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Letter To Oakland City Council Regarding Proposed Domain Awareness Center
Based on an increasing number of reports regarding the disproportionate use of violence by police officers toward unarmed African-Americans and people of color, the National Lawyers Guild is deeply concerned that the presence of the Domain Awareness Center (“DAC”) will result in more violence and have a chilling impact on the participation of communities of color in civic engagement. We therefore respectfully request that the Oakland City Council vote against the award of the DAC Phase 2 contract to Schneider Electric at the March 4, 2014 council meeting.
Remember many communities have experienced, and still experience, real trauma at the hands of the police. While you may think a person has nothing to fear if they did not do anything wrong, an African American in Oakland will frequently think of Oscar Grant, Alan Blueford, Jordan Davis, or Trayvon Martin, for example, when a police car drives by, or when a police officer steps on BART. A simple interaction with the police can trigger the collective PTSD of an entire community in Oakland.
The fear of racial profiling or police brutality based on race is well supported. The Malcolm X Grassroots Movement (MXGM) documented at least 136 unarmed African Americans who were killed by police, security guards and self-appointed vigilantes in 2012. (http://mxgm.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/04/Operation-Ghetto-Storm.pdf). The most astounding revelation in the report is that overall, there were 313 state sanctioned extrajudicial killings of black people in 2012: at least one every 28 hours. The report examined the murders of 120 men and women of African descent between January 1 and June 30, 2012, and found that many of those killed were young. About 11% were children under 18 years old, and more than two-thirds were 30 or younger.
In Oakland, African-American youth are arrested — but then not charged — at “vastly disproportionate” rates compared to others. During a five-year period between 2008 and 2012, black children represented 29 percent of Oakland’s school-age population but 78 percent of the more than 13,680 juveniles arrested — mostly by OPD. Shockingly, more than half of those arrests of black children did not lead to charges or further involvement by probation officials, according to an August 2013 report by the Black Organizing Project, Public Counsel and the ACLU, “From Report Card to Criminal Record” (http://www.publiccounsel.org/tools/assets/files/0436.pdf).
Nationwide, African-Americans represent 26% of juvenile arrests, 44% of youth who are detained, 46% of the youth who are sent to adult criminal court rather than juvenile court, and 58% of the youth sentenced to adult state prisons. (Center on Juvenile and Criminal Justice, http://webmail.cjcj.org/jjic/race_jj.php).
Law enforcement nationwide often make racially based stops and interrogations. A federal judge found that New York City police made at least 200,000 stops between 2004 and 2012 without reasonable suspicion of criminal activity and that there was overwhelming proof that the stops were based on racial profiling. (http://www.nysd.uscourts.gov/cases/show.php?db=special&id=317).
In Oakland, of the 108 Officer Involved Shootings between 2000 and 2011 for which the race of the victim was documented, all but 15 involved African American victims. (http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/files/managed/Oakland-PD-Shootings-2000-2011.pdf) Despite eleven years of federal oversight, Oakland has been unable to bring its police force under control and fully implement basic accountability measures to track and address racially biased stops and shootings that the City and Police Department agreed to in the 2003 Negotiated Settlement Agreement. Systemic problems continue to plague OPD’s misconduct investigations and prevent discipline against cops who commit unjustified stops, shootings and killings. (See Special Report of the Independent Monitor: Officer-Involved Shootings, Oct. 2, 2012 http://www2.oaklandnet.com/oakca1/groups/police/documents/webcontent/oak041801.pdf; Sixteenth Quarterly Report of the Independent Monitor, January 21, 2014 http://www.cand.uscourts.gov/filelibrary/1350/2014-01%20monitoring%20report.pdf).
A 2011 investigation found that of 20 OPD officers who had been involved in two or more shootings, 13 were still employed by the department. A large number of the officers involved in shooting incidents were also assigned to tactical teams that have been at the heart of OPD’s violent repression of political demonstrations that demand police accountability, such as the Justice for Oscar Grant protests in 2010 and Occupy Oakland in 2011 (http://www.theinvestigativefund.org/blog/1649/oversight_for_oakland_police/). This leads to further mistrust of how DAC surveillance will be used.
Finally, a look at Oakland’s 2011 homicides reveals that 74% of the victims were black despite making up only 28% of the population. Almost half of the victims were under 26 years old. (Oakland homicide 2011: A statistical breakdown, March 19, 2012. http://oaklandnorth.net/2012/03/19/oakland-homicides-in-2011-a-statistical-breakdown/).
Racism is a deeply distressing and disturbing experience that marginalized communities in Oakland and in the United States experience on a daily basis. When the color of your skin is the source of violence by law enforcement, you live in a state of hyper vigilance the equivalence of PTSD.
We are deeply concerned that the presence of the DAC and the surveillance capabilities that will come with it, will further traumatize communities of color. We are also concerned that the aggregation of data on communities of color will be used to justify the use of force and violence in those areas in the guise of creating “safe communities,” and will be used to further repress communities organizing for police accountability.
Rather than treating communities of color as a source of trouble and violence, it is imperative that we all find ways to help impoverished communities and communities of color to heal. It is also imperative that we all heal from the impact of racism. Oakland’s past and present involve wounds at the hands of police violence that have yet to heal. Each time there is another example of police violence because of color those wounds become deeper. The presence of the DAC and the increased surveillance that will come with it, will result in more fear, more hyper vigilance and therefore more trauma and more violence in communities of color, and discourage dissent and the voices of the politically disempowered in political discourse. Simply put, the presence of the DAC will not result in community healing. Instead, it will result in community killing. The most disturbing part of it all, is that this outcome is predictable.
As such, we urge you to take a step towards peace, healing and reconciliation by voting against the award of the DAC Phase 2 contract to Schneider Electric at the March 4, 2014, council meeting.