The Oakland City Council this week unanimously approved a policy requiring officers to have a reason before searching someone who is on probation or parole.
The new policy, the first in the state, limits the right of officers to conduct warrantless searches of parolees and probationers without reason, which is currently allowed by state law, even during routine traffic stops.
The policy will not go into effect unless it is approved by Robert Warshaw, Oakland federal court-appointed monitor.
After the adoption of the policy, Council President Rebecca Kaplan said that Oakland must “ensure that OPD is not stopping and searching people unless there is a valid reason to do so. This policy can also help reduce racial disparities in policy and strengthen community-police relations.”
Police Commission Chair Regina Jackson said, “This policy content sends a message to the community that the Oakland Police will no longer presume our citizens’ engagement with criminal history…This is a huge step in the right direction concerning culture shift.”
Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability called the council decision “a major victory for the Police Commission and a landmark reform in police practice in Oakland.”
The council debated two versions of the policy change on Tuesday – one proposed by the police department and a stronger one from Oakland’s police commission, which the council adopted.
Henry Gage III of the Oakland Coalition for Police Accountability supported the commission’s version, saying it “reduces the wiggle room that officers so often use to avoid discipline when the spirit of the policy is violated.”
Speakers supporting the new policy included four women from Urban Peace Movement, KD Dixon who works with All of Us Or None, and Youseef Elias from the AC Public Defenders Office, who provided important perspective for the commission’s draft.
“This is an amazing accomplishment by the Oakland Police Commission and the City of Oakland,” said Public Defender Brendon Woods, writing on Facebook.
“Happy that our office was able to contribute to this historic policy,” Woods said. “It will prevent Oakland police officers from arbitrarily stopping and automatically searching members of our community simply because they are on probation or parole.
“Too often, police use searches and detentions to target people of color. This policy will help eliminate public mistrust and result in a safer community for everyone. However, in order for the policy to have an impact, there must be consequences if it is not followed.”