Stanford Professor Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt has conducted racial bias studies focusing on the Oakland Police Department since 2014. According to Stanford University News, “racial disparities in how Oakland Police Department officers treated African Americans on routine traffic and pedestrian stops.” Moreover, her work revealed what may be shocking to white folks in Oakland, but black folks in Oakland and around America already know: African American police officers can be just as hateful toward African Americans in patrol areas they cover as their white counterparts.
The Stanford reseachers released this video to summarize their findings:
The cost of the research – $250,000 overall – is exhorbitant, especially considering that the findings lead even the most uncarring observer to say “the city of Oakland spent that for that?” So, given that view, it came as no surprise to this blogger that the City of Oakland’s Public Safety Committee voted to cut the Stanford contract.
But Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf was not only surprised, she was and is massively pissed off. However, I think the reason Libby’s madder than a mad hatter has more to do with who cut the contract than the fact that it was done: Desley Brooks, the chairperson of the Oakland Public Safety Committee.
In stating her opposition to the Brooks-led action, Mayor Schaaf made one mistake in my view: wading into an area of politics she has, time and again, proven not her strong suit: race. Here’s what Libby said via her press release:
Statement from Mayor Schaaf on Ending Contract with Stanford Professor Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt
Oakland – Mayor Libby Schaaf issued the following statement on the decision by two councilmembers to oppose and abstain from voting on the contract with Dr. Jennifer Eberhardt. Eberhardt’s team has been analyzing stop data since 2014 as part of the police department’s ongoing efforts to modernize procedures and improve community-police relations by using data-driven analysis:
“Last night’s vote by two councilmembers that ended OPD’s contract with Stanford Professor Jennifer Eberhardt hurts all Oaklanders, and particularly African-American residents.
“Our police department had partnered with Dr. Eberhardt to conduct the nation’s most transparent effort to analyze racial-profiling stop data – and then use the data to create new policies and training procedures to correct our racial bias.
“Dr. Eberhardt is a MacArthur Genius Award recipient and was elected to the National Academy of Sciences in 2016. Her intensive work with our police department is critical if we want to build community-police trust and make Oakland an equitable city for all residents.
“I am stunned a councilmember could vote against a study of such importance or abstain from a vote of such magnitude.
“It’s bad enough we have a President who wants us to delegitimize science, ignore facts, and govern from impulse. We cannot follow suit in Oakland.
“I will work to reinstate Dr. Eberhardt’s critical analysis and build a path toward an Oakland that treats all residents with respect, dignity, and fairness.
“Residents are encouraged to participate in a Public Safety Town Hall featuring Dr. Eberhardt and her findings tomorrow night, Thursday 6 p.m. – 8 p.m., in the Theatre at Laney College, 900 Fallon St. Oakland, CA.”
This is messy. Given that there are African Americans on both sides of this issue, and even black Oakland Police Officers look, well, racist here, Libby should have stayed out of it. It looks like a political trap.
But she didn’t. Thus, we’re in for another, rather sad and silly bit of a ride that’s really a manifestation of the Libby / Desley feud over nothing other than, well, nothing.