HOLDING OPD OFFICERS ACCOUNTABLE: Oakland Sends Police Oversight Commission Measure To Voters

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By David DeBolt, ddebolt@bayareanewsgroup.com

OAKLAND — A controversial measure to establish a civilian police commission is headed to the November ballot after a flurry of last-minute changes and objections from reformers over who gets to pick the members.

The Oakland City Council’s unanimous vote Tuesday came with a sense of urgency as it was their final meeting before the Aug. 12 deadline to place the measure on the fall ballot.

Recent police scandals, including sexual misconduct involving several officers and the teenage daughter of a police dispatcher, and racist text message exchanges, have renewed calls for a more powerful commission.

Despite those stains on the department’s reputation, the powerful Oakland Police Officers’ Association pushed back and threatened to sue over changes to the police discipline process defined in the union’s current contract. That led to a private meeting of the City Council on Friday and further amendments to the proposed seven-member commission’s powers.

On the other side of the debate, reformers with the Coalition for Police Accountability unsuccessfully lobbied to take away three commission appointments given to Mayor Libby Schaaf. The remaining four will be appointed by a panel of residents who are picked by the mayor and council, causing worry that the panelists could be influenced by politicians.

“We hope it won’t stop people from voting for it,” Pamela Drake of the coalition said before Tuesday’s council meeting. “Every single person we talked to would ask us who is going to appoint the commissioners. It shouldn’t be political.”

In an unexpected move, council members Rebecca Kaplan and Desley Brooks attempted to strip Mayor Schaaf of her three appointments, but their motion failed to get council support.

Some of the 75 residents who addressed the council said Oakland has long needed civilian oversight of its police department. Since 1980, the city has had a Citizens’ Police Review Board, but critics have said it is understaffed and its recommendations are often ignored by city officials. The board would be disbanded and its executive director would become the interim director of the Oakland Police Review Agency, which will work alongside the commission.

If approved by voters, the new review agency and the commission would have more power than the CPRB.

The proposal by councilmen Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo allows the commission to fire a police chief for cause if five members agree to do so. The commission, which is expected to meet twice a month, will also have subpoena power over police records, but only the head of the review agency will have access to an officer’s personnel file. Other powers and duties include probing officer misconduct complaints and commenting on police policies related to First Amendment assemblies, use of force and profiling.

No past or present police officers would be allowed on the commission. Members must be at least 18 and Oakland residents.

Initially, the proposal called for the commission to take part in selecting an arbitrator, the person who hears a police officer’s appeal in discipline cases. But under pressure from the police union, references to changing the binding arbitration process were omitted. The union had argued it violated their current contract.

Critics have called for reforms to the process, citing reports from a court-appointed monitor who found police officers more often than not won jobs back or had their punishment reduced at arbitration.

Cat Brooks of Anti Police-Terror Project said the legislation is not groundbreaking.

“It’s the same tired thing they have in San Francisco that doesn’t work and continues to support police,” Brooks said.

Earlier Tuesday, police union President Sgt. Barry Donelan said the union was withdrawing its objection to the measure.

“The measure no longer has any impacts on our labor contracts and due process for the officers and privacy rights,” Donelan said. “All of that’s been removed.”

Gallo and Kalb said the city can revisit changes to the process of binding arbitration at a later date or during future negotiations with the police union. The pair expected additional revisions to strengthen the power of the commission.

“If we don’t agree on everything that’s part of the unpleasantness of democracy,” Kalb said. “This is and will be the only police commission that I know of in the country that has less than a majority” of its members being selected by a mayor.

“That’s a big deal,” he said.

David DeBolt covers Oakland. Contact him at 510-208-6453. Follow him at Twitter.com/daviddebolt.

Source: The Mercury News

Additional Sources: Let’s Make a Strong Police Commission with Power to Discipline Officers a Reality in Oakland

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All Power To The People: Black Panther At 50

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From October 8, 2016 to February 12, 2017, the Oakland Museum Of Califonia will display an exhibit in celebration of the Black Panther Party For Self Defense 50th Anniversary. For most Oakland natives this exhibit and era will bring back memories of an era in Oakland History.

For me, it reminds me of a time when Black Power and Black Pride held a place within the Oakland community. Where people came together for the uplifting of Black people and other people of color. For me it was a time when social programs were being created to support families within the community. For me it will remind me of a time when my father who dressed in Black Panther gear and made sure that the weekly publication of The Black Panther newspaper was always on his “man” stand.

 

Source: The Black Panther Intercommunal News Service

I am proud to have grown up during this time in Oakland – the good, the bad, and the ugly. From receiving a oppressive hegemonic education within the Oakland Public School System, to the police brutality that plagued the Oakland streets, to the segregation, to the racism that continues today. I am glad that I had parents who introduced me to aspects of Black life that helped to shape and mold me to who I AM today!

“ALL POWER TO THE PEOPLE.”

Cynthia D. Cornelius, TCXPI

MuseumCa.org: Social movement, political party, cultural influencer, government target, and Oakland-born—there are many ways to feel about the Black Panther Party for Self Defense, founded in October 1966. As the Black Panther Party celebrates its 50th anniversary this year, visit the exhibition All Power to the People for a contemporary view on the legacy of this visionary group, told from multiple perspectives. Rare historical artifacts, first person accounts, and new contemporary art show how the Party continues to inspire culture, activism, and community empowerment on local, national, and international levels.

Gain insights from former Black Panthers, artists, scholars, and community members about the Party—and how it continues to impact our lives and give meaning to the places around us. Examine a sweeping array of artifacts from OMCA’s collection and former Party members, along with never before seen photographs highlighting the everyday experiences and moments within the Party’s history. Uncover little-known aspects of this innovative group’s past in sections focusing on unheralded members of the movement such as women and rank and file, the Panthers’ revolutionary social programs, and how secret government programs led to the Party’s demise and influenced how it is remembered today. Throughout, consider why the Panthers remain controversial to some and inspirational to many, and how their political agenda continues to resonate with the social justice efforts today.

Source: Oakland Museum Of California Exhibit