Does Oakland Need a Police Commisison?
Oakland is ten years into a Negotiated Settlement Agreement over police reforms meant to be concluded in five years. The delay in compliance threatens to place the Oakland Police Department into Federal receivership. This will be the first time in U.S. history that any police department has been taken over by the Feds.
The conclusion is inescapable: the City lacks adequate oversight of its police department. In fact, It is the lack of robust oversight which gave rise to the serious police misconduct that resulted in the criminal trials of the infamous ‘Riders’ and the subsequent multi-million dollar class action civil law suit that generated the NSA. Already cash strapped, Oakland has paid over $58 million in civil law suits in the past ten years – more than San Francisco and San Jose, combined – and millions more in Federal monitoring fees and plaintiffs’ attorneys’ fees.
The authority to oversee and impose discipline on the Police Department which the Charter confers to the City Manager (Administrator) is impractical and insufficient. The City Administrator supervises every department head in the City and cannot closely monitor and audit the Police Department effectively. There have been no fewer than five City Administrators during the course of the NSA, yet OPD is still not in compliance with its terms despite successive promises to the Federal Judge from each of them. It is clear that the Charter provision assigning City Administrator authority over the Police Department while simultaneously being the supervisor of the Department represents a conflict of interest and has proven to be untenable.
The solution is a ballot initiative that would amend the City Charter to establish a civilian Police Commission, following in the steps many U.S. cities including Washington D.C., Los Angeles and San Francisco. The authority of the Police Commission will include the ability to oversee, audit and influence:
• Police budget
• Investigation of citizens’ complaints against police officers
• Police policies
The Police Commission will have the authority to nominate candidates to be hired as Police Chief and to recommend the termination of a Police Chief’s contract, subject to City Council approval. The members of the Commission will be qualified Oakland residents nominated by the Mayor and City Council and require confirmation by the City Council.
Specific provisions are adapted from the San Francisco City Charter’s provision for their Police Commission:
The Police Commission shall consist of seven members appointed pursuant to this section. The Mayor shall nominate four members to the commission, at least one of whom shall be a retired judge or an attorney with trial experience. The Rules Committee of the City Council shall nominate three other members to the commission. Each nomination shall be subject to confirmation by the City Council, and the Mayor's nominations shall be the subject of a public hearing and vote within 60 days.
The investigations of complaints against police officers will be handled in the following manner, which has been adapted from the San Francisco City Charter’s provision for their Office of Citizens’ Complaints:
The Mayor shall appoint a nominee of the Police Commission as the Inspector General, who will Direct the Citizens’ Police Investigation Unit (currently named the CPRB), subject to confirmation by the City Council. The IG shall serve at the pleasure of the Police Commission and will report regularly to the Commission. The appointment shall be exempt from the civil service requirements of this Charter. The IG shall never have been a uniformed member or employee of the department and shall be the appointing officer under the civil service provisions of this Charter for the appointment, removal or discipline of employees of the CPIU personnel.
The Police Commission shall have the power and duty to organize, reorganize and manage the CPIU. Subject to the civil service provisions of this Charter, they shall include investigators and hearing officers and shall consist of no fewer than one line investigator for every 100 sworn members. Whenever the ratio of investigators to police officers specified by this section is not met for more than 30 consecutive days, the IG shall have the power to hire, and the City Administrator must pay temporary investigators to meet such staffing requirements. No full-time or part-time employee of the CPIU shall have previously served as a uniformed member of the department. Subject to rule of the Police Commission, the IG may appoint part-time hearing officers who shall be exempt from the civil service requirements of this Charter.
Further implementation and operational details will be developed in enabling legislation by the Police Commission and the IG and presented to the City Council for approval within 90 days of the passage of this measure.
Sign this petition if you feel Oakland voters should have a choice this November!