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Mr. "Stop & Frisk" Comes to Oakland

by JP Massar
In the wee hours of the morning of January 23rd, after hearing testimony from hundreds of people, the Oakland City Council voiced its approval (7-1) of a controversial police consulting contract extension which would bring William Bratton to Oakland.

William Bratton, currently a high-priced consultant, former Chief of Police of Boston, New York and Los Angeles, and potentially a future Chief of Police of London, England, is well known for the heavy-handed tactics that he claims reduces crime: Stop & Frisk, curfews, gang injunctions, "broken windows theory" (wherein petty crimes are pursued with religious fervor) and the like.

So it was that while people are outraged at Oakland's crime rate (especially the significant increase in the number of homicides in 2012) many at the City Council meeting were equally outraged that the City of Oakland would even think of paying massive consulting fees to someone who represents everything bad about the existing Oakland Police Department.

OPD is already under a Federal Consent Decree to reduce police violence and operate within the confines of the US Constitution - strictures which it continues to fail at after ten years of "trying."  In May 2012 an OPD officer shot dead Alan Blueford because of what many believe was an illegal and racist Stop & Frisk, the latest in a long line of police killings in Oakland, something the Consent Degree was supposed to deal with. Oakland signed off on a crowd-control policy in 2005 as a result of another civil rights lawsuit. This one it also routinely and, impartial observers might conclude, deliberately violates (the shooting of stationary, unarmed, non-threatening Scott Olsen on October 25th, 2012 being only the most notable violation among many examples over the years the policy has in theory been in effect). One might think that the last thing Oakland would want to do was to bring in one of the most prominent "get tough on crime (and damn the Constitution)" advocates in the entire world.

... any police department in America that tries to function without some form of 'stop and frisk,' or whatever terminology they use, is doomed to failure. -- William Bratton, January 14, 2012
But one quickly perceives that rational thought and Oakland do not mix. The realization that bringing Bratton to Oakland would likely embolden OPD to continue on with its historically documented oppressive tactics should have been enough to convince a sane City Council that he should never have been hired. That the Oakland Police are still out of control no one -- except the Oakland police and their cheerleaders -- disputes. In fact the just released Federal Monitor's report notes
This reports marks the second consecutive quarter of overall decline in the Department's compliance with the agreed-upon Tasks of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement...

This is the seventh consecutive reporting period we have found OPD out of compliance with officers pointing firearms...

Nine reports did not comport with NSA-required elements; each of the incidents involved an unnecessary escalation to potentially using lethal force in situations where other less lethal force options were available to the officers or should have been considered

But there's more. The fact that Bratton's presence and recommendations seem likely to lead Oakland's police to behave even more unlawfully than they already do will also set up the city up for numerous future lawsuits, something you might think even an insane City Council would worry about.

Oakland quite possibly spends more per capita on settling lawsuits caused by questionable and unconstitutional policing than any other city in America. Certainly it spends more per capita than any other significantly-sized city in California, having shelled out about $60,000,000 in the last ten years, double that of San Francisco, which has about twice the population, and vastly more than San Jose, the Bay Area's biggest metropolis. Just months ago Oakland settled a civil rights case involving public strip-searches (!) for $4.6 million, and

The city has paid out nearly $19 million over the last two fiscal years in connection with claims and lawsuits... More than half of the payouts involved the police department.
There is no reason to believe this fiscal bleeding will stop. Here are just some of the major lawsuits that have arisen in the last year or so and which are pending against OPD and the City of Oakland. They could easily cost its taxpayers tens of millions of dollars over the next few years:

Olsen v Oakland, OPD, Roche et al

Without warning, one of the officers fired a high-velocity round... at Mr. Olsen, hitting him in the head. The impact fractured Mr. Olsen's skill and caused hemorrrhaging of his brain... Mr. Olsen lost his ability to speak and perform basic mental and physical functions.
Sabeghi v. Oakland, Uu, Patterson, Gonzalez
Officer Uu and other officers beat plaintiff so viciously that they ruptured his spenic vein... Police officers, jailer and jail medical personnel mocked and ignored his pleas for help. Plaintiff was not taken to a hospital until approximately 128 hours after the beating.
Campbell et al v Oakland, Howard Jordan
Mr. Campbell was filming police officers... when he was shot in the leg... with a lead-filled shot bag... These police actions were in direct violation of the crowd-control policy that Oakland adopted in ILWU Local 10 v Oakland and Coles v Oakland.
Blueford vs Oakland, Jordan, Masso, et al
On May 6th, 2012... Officer Masso shot ... Alan Blueford to death when Mr. Blueford was on the ground... Officer Masso shot decedent three times on the ground... Mr. Blueford did not present a legitimate threat to Officer Masso...

All gunshots that struck Mr. Blueford were blatantly unreasonable, excessive uses of force against a man who had fallen to the ground... At the time of the shooting, the decedent was on his back, trying to get up.

Jones v. Oakland
Tony Jones...  filed a $10 million lawsuit in federal court Wednesday accusing the officer of violating his civil rights... Officer Cesar Garcia shot him in the back and Garcia and the city of Oakland violated his constitutional protections against unlawful detention, unlawful arrest and the use of unreasonable force... "At this point it's uncertain if Jones will be able to walk normally again."

The suit alleges that the city of Oakland was negligent by keeping Garcia on the police force despite its knowledge of his "wrongful and dangerous behavior" in previous incidents, including "his violent tendencies, his propensity to use deadly force without sufficient justification and his pattern and practice of using unnecessary force."

Angell et al v Oakland, Alameda County, Howard Jordan et al
Without a dispersal order or other warning, class members were detained, arrested... and imprisoned for 12 to 85 hours... class members were incarcerated for long periods in overcrowded and inhumane conditions, including unheated or deliberately chilled cells... no sleeping facilities, sometimes standing room only, no toilet facilities, no feminine hygiene, and and no food, water or medical care.

Defendants' actions deprived the plaintiff class of their right to freedom of speech and association; the right to be free from unreasonable searches and seizures; the right to equal protection... the right to be free from the use of excessive and/or arbitrary force...

Ovetz v Oakland
A College of Marin instructor is suing the city of Oakland over treatment he says he received from police during a Jan. 28 protest... Without provocation, Ovetz claimed, officers struck him in the face, slammed his head into the ground and beat him with a baton, according to the lawsuit filed in U.S. District Court for the Northern District of California... Ovetz was arrested and jailed for several days on suspicion of obstructing an officer and resisting arrest but charges were dropped...

The lawsuit, which seeks an unspecified amount of money, alleges violations of several constitutional rights in addition to excessive force, false arrest, assault and battery.

The Bratton effect? Even more unconstitutional actions by police. Even more lawsuits. But even this is really the tip of an iceberg. In a recently released report on the effects of 'Stop & Frisk' tactics in New York City, the Center for Constitutional Rights goes into detail about the human impact of aggressive police tactics on communities which include
  • Expectation of Harassment: Trauma and Humiliation
  • Fear as a Way of Life
  • Military-style Occupation
  • Increased opportunities for Sexual Harrassment by Police
  • Collateral Consequences of Arrests: Unemployment, Loss of Access to Housing, Shelter and Public Benefits, Impact on Family Members
THE NEW YORK CITY POLICE DEPARTMENT'S aggressive stop-and-frisk practices are having a profound effect on individuals, groups and communities across the city... NYPD stop-and-frisk program affects thousands of people every day in New York City and it is widely acknowledged that an overwhelming majority of those people are Black or Latino... Residents of some New York City neighborhoods describe a police presence so pervasive and hostile that they feel like they are living in a state of siege.
In its zeal to rid Oakland of guns and gun violence Oakland's so-called leaders ignore the evidence before their eyes: they can no more stem the flow of guns into Oakland by magical policing than could they stop global warming by City decree. When vehicular traffic from Nevada is inspected for bananas rather than semi-automatics -- and semi-automatics are as available in Nevada as one-armed bandits -- only a politician would ramble on about removing guns from Oakland's streets as a practical solution.

No, if there is to be any solution to Oakland's violence -- and I don't claim to know if one is possible -- it is in providing a sense of hope to the young people of the city, rather than leaving them to stare down the barrel of endless cycles of poverty.

Bratton should indeed go home, dragging his philosphy behind him.

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Fri, Feb 8, 2013 1:38PM
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