What’s seen by many as the City of Oakland’s iron grip over its controversial police department was loosened this week, and by the Oakland City Council. In the process, Oakland City Administrator Sabrina Landreth was made to look like a villain just south of Darth Vadar, with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf cast as something akin to The Emperor. (Have doubts? Just check out the Oakland Post.)
After years of wishing, pleading, rangling, and finally petitioning, and then voting, Oaklanders first approved the creation and operation of the Oakland Police Commission in 2016. But, even then, it was a group without the ability to use any real power to exact change in the Oakland Police Department. After Tuesday night’s Oakland City Council Meeting, that changed.
By a vote of 6 to 1, the City of Oakland passed designated powers of assignment for the Oakland Police Commission that were not covered by Measure LL, and with Oakland Councilmembers Rebecca Kaplan (At-Large), Larry Reid, (District 7), Lynette Gibson McElhaney (District 3), Dan Kalb (District 1), Abel Guillén (District 2) and Noel Gallo (District 5) voting yes, while Annie Campbell Washington (District 4) voted no.
Ms. Landreith held that the problem with the Oakland Police Commission as passed by the voters, is that it violates the Oakland City Charter from what she sees as the perspective of administrative oversight. What’s shocking to this blogger and extremely disappointing to this blogger is that the good City Administrator would not seek to be involved in the design of a police commission that overcomes what she sees as its legal shortcomings.
Since, among others, Oakland Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan agrees with the new ordinance “as written”, that, in itself, indicates nothing more than an internal difference of opinion, but where Kaplan and others who agree with her can point to voting precedent as their guide: the people of Oakland expect a true Oakland Police Commission with powers beyond the city administration and the police department, and in the hands of the group that was formed by vote of the people.
At a time when the Oakland Police have been used as racist tools to keep black folks from doing everything from inspecting homes to barbecuing by the lake, this kind of adjustment in the enabling law for the Oakland Police Commission was more than welcome.