Oakland officials and community members respond to possible end of federal police oversight
Civil rights attorneys John Burris and Jim Chanin reported earlier this week that they were preparing to begin talks with City of Oakland officials to end the Police Department’s federal courts monitoring program. Oakland, which has been in place for 18 years and was the result of the “Riders” case in which a squad of West Oakland cops brutalized and planted drugs on dozens of people.
Burris and Chanin, who represent the victims of the Riders, argue that the Oakland Police Department is a much better police department than it was 20 years ago. Although the department is still not complying with five of the 52 reform tasks related to the negotiated settlement agreement, lawyers wrote that “now is the time to cross the finish line and put the OPD in. full and final compliance ”.
A hearing is scheduled for September 1 before U.S. District Court Judge William Orrick, where first steps towards a possible resolution of the case will be discussed. Prior to that, The Oaklandside gathered feedback from people who have closely followed the monitoring process or worked on reforms over the years.
Oakland Police Chief LeRonne Armstrong
Appointed chief six months ago, Armstrong said this week he was “cautiously optimistic” and that while great, the work of the department was recognized by plaintiffs’ attorneys, “we have not crossed the line. finishing line”.
“We are doing the things that have been asked of us by the federal comptroller as well as by our police commission. We recognize that oversight is important and we also recognize that it is a different department. I’m doing everything I can to make sure we get a cultural change that the court asked for, and [which] I believe this is important for law enforcement not only in Oakland, but across the country. We can be a model of what police service reform looks like and come up with progressive policing policies and practices, and that’s evidenced in some of the documents you’ve seen.
Armstrong added that he believes the city is able to keep the OPD at higher standards once the court-appointed monitoring team leaves. “I believe [the civilian police commission] is strong enough to hold us accountable. I think they have tremendous power and authority to bring in the ministry and the leader in case of a setback. They have shown their willingness to use that power and authority, and from that point of view, we are ready.
Rashidah Grinage, Coalition for Police Responsibility
Grinage, who has been involved in police reform efforts since the mid-1990s, said she believed the department had made enough progress that the surveillance program could come to an end, but only after a “period of probation where plaintiffs’ attorneys continue to observe and ensure continued progress and compliance.
“What must be recognized is that if it weren’t for the Coalition for Police Accountability, we wouldn’t have a viable ‘successor’ agency: the Police Commission. We realized that Oakland would need a permanent local institution to ensure that the OPD does not back down after the end of the NSA. This precipitated the work that led to the LL measure in 2016. If we had not done this work, Oakland would not be able to guarantee that the 20-year investment in police reform would be sustainable and that we would have a way to hold the OPD accountable for fair policing.
Oakland Police Commission President Regina Jackson
“The latest file indicates that Chief Armstrong has shown strong leadership, which I absolutely know,” said Jackson, who was appointed to the Police Commission in 2017 and is also chairman and CEO of the East Oakland Youth Development Center.
“The department needs to support reform and cultural change, which is essential to get out of the NSA. What I love about John and Jim, their underlying lawsuit is what led to the NSA. They clearly agreed that the strong leadership emanating from the OPD is a sign of good health. I agree that we need a year of sustainability. I hope this will be another opportunity for the OPD to demonstrate that it can self-govern and hold itself accountable.
“The embarkation of the Inspector General [a new position approved by voters] will be critical. We are considering, later, perhaps to bring [OPD’s Internal Affairs Division, which investigates police misconduct] at the Community Policing Review Agency. There are a lot of changes that speak of a new evolution of OPD, with a lot of community engagement for the benefit of our larger community. I like where we are. We still have a lot of work to do.
Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf
“I am deeply grateful to Jim Chanin and John Burris for their tireless advocacy to improve not only the Oakland Police Service, but policing across the country. It was heartwarming to read John Burris’ statement that Oakland is now a national model. It has happened so far, but a national model is not good enough. We know policing is a deeply divisive and polarizing issue right now, as it should be. Oakland is therefore dedicated not only to being the best, but to being what this community wants. This is a complicated question. There are a lot of desires. There are many versions of security. But I really want to commend Chief Armstrong for hearing and supporting all of these visions of what safety means to the people of Oakland.
“Surveillance should never be removed from our community and I know that community will never stop holding this city and this department accountable for decent behavior. The establishment of our police commission is a very important piece of this puzzle of responsibility and sustainability. I know that the fabulous leadership of our police commission, in particular its chairman Regina Jackson, is in part what also gives the plaintiff’s lawyers confidence in the sustainability of these reforms. I am very grateful to all those partners who pushed, who persisted, who continue to demand security and justice.
Lawyer Dan Siegel
“I was surprised to see that lawyers for the plaintiffs are pushing for the conclusion of the settlement agreement,” said Siegel, a civil rights lawyer who has sued OPD over the years for civil rights violations and is currently representing civilians. people who have been injured in the past year. George Floyd protests when the OPD and other police departments used tear gas and less lethal weapons to disperse the crowds.
“I don’t really understand why they are doing this. It seems to me that this is obviously the city’s position, but I hope that in the end the court will look at what the monitors have to say. Everyone seems to have agreed historically that the controllers are responsible and it seems odd that the plaintiffs’ lawyers are uniting with the city on this issue. I don’t think the issues have been resolved.
“I agree that Chef Armstrong ultimately seems like a good choice. But in reality, he’s only been there six months. The agreement and the monitoring approach required not only that the city implement changes and demonstrate over time that they have become permanent. I don’t think they’re there, just as I don’t think Armstrong’s leadership is fully established.
The Oaklandside also contacted attorneys representing the Oakland Police Officers Association and the president of the police union, but did not hear from them until the publication.Oa