January 5, 2017
(Oakland, CA) - Libby Schaaf’s selection of Anne Kirkpatrick as Oakland’s new police chief has been touted by some as a sign that the Oakland Police Department (OPD) will be “reformed”. The Anti Police-Terror Project does not believe that policing can be reformed. Policing in America was born out of slave catching and today remains an institution rooted in deeply racist ideology that helps maintain modern day slavery via the prison industrial complex.
Hiring a new chief does nothing to suggest that Oakland is finally willing to protect its residents from the litany of abuses committed by OPD. Anne Kirkpatrick is a career law enforcement officer with no meaningful legacy of change. Her identity as a woman is not relevant to her approach to running the department, just as race is irrelevant to how OPD officers police. At the end of the day, Kirkpatrick’s job will be to maintain the system of policing as it exists today.
Though we remain critical of Measure LL, we are yet confused as to why Libby Schaaf chose not to wait for the newly-approved police commission to select Oakland’s new chief. It is deeply concerning that Schaaf would slight the eighty-two percent of Oakland residents who voted in favor of the Commission by depriving it of one of its greatest powers, and seems to suggest that Schaaf does not yet understand that Oakland is best served when it is governed by and for the people.
The fact that Kirkpatrick has stated support for “broken windows” policing, the theory that aggressively pursuing non-violent crimes will create a system of “law and order” that reduces the likelihood of more serious crimes, is also troubling. That approach to policing, historically carried out via unconstitutional, racist, and dehumanizing practices like NYPD’s “stop-and-frisk”, is the antithesis of what is needed in Oakland. It has been soundly rejected by criminal justice theorists, serving only to propagate a system of control via overcriminalization. In short, Kirkpatrick has already told us that she is behind the times.
Also concerning is Kirkpatrick’s very short stint with the Chicago Police Department before coming to Oakland. In June of 2016, Kirkpatrick was selected to guide reforms ahead of the results of a federal probe into Chicago’s police practices. Less than six months later, Kirkpatrick has abandoned that commitment to job-hop over to a similarly embattled police department. In fact, Kirkpatrick has not lasted long at many of her most recent positions - very concerning for Oakland, facing its fourth police chief in seven months and seeking to clean up a police department that Mayor Libby Schaaf generously described as having a “frat house mentality”.
Oakland has suffered long enough at the hands of an abusive and dysfunctional police department. Kirkpatrick must, immediately, and at the very least, clean house and then hold OPD officers accountable for their actions moving forward. The Anti Police-Terror Project leaves room for hope that she can achieve that goal. In the meantime, the City of Oakland should make our budget align with our values and reinvest at least half of the 60% that OPD currently squanders into the real drivers of public safety: housing, education, jobs, mental health care that doesn’t involve the Santa Rita Jail expansion, and restorative justice programs.
The Anti Police-Terror Project is a group of diverse individuals and organizations committed to responding to - and eradicating - police terror from communities of color.