Thank you to the community members that joined us at City Council this past Tuesday. Together, we expressed collective outrage at the elected officials who slammed the door on yet another opportunity for community input - this time regarding the new police contracts. As expected, despite community protest and the objections by several police commissioners, our elected officials did what their four-year track record demonstrates they have consistently done - ignore us and vote yes anyway.
Councilmember Kalb’s claim that most contracts are done behind closed doors is patently untrue with respect to negotiating police contracts across the country and, up until now, here in Oakland. Most recently, we saw this in San Francisco, where the community was able to successfully impact contract negotiations on several issues; including use of force. Moreover, we have a Police Commission whom Oakland voters overwhelmingly charged with police oversight. They, too, were locked out of this process. This was the tipping point for one frustrated Commissioner Andrea Dooley who summarily resigned stating “unfortunately, the Commission has not undertaken any of the core functions set forth in Measure LL in its first year, and I am frustrated by this squandered opportunity. At this point, the Commission’s failure to structure its agenda around its actual responsibilities has become too frustrating for me."
While we strongly support the need for an Independent, community controlled police commission, the overreach and overcontrol of the commission by the City is something APTP loudly voiced concern about during the initial crafting of Measure LL and was our primary - now proven legitimate - critique of what went on the ballot. In order for the commission to be effective, it must be truly controlled by community - not City Council, the City Attorney, or the Mayor.
Perhaps most egregious is that this pay raise comes on the same day that the federal judge monitoring OPD’s negotiated settlement agreement (NSA) has reopened three tasks in the NSA specifically around the misreporting of use of force data. That leaves now at least ten open items in the NSA and, with the city council granting OPD’s every request, zero incentive for police to come into compliance as the City continues to deal with OPD with kid gloves and handsomely reward them for bad behavior fifteen years after the department agreed in court to reform their behaviors.
The vote was 6-1 on the pay raises, with Councilmember Kaplan the lone no vote and Councilmember Desley Brooks absent. This contract deal was sealed when it was put on the agenda two weeks ago; the public vote simply a formality. In light of the widespread criticism of OPD, the current council's actions are shameful.
City Councilmember Guillen claimed that they "got a good deal" on this contract as it will save the City $350 million in future unfunded liabilities. Reducing increases in these liabilities is a good thing as we are well on track to being bankrupted by them. Guillen’s statement, however, ignores the many loopholes and contract inefficiencies that cost the City of Oakland millions of dollars every year - issues that could be identified via a comprehensive audit and rectified in the seven months before OPD’s current contract expires. This also does not excuse the shutting out of community, the unwillingness to hold OPD accountable for compliance with the NSA, increasing their pay (thus share of the budget) before 2019 budget processes can take place, and rewarding a police department who recently got a 1 out of 100 in the Oakland Equity Indicator Report.
This kind of “logic” is exactly why Oakland rallied to end Guillen’s term in office and fought like hell to put real progressives in Districts 2 & 4. Councilmembers McElhaney, Reid and Kalb should remember that their seats are up in two years as well, and be clear that as a community we are done with having bad policy made on top of our heads instead of in partnership with. Oakland has overwhelmingly demonstrated that want radical progressive change, particularly in the ways in which law enforcement eats up our budgets and mistreats our communities.
A large issue for Oakland is not just the fact that OPD takes up 41% of the general fund, but also the additional average of $30 million in unauthorized dollars that they clock annually. This is another issue that could have been addressed in the contract negotiations, especially in light of the facts that (1) the issue was identified by the city as early as 2002, (2) in 2005 it was identified that OPD had “consistently exceeded the budget by a wide margin, and (3) that the city agreed to address the unauthorized overtime issue following a 2015 internal audit . But in an effort to circumvent community power and move in the shadows to pass their agenda, this vital opportunity was thrown away.
In the near future, APTP’s DefundOPD will release a report on the relationship between current elected officials and the Oakland Police Department in an effort to continue to expose bad behavior and provide tools for community accountability campaigns.