rate in Oakland is 17 percent.

This pattern can be seen in nearly all of the 72 indicators: African Americans are the most “negatively impacted,” followed by Latinos, she said.

On 12 indicators, the city received a 1.0, the lowest possible score:

  • Education – student suspensions
  • Education – teaching staff representative of the student body
  • Public Health – child asthma emergency department visits
  • Public Health – substance abuse emergency department visits
  • Housing – homelessness
  • Public safety – adult felony arrests
  • Public safety – jail incarceration
  • Public safety – prison incarceration,
  • Public safety – use of force
  • Public safety – homicides
  • Public safety – juvenile felony arrests
  • Neighborhood and Civil Life – pedestrian safety

The five highest scoring indicators:

  • Equal Access Accommodations (language access) – 100
  • Adopt-a-Drain – 80
  • Homeownership with mortgage – 78
  • Life expectancy – 77
  • Labor force participation – 72
  • Participation in workforce development – 72

A high score does not necessarily mean that an outcome is good, but that is it more equal across different groups of residents.

Flynn, who has headed the Department of Race and Equity since it was formed two years ago through the efforts of Councilmember Desley Brooks, was cautiously optimistic about what the work around the new equity report can achieve.

“This is just the first step, not the end of the story,” said Flynn, pointing out that government played a role in creating the systemic inequities that exist, and it can play a role in reversing them. “I have some level of optimism that with public will, with leadership support, with changes in strategy, we can make a difference,” she said. “By leading with race, we can make a difference.”

To read the report, go to www.ca.gov/projects/oakland-equity-indicators

Published November 15, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Attacks on Desley Brooks Are “Shameful and Dishonest,” Say Community Leaders

 “Desley has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful  people with money who run everything,” says Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

Ken Epstein

Until now, District 6, a largely flatland community in East Oakland, has been generally ignored by downtown gentrifying politicians and their allied developer/financier partners.

Rev. Dr. J. Alfred Smith Sr.

But that is changing as tens of thousands of dollars flow into the district to fuel a campaign of personal attacks and smears designed to unseat veteran Councilmember Desley Brooks, funded by Mayor Libby Schaaf, outside real estate developers and their allied building trades construction unions, according to required Political Action Committee filings.

Many of those who know Brooks and her track record are standing with the council member.

“I support Desley – I haven’t changed,” said Rev. J. Alfred Smith Sr. pastor emeritus of Allen Temple Baptist Church in East Oakland.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry

“No matter what the enemy says, I stand with her because she loves Black people,” said Pastor Smith. “She has never done anything to harm the Black community. She has the courage to speak naked truth to the powerful people with money who run everything.”

“I don’t see the same group crying out to help the jobless and the homeless or to help the neighborhoods in the same way they spend money on downtown (development).

“So, I shall not be moved.”

Brooks’ opponents put out flyers filled with vague and unfounded charges of corruption and dishonesty. But they do not talk about Brooks’ track record.

She has been outspoken in her opposition to police misconduct and racial profiling. She took on powerful interests in her fight for jobs and training opportunities for Black and Latino residents who want to enter good careers in the construction trades.

She opposed powerful businessmen when she worked to pass the city’s cannabis equity ordinance, winning national recognition for her efforts to create opportunities for individuals and communities that bore the

Dan Siegel

brunt of the War on Drugs.

She fought for the resources that have been denied to East Oakland and to create the city’s Department of Race and Equity, part of her effort to end the City of Oakland’s long-term discrimination in contracting against small Black, Latino- and Women-owned businesses.

Rev. Dr. Harold Mayberry, senior pastor of First AME Church Oakland, said, “I live in District 6, and I’ve seen the work that (Brooks) has done. It’s unfortunate that people who don’t even live in the district and in a number of cases don’t even live in Oakland would be attacking a very effective member of the City Council.

“(Brooks’) opponents have not been tested or proven themselves to be productive” Mayberry continued. “I’ve been living here for 23, but I’ve seen nothing like this – it’s a divisive, evil, mean spirited campaign. It’s way over the line.”

Said local civil rights attorney Walter Riley. “It is a smear campaign, full of unjustified attacks on Desley because she has stood up for people in her district. More specifically, she has stood up for Black people in this climate of big money and powerful political interests that are taking control,”

Walter Riley

“They’re coming after her, and we need to defend her,” Riley said, emphasizing that people should not be distracted by Brooks’ past conflicts with people who have disagreed with her.

Dan Siegel, Oakland civil rights attorney and a District 6 resident, said “They are making charges without a shred of evidence, making assumptions, full of a lot of implicit bias.” “An old cliché says that you can tell a lot about a person by their enemies,” he said.

“Desley’s opponents are led by Libby Schaaf, Jean Quan, the San Francisco Chronicle, and the Building and Construction Trades unions, which are angry because Desley has demanded that more high paying construction jobs on local development projects go to Black and Brown Oakland residents.

“People need to withhold judgment on the Elaine Brown case, which was lost because of the horrible job done by the City Attorney’s office,” he said. “I am representing Desley in her claim against the City Attorney, and I am confident the facts show that Elaine Brown was to blame in their confrontation.”

“I hope voters in District 6 will focus on the issues rather than the personalities,” said Siegel.

The anti-Brooks Political Action Committees (PACs) are largely funded by three groups: “supporters of Libby Schaaf’s city hall; large unions with mostly suburban, not Oakland memberships; and venture capitalists, developers and real estate investors,” according to an online article “The United Front Against Desley Brooks Part II.”

Published October 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Pastors, Black Panther Co-Founder, Residents React to Outside Money Pouring into D-6 Council Race

Community leaders defend Councilmember Desley Brooks’ fearless leadership

Former Black Panther Party leader Bobby Seale speaks at a rally Thursday in front of City Hall, condemning Mayor Libby Schaaf’s fundraising efforts to pump outside money into District 6 to defeat Desley Brooks. Among others who spoke in in favor of Desley’s Brooks outspoken leadership on the City Council in defense of the community were Post Publisher Paul Cobb, Henry Gage of the Police Accountability Coalition, civil rights attorney and District 6 resident Dan Siegel, Rev. L.J. Jennings of Kingdom Builders Christian Fellowship and leaders of the public workers union, SEIU Local 1021. Photo by Ken Epstein

A community coalition comprised of Pastors, former Black Panther Co-Founder, Bobby Seale, Civil Rights attorneys and residents held a press conference this week calling out “money in politics” in the race for Oakland’s District 6 Council seat.

The group is responding to Mayor Libby Schaaf, her big money donors and Building Trade Unions tied to powerful, luxury real estate developers, who are now pouring outside money into the race to unseat District 6 Councilmember Desley Brooks.

Brooks has been a staunch critic of Schaaf and the lack of African American workers employed at construction sites throughout the city.

The community coalition is calling upon Mayor Schaaf and her supporters to immediately cease the outside money they are pumping into the local race and maintain what they deem a “fair and clean” election, free of distortions and attacks.

Mayor Schaaf has a history of mobilizing her base of wealthy donors to target councilmembers who have opposed her policies, including Councilmembers Noel Gallo and Rebecca Kaplan in 2016.

Over one-third of the Independent expenditure aimed at unseating Schaaf’s most vocal critic, Desley Brooks, has come from wealthy donors who have contributed tens of thousands of dollars over the years to the Mayor’s campaign efforts.

Speakers at the press conference, including Black Panther Party Co-Founder Bobby Seale, highlighted what they see as coordinated retaliation against Brooks for the many, community-based positions she has taken in City Hall.

Earning powerful enemies, Brooks has advocated for more inclusivity of the hiring of African-Americans in the powerful, Building and Construction Trades Unions and fought to to establish a Department of Race and Equity, which was initially opposed by the Mayor.

Published October 21 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Mayor, OPD Face Questions on Continued Racial Profiling

Oakland police

By Ken Epstein

Mayor Libby Schaaf’s administration and the Oakland Police Department are facing questions about whether they have a serious plan to end racial profiling by police of African-American residents, who make up the overwhelming majority of local residents stopped by OPD for no reason at all.

The issue came up sharply at the City Council’s Public Safety Committee meeting last week when Deputy Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong—speaking for OPD—addressed the public’s concerns about the persistence of the high percentage of Africans who are racially profiled by the police.

Deputy Chief LeRonnne Armstrong

“When you practice precision-based or intelligence-based policing, you have to focus in on those who are committing crimes,” he said.  “The disparity exists based on who commits crimes in this city.”

In response, Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan sent a tweet last Tuesday calling for the administration and OPD to retract the comment:

“This comment is offensive and untrue—and OPD leadership and (the) Oakland administration should formally retract this claim. Black people are being pulled over, searched and even arrested, when there is no crime and no cause for suspicion,” said Kaplan.

Deputy Chief Armstrong clarified his comment in an interview with the Oakland Post:

“I think some people took the comment out of context. I apologize that the community has had to endure a comment that was taken in that way,” he said, pointing out that he is from the community and has had to experience unfair policing practices while growing up.

Continuing, he said, “The chief and I have been very committed to doing everything we can to reduce these disparity numbers. We are making far fewer stops than we

Desley Brooks

were making even a year ago.”

“We are not satisfied with the disparity numbers,” he said, adding that the department is holding more training for officers on diversity and around procedural justice. He said people are stopped for something they do, not because of their race.

It is important for officers to explain to people the reason they were stopped, so they will know that “it was not racial but some behavior that occurred,” which caused the stop, he said.

Mayor Schaaf did not respond to the Oakland Post’s questions. However, her office said she “addressed the issue directly at a Public Safety Town Hall… last Thurday.” The event had not yet been posted by OPD by the Post’s deadline.

Rebecca Kaplan

In an interview with the Post, Councilmember Kaplan raised concerns about the Schaaf administration’s reliance on the work of Stanford consultant Jennifer Eberhardt to end racial profiling by OPD.

“They are still disproportionately pulling over and questioning Black people, not based on the possibility of a particular crime being committed,” she said.  “It is time to demand an end to suspicionless stops.”

The trends indicate that fewer people are being stopped by the police, but African Americans are still stopped the most.

Police non-traffic stops have fallen between December 2016 and November 2017 from 14,259 to 11,219, a 21 percent decrease.

“Very little progress has been made as the share of Africans (in non-traffic) stops (has increased) slightly from 66 percent to 68 percent” of total stops, according to a PowerPoint presentation presented to OPD in February 2018 by the Stanford Technical Assistance Team.

(See http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/police/documents/webcontent/oak069090.pdf)

In the six months between June-November 2017, 5,259 African Americans were stopped by police—1,161 less than the previous six months.

According to the researchers’ PowerPoint, “Reducing disparities in policing outcomes is notoriously difficult because they are multiply determined, including by sociological factors outside of the police’s control. But changing policies to reduce (total numbers) can make an immediate difference in terms of impact on populations of color.”

The City Council voted this week to extend Eberhardt’s contract over the objections of the Public Safety Committee, which wanted to look into what the city is going to do to end racial profiling before approving the $500,000, two-year agreement.

“There’s no explanation at all of what this contract is supposed to be doing,” said Kaplan. “We’ve had the contract for four years. Why is it not working?”

At last week’s Public Safety Committee meeting, Couincilmembers Desley Brooks and Noel Gallo questioned approving a contract without a full discussion.

“People who appear to have done nothing (illegal) have been stopped by police because of their race. That is not acceptable. And the mayor should not think that it’s acceptable,” said Councilmember Brooks.

“Why doesn’t the mayor want to address the issue? Asked Brooks. “She said she is concerned, and this is important work, but she isn’t interested” in discussing the substantive issues.

Mayor Schaaf released a statement to the media late Wednesday afternoon thanking the City Council for renewing the consultant’s contract.

“Dr. Eberhardt’s intensive and transparent research will continue to advance policies that change the impact of policing communities of color,” she said.

“Dr. Eberhardt’s work has helped OPD dramatically reduce the number of stops of African Americans, which contributes to improved police-community trust.”

Published July 30, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

Opinion: City Attorney Should Not Be Allowed to Undermine Police Commission

 

Oakland police

By Larry White, Attorney

Oakland’s City Council is poised to enact an enabling ordinance that would fill in the gaps in Measure LL, which created the Oakland Police Commission and the Civilian Police Review Agency and that was approved by 83 percent of the city’s voters.Our new Police Commission is one of the strongest and most independent civilian oversight bodies in the country. The City Council will take a vote on July 10 that could affirm that independence—or undermine it.

Larry White

The Coalition for Police Accountability drafted the original City Charter amendment and gave it to the City Council, which made changes and put it on the ballot in 2016.

Unfortunately, the messy process of amending the Charter—the back and forth of compromise and re-drafting the measures, as well as the influence of the police union—resulted in language wasn’t always crystal clear.
At least one important item was left out completely—a civilian Inspector General of the Police Department. Another matter was left murky: can the Commission have its own lawyer, or must its lawyer be under the thumb of the City Attorney.

Although Measure LL twice calls for a “non-City Attorney legal advisor,” City Attorney Barbara Parker says that another section of the Charter overrules the voters’ wishes and makes her the Commission’s legal advisor.
That’s a misreading of the Charter, which gives her office the right to represent the Commission in lawsuits against it but does not require the Commission to request legal advice from her.

Oakland’s Police Department has been under the supervision of a federal judge since 2003. In 2015, Judge Thelton Henderson commissioned attorney Edward Swanson to report on why so many Oakland police officers accused of misconduct were never punished.

Swanson found that the City usually lost the arbitrations that are police officers’ last step in discipline.  “Time and again, the City wrote checks to settle civil lawsuits arising out of police misconduct, only to see the City Attorney’s Office fail to uphold discipline for that very same misconduct,” he wrote.

The City Attorney’s office, Swanson charged, failed to prepare cases, delayed in assigning cases to outside counsel, didn’t select outside counsel with police discipline expertise, and failed to prosecute cases vigorously.
The City Attorney’s office didn’t get evidence ahead of time, rarely if ever called civilian witnesses, and didn’t use outside expert witnesses.

Swanson concluded that “the same problems arose again and again—vague policies, incomplete investigations, unprepared attorneys—with nothing done to ensure that the problems were corrected before they arose again.”

Since then, the City Attorney’s office, under intense scrutiny, has somewhat improved its performance. Swanson was still worried. Eventually, Court supervision will end. “The question, then, is how to make sure that when the Court and the key individuals in the City working on discipline have moved on, the discipline system will not revert to its former, ineffectual state,” wrote Swanson.

That was written before the November 2016 vote that created the Oakland Police Commission.  The Commission was designed by people who believed that the City of Oakland had failed for many years to effectively oversee the police and that none of the City’s existing institutions were capable of doing so.

The Commission’s sole mission is to oversee the Police Department, to promote constitutional policing that is free of racial bias and to make sure that police misconduct is punished effectively.

Court supervision, even if it lasts for another decade, is temporary. The Police Commission is here to stay.
The battle for effective civilian oversight goes on.

When the City Council considers approving an ordinance with a lawyer and an Inspector General reporting to the Police Commission, we hope they will heed the wish of the voters and make the Police Commission as independent and effective as it was designed to be.

The Council should also go one step further: put on this year’s ballot a clean-up to Measure LL that settles these matters once and for all.

Attorney Larry White is a member of the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability.  He served as a Senior Staff Counsel for the California Department of Insurance from 1992 to 2013. His responsibilities included reviewing and commenting on dozens of pieces of legislation every year as well as drafting new legislation and regulations.

Published June 28, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post

 

‘BBQing While Black’ Leader Kenzie Smith to Become Park Commissioner

Kenzie Smith (left) and Onsayo Abram at last Sunday’s “BBQing While Black” event at Lake Merritt in Oakland.

By Post Staff

Councilmember-at-Large Rebecca Kaplan announced this week that she is recommending Kenzie Smith, one the two men who was racially targeted for “BBQing while Black” at Lake Merritt, for a seat on Oakland Parks and Recreation Advisory Commission.

“He has a deep commitment to the Oakland community and a track record of public service and philanthropy,” she wrote in a statement that was released Tuesday.

Before the appointment is final, Kaplan’s recommendation must go to the mayor for approval.

Smith is a lifelong Oakland resident, community activist and founder of Dope Era Magazine. He wants to start a nonprofit to hire young people during the summer, including keeping the Lake Merritt park clean.

The Advisory Commission consists of 11 members appointed by the mayor and council. As a member of the commission, Smith would help make sure “regulations for use of our parks are clear and fair,” said Kaplan.

Smith is looking forward to an opportunity to make policy for the parks. He told the East Bay Express, “I’m not going to let someone else have a ‘BBQ Becky.’”

Published May 27, 2018, courtesy of the Oakland Post