[Anyone can comment here before 3/8 or email your councilmember: http://speakupoakland.org/discussions/the-police-commission-enabling-ordinance]
The most recent draft of the Police Commission Enabling Ordinance does nothing to address the major inherent flaws in Charter Section 604. Policing will never be the answer to keeping our communities safe, and City Council’s energy is better spent defunding the Oakland Police Department and investing in community-based drivers of public safety.
The Commission will ultimately serve as a barrier to justice for the following reasons:
Major conflicts of interest
The charter and enabling ordinance state that “no current police or former OPD officers may be Commissioners”. This is woefully inadequate. Given the well-documented, undeniable violations of public trust in Oakland, why would the City not develop strict conflict of interest guidelines to address very real concerns about corruption?
Recommendation: In order to have any semblance of impartiality, the ordinance also needs to disqualify candidates with the following conflicts of interest:
Current or former police officer in ANY jurisdiction
Current or prior work experience in any District Attorney’s office or as a non-sworn police department employee in ANY jurisdiction
Current or prior work as an expert witness on behalf of any prosecutor
Recipient of any campaign or charitable donation (directly or indirectly) from any police union or association representing sworn officers
Current or former employment in any organization that collaborates with or receives funding, awards or formal positive recognition from law enforcement or prosecutors
Marriage or family relation to any current or former sworn officer or District Attorney
Any other associations/relationships that could create a perception of a conflict of interest, special allegiance or bias toward law enforcement
While policing and prosecutorial experience might be cited by some as necessary expertise for serving on this Commission, the hard reality is that time and time again, law enforcement relationships and the “Blue Code of Silence” supersede professional judgement and common sense when officials are called to make decisions.
One need only look at San Francisco Commissioners with prosecutorial pasts and brothers and cousins who are SFPD officers to see the problem. These are just a few recent examples on a Police Commission that the Oakland charter repeatedly cites as a good example. The public cannot and does not trust those individuals to make impartial decisions:
Former President Suzy Loftus was an SF DA and former SF Deputy Chief John Loftus is her second cousin through marriage. Loftus recently resigned from the Commission and now works for the San Francisco Sheriff. Her Twitter feed includes a 2013 photo of herself, her kids, former Chief Greg Suhr and Kamala Harris with the caption, “Proud of my law enforcement family.”
Former President - also a former SF DA - Thomas “Tippy” Mazzucco’s father was an SFPD Investigator and worked at the infamous Bayview Station. Mazzucco later gave a “Gold Medal of Valor” to the officer who murdered Kenneth Harding, Jr. for MUNI fare evasion in the Bayview.
Petra DeJesus’s brother is a Sergeant. She recused herself from his high-profile “Videogate” disciplinary hearing and suspension, but he was later promoted to Sergeant.
Julius Turman was arrested for felony domestic battery and then-DA (and political friend of Turman) Kamala Harris's office chose not to prosecute. That choice not to prosecute domestic battery was out of character for Harris.
The Police Officers’ Association contract and state law supersede charter
The Police Commission is ultimately toothless for the following reasons:
First, due to the binding arbitration agreement with the Police Officers’ Association, an officer always has the right to take their disciplinary recommendation to arbitration. Regardless of what the Agency Director and Chief agree or disagree upon, the decision is not up to them.
As court-appointed investigator Edward Swanson found, “in the 26 arbitrations covering the past five years he investigated, the city prevailed in only seven cases.” (East Bay Express)
Second, Oakland’s Police Commission documents repeatedly include the caveat, “to the extent permitted by applicable law.”
The main applicable California state law is the “Police Officers Bill of Rights” or Copley (Copley Press Inc. vs. Superior Court of San Diego, 2006), which mandates specific procedures for officer discipline and extra “rights” for police officers that do not apply to any other public employees. According to Copley, the public has no legal right to know about police officer disciplinary records and any “personnel records”, whose definition is left up to interpretation.
A former cop and supervisor in the corrupt Chicago “Independent Police Review Authority” will direct the new Community Police Review Agency
Per the charter: Within sixty (60) days of the City Council's confirmation of the first group of Commissioners and alternates, the Oakland Citizens' Police Review Board (hereinafter Board) shall be disbanded and its pending business transferred to the Commission and to the Agency. The Executive Director of the Board shall become the Interim Director of the Agency, and all other staff will be transferred to the Agency.
The Executive Director of the Board is former Indianapolis Police Sergeant Anthony Finnell.
Prior heading the CPRB in Oakland for almost 3 years, Finnell was the Supervising Investigator for Chicago’s infamously corrupt and now-defunct “Independent Police Review Authority” (US DoJ investigation fact sheet here: https://www.justice.gov/opa/file/925851/download). Interestingly, Finnell recently (1/18/17) filed a FOIA request for his own work history and personnel file from the City of Chicago’s Human Resources department. www.cityofchicago.org/city/en/depts/dhr/dataset/foialog.html
For obvious reasons, someone who began their career policing in the late 80s/early 90s and was in a supervisory role doling out non-punishments to Chicago PD is not fit to serve as the head of a “Community” police review board. Finnell has been here for only three years* AND this job cannot be held by law enforcement if the Commission wants any semblance of fairness.
The Community Police Review Agency Director must be an actual member of the community with no law enforcement history or ties.
*According to his 2014 $100 donation to Shakir-Gilmore for Oakland School Board, he lives in Livermore.