Public Forum: “To Protect and Serve, How to Fix America’s Police”


Author Norm Stamper, Measure LL organizer Rashidah Grinage, police expert Deacon Reginald Lyles and host Lakeshore Baptist Church Pastor Jim Hopkins at July 26 public forum:  “To Protect and Serve, How to Fix America’s Police.” Photo by Sue Taylor.

Norm Stamper, author and former police chief of Seattle, Wash., spoke to an audience in Oakland  in a public forum Thursday night about police reform.

“It will not happen from within the department; keep up the pressure from the citizens,” was his main message of the night.

“Police belong to the people, not the other way around,” he said during a short opening presentation, followed by a question-and-answer session.

The moderator was Reginald Lyles, former deputy for public safety and liaison to Oakland Police Department (OPD) for former Mayor Jean Quan. The event was held at Lakeshore Baptist Church in Oakland and was a Who’s Who of political activists, who gave a standing ovation to independent police commission Measure LL activist Rashidah Grinage.

Grinage’s long-time commitment to police reform precedes the negotiated  settlement agreement – still not completed by OPD – and she’s currently on the selection panel for the new Police Commission. There were 125 applicants for seven commissioners and two alternates. The selection panel has narrowed the field to just over 20 candidates.

In opening remarks, Reginald Lyles said: “We are suffering from issues of police culture – often mean-spirited and deadly. This is low-grade terrorism.”

“There is a callousness of leadership in this town…actually an absence of leadership,” said Lyles.

There were no police or city representatives in attendance.

The purpose of the event was not only to present Stamper’s book but to give those attending a chance to ask questions, and hear ideas for changing police conduct in the United States. The rash of police murders in the U.S. were mentioned often, and Stamper’s general reply about police law-breaking was, “They should be fired.”

“There are police who believe, ‘We’re the cops and you’re not’,” said Stamper. “This cries out for partnerships between people and the police.”

When asked why he was attending, playwright and police officer Jinho “The Piper” Ferreira said, “I want to keep learning.” His play, “Cops and Robbers” was originally written for high school students and has had tremendous success at the Marsh Theater in San Francisco.

“We know ‘what’ is happening, but not ‘why’,” said Stamper. He explained that policing in the U.S. dates back to slave patrols and lynchings, and until the culture is changed, the current problems will continue. Stamper also made clear that change cannot come from within police departments.

“We need to end the ‘drug war,’ set national standards for policing, and make a commitment to authentic community policing,” he said.

Watch the Post newspapers for continuing articles on police reform. Norm Stamper’s book:  “To Protect and Serve, How to Fix America’s Police,” is available online and at Walden Pond Books, 3316 Grand

CORRECTION: The article in the July 26 Oakland Post, “To Protect and Serve, How to Fix America’s Police, said that Rashidah Grinage is a member of the selection panel for the new police commission. That is incorrect. Also, there were 150 applicants for commission positions, now narrowed down to 28 finalists. The name of the church where the event was held omits the word “Avenue” – It is Lakeshore
Avenue Baptist Church.


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