Friday, August 30, 2013

How do you report police abuse?

Who do you have to talk to if you need to complain about something an Oakland cop did to you?

Another cop, that is who. 

Complaints against police officers are taken in the Internal Affairs section of the Oakland Police Department.  Say for example you were hit by a police officer?  How would you feel about being in a police department office filing your complaint?  Will it even matter if the person across the desk has a uniform or not? 

The person filing the complaint shares a need with the public to have the complaints intake be safe, objective, credible and we do not get that sending these complaints to Internal Affairs. 

Police misconduct is not an "internal" affair. 
It is a public problem and a serious one. 
It is a 58 million Dollar over 10 years in settlements problem.
That is more Dollars than San Jose and San Francisco COMBINED.   

This intake problem was fixed by our council.  In the last two budgets a council decision was made to move the complaints intake process away from Internal Affairs and make it a public affair inside the Citizens' Police Review Board the CPRB. 

Except the administration does not do it. 

During the whole first 2010-2012 budget no action was taken.  This was on the budget, but somehow we could not identify the funds or figure it out in two years.  Lots of consultations took place that we know little about but the fact remains that they did nothing.  It says on their website that you can file a complaint at the CPRB, but you cant really. 

Council did not particularly enjoy that.  The provision is in the 2013-2014 budget and council told the administration to report back.

City Administrator Deena Santana did not report back.  Instead she posted a job offer for complaint intake officers to do the complaints against police job working for INTERNAL AFFAIRS. Or exactly what we are supposed to be moving away from.

So that is how our government works?  Our council decides something and puts money down to do it and then the City Administrator just does as she pleases?

Please take a moment today to let your member of Council know if think they should stop this from happening.  The Citizens' Police Review Board is exactly where civilians, otherwise known as the public, SHOULD be listening to complaints from the public against police officers.

Reading over the job description and requirements that Administrator Santana's office posted one finds another problem. 

Who do they want?  Spanish, Cantonese or Vietnamese?  Not mentioned.  Civil Rights background?  Also not mentioned.  Legal aide?  Those words were not used.  Counseling and public outreach experience?  Only in the context of public administration dealing with the public.  They do require a BA, for no justifiable reason, and make it very clear that being a former police officer is a big plus while they make knowing the Police Officer's Bill of Rights mandatory. 

To me that sounds like they want the wrong person at the wrong place. 

So, who do they want?  And who do they not want?  Social worker from our community?  Probably not qualified.  Mono lingual ex-cop bureaucrat?  Seems they are welcome to apply. 

Those of us who have worked to get the intake process for complaints against police officers moved to the Citizens' Police Review Board away from Internal Affairs of the Oakland Police Department are not surprised.  The resistance to this move towards fairness and objectivity has been strong but not public. 

So why?  Why do they want to hold onto the intake process?  Do they want to keep the information where they can control it?  Do they want to put people with claims in a situation where they cannot move their claims forward?  Despite the giant payout bill Oakland has due to police abuse settlements, the current system seems to find almost all the complaints "unfounded".  By the way, that finding of "unfounded" keeps a cops record squeaky clean and their pay flowing. 

 How old is this problem?  This round is now 3 years into the foot dragging after going through the whole advocacy process to get complaint intake moved.  But the problem is much older. Not 07, not '97 or even '87 but all the way back to the 60's and 70's leading up the first inception of citizens' police oversight in 1977.  Many of the cities around us in the Bay Area have Police Commissions and yet we in Oakland still have a toothless oversight board. 

For more information and to get involved contact the offices of People United for a Better Life in Oakland.  Many others have been in the movement to make this intake procedure change too.  Full disclosure?  I am on the board and was one of the people going to my council member's office to advocate for this civilian complaint intake process. 


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