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A Big Step Forward for Civilian Oversight of Police in Oakland, 6/23/09: photos & audio
Advocates for police accountability in Oakland got a boost on Tuesday, June 23rd when the Public Safety Committee voted 3-1 to send the proposal for "civilianizing" citizen complaints against OPD to the full City Council. The Oakland Police Department, its Internal Affairs division, and City Administrator Dan Lindheim put up resistance, but another show of community support for increased civilian oversight at the meeting seems to have kept the majority of committee members focused on pushing the proposal forward. While it remains likely that OPD and Dan Lindheim will continue to resist until the City Council actually votes, it appears probable that a majority of Council members will support the proposal when it comes before them on July 7th. At that point, over $1 million will need to be found to cover the costs of initial implementation that will not be available from the city's general fund due to budget shortfalls this year, but there are a number of potential grants available once the proposal is approved by the full Council.
On April 28th, the Oakland City Council Public Safety Committee agreed -- with the Mayor's Task Force on Police Issues, PUEBLO, and a strong showing of community members who spoke at the meeting -- that it would be in Oakland's best interest to "civilianize" citizen complaints against the Oakland Police Department, that is that all such complaints should go to the existing Citizens' Police Review Board (CPRB) rather than allowing OPD internal affairs to continue controlling most of those investigations. At that time, the committee directed members of the Mayor's Task Force, OPD, and the City Administrator to work together to create a plan to implement transferring intake responsibilities for citizen complaints to the Citizen's Police Review Board.
Since then, several meetings between the parties were held but City Administrator Dan Lindheim and OPD essentially continued to resist, coming up with obstacles rather than truly working toward a plan to present to the Public Safety Committee. A rough outline of an implementation proposal was pulled together -- the CPRB would have new hires in place and trained by the beginning of 2010 and then assume responsibility for complaint intake by July 2010 -- but it was not a fully detailed plan. Not having a completed plan was the reason cited by City Council and committee member Larry Reid in voting against the proposal.
The problem with waiting for a full plan, though, is that as long as OPD etc can drag the process out at the committee level they will continue to hem and haw and not contribute to a full plan being developed. For instance, the NSA (Negotiated Settlement Agreement) has been consistently referred to as a hindrance by those opposed to civilianization of citizen complaints, but there's no reason to assume that the CPRB could not live up to the same court supervision that OPD currently is. [The NSA came out of the notorious Oakland Riders case whereby a judge is scheduled to audit the OPD until the middle of 2010 and can extend the court supervision if the court deems OPD has not lived up to its mandated expectations.] Another false dilemma raised by opposition forces is the duplication of citizen complaint intake by both the CPRB and OPD IA, but that is exactly what would have to happen as the transition of responsibilities takes place. Additionally, while funding remains to be found as Dan Lindheim has been eager to point out, funding outside of the City's general funds (i.e. grants) cannot even be applied for until the City Council announces support for the proposal. Lastly, the Mayor's Task Force, PUEBLO, nor private citizens can really push OPD and the City Admin to do anything -- that requires solid direction from the City Council.
Fortunately, the majority of committee members present recognized that, since they had already agreed to support the proposal "in principle" two months ago, that it was time to push it forward and more forcefully direct the City Admin to begin making a more detailed plan for implementation. Council/committee member Nancy Nadel noted that the City has talked about increased civilian oversight of the Oakland Police Department for 12 years and it is finally time to move forward.
PUEBLO is asking supporters to mark Tuesday, July 7th on their calendars and to come speak before the Oakland City Council in support of civilianization of citizen complaints against OPD.
Note that full transfer of the intake of citizen complaints from OPD IA to the CPRB will represent one step towards the larger goals of police accountability groups. Transfer of the entire citizen complaint process to the CPRB and eventual authority to impose officer discipline are longer term goals. Discipline-related changes will require a modification to the City Charter, and so activists are hoping to get a measure on the ballot mandating such a change in November 2010.
recent related stories
City Admin Dan Lindheim Trying to Kill Civilianization of OPD; We Need You on Tues 6/23!!
We must participate in budget hearings to save civilian police review proposal in Oakland!
For Civilian Oversight of Oakland Police, Please Attend Budget Hearing Thurs. May 28
Victory for Civilian Oversight of Citizen Complaints Against Oakland Police
People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO)
City Administrator Dan Lindheim speaks first and voices his opposition to the proposal.
Missing a few minutes of audio during back and forth with Larry Reid about plan not being 100% complete, just before committee concludes the agenda item by forwarding the proposal to full City Council for consideration. Gap indicated by brief silence and tone at about 1 hour 10 minutes into audio.
Captain Ed Poulson was the last head of Oakland police department internal affairs and is currently on paid leave (vacation) while his role in the beating death of a person in his custody in 2000 and the subsequent cover-up of that death is investigated.
She tells the story of an OPD officer ignoring injuries she sustained
He tells of recent harrassment by OPD
Berkeley Police Review Commission
Sanjiv Handa makes himself at home at City Council and various committee meetings, setting up his laptop on tables in front, usually with a beverage within reach, and fills out multiple speaker cards so that he can speak on numerous agenda items
Show up at the City Council meeting on July 7th to keep the pressure on for increased police accountability!