A coalition of community leaders and advocates of the Citizens’ Police Review Board (CPRB) are pushing for the City Council to move forward on consolidating all walk-in citizen complaints against police to go through the CPRB, a decision the Council initially made in 2011 but has since not implemented.
Complaints against police would be transferred from the Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division (IAD) to the CPRB, which would begin processing all complaints in January 2016.
The CPRB currently handles some citizen complaints. The full transition would transfer one Intake Technician from OPD to the civilian review board and also hire one additional Intake Technician at a budget of $101,000, and an additional $50,000 for necessary training and equipment, according to the city report.
This long-debated issue has brought to light the lack of police accountability and community trust with local law enforcement amidst reports of police brutality and racial profiling in Oakland.
According to a recent Stop Data report, Blacks are the largest percentage of people stopped by Oakland police at 59 percent, followed by Hispanics at 17 percent.
At the same time, OPD has been under federal oversight by Federal Judge Thelton Henderson – who has found city officials to be ineffective in disciplining officers for misconduct.
“One might think that paying millions of dollars to settle civil lawsuits and hundreds of thousands more in back pay and attorneys fees to reinstated officers, whose actions gave rise to those lawsuits, would give pause to the city’s leaders, or that the failure to preserve the city’s disciplinary decisions would spur” city officials to action, Henderson wrote.
He has given the city until September to show some progress.
Rashidah Grinage, former Executive Director of People United for a Better Life in Oakland (PUEBLO) and member of the Coalition for Police Accountability, says consolidating police complaints to the CPRB is a small step in the right direction.
“First of all, what we’re seeing in Baltimore, Oakland is one incident away from Baltimore. If anything happens, we’re likely to see very similar outrage because we have many of the same conditions of inequity, of racial profiling, of police abuse that exists in Baltimore,” said Grinage.
She said residents “need to have confidence that the city has a system that’s not part of OPD; that’s run by civilians, members of their community, working on their complaint fairly, objectively, professionally and can come to a finding that [the] person who feels they were abused can have confidence in.”
City councilmembers need to “understand that people want to feel that when they are the victim of police abuse, that there is a way for them to get justice. That’s what people want, that’s what they deserve,” she added.
Organizations with the coalition include The Ella Baker Center, ONYX Organizing Committee, SEIU 1021, The Bay Area Chapter of the National Lawyers’ Guild, The Mentoring Center, OaklandWORKS, Alan Blueford Center for Justice, The Gray Panthers, The Oakland Greens, PAV, and Wellstone Democratic Renewal Club.
The issue will go before the City Council on Tuesday, May 5.