The Oakland Police Commission needs our help.
1. When the November mail-in ballots come out, look for the as-yet-unnamed charter amendment strengthening the power and increasing the funding for the Oakland Police Commission. Tell your friends and neighbors to vote for it.
2. Now: contact your council member and the City Council President, At Large Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan, telling them you want to repeal the Oakland City Charter “binding arbitration for police rights” (if you want to include repealing it for firefighters too, considering none of the fire dept employees who screwed up on the Ghost Ship inspections got fired, include that too.)
There are other problems. Those include inexperienced Commission members, lack of investigatory power, lack of funding for staff, lack of funding for training the Commission members.
Proponents of Measure LL (the existing Charter measure establishing the Police Commission) always knew that the success of the Commission ultimately rested on the quality of the board members and their ability to put in the time needed on decisions that are very complex and legalistic. With adequate professional staffing and money for training, we will be less dependent on getting volunteer commissioners with the time and experience to do a good job. But we will always need good people with time and competence to serve. (At some point, we probably will need to make it a part-time paid position such as School Board)
Most of the funding and staffing problems will be corrected if the new charter amendment is approved by Oakland voters this November 2020.
One Problem: The Oakland City Charter Section Guaranteeing Binding Arbitration To Police and Fire officers
One massive problem that remains, the elephant in the living room, is the City Charter section guaranteeing binding arbitration to police and fire officers for “rights” disputes, including disciplinary actions by the Commission.
The Joshua Pawlik killing by OPD has been mentioned as a failure of the Commission. The OPD exonerated the five officers involved. The Police Commission overruled Oakland Police Department and ordered the officers fired.
The law firm for The Oakland Police Officers’ Association specializes in defending officers nationwide. They got a court ruling overturning the Commission ruling because the Commission violated the Brown Act, aka Sunshine Law. The case went back to the Commission, which this time complied adequately with the Brown Act. The Commission again ordered the officers fired.
The case has now gone into binding arbitration from which neither side can appeal.
If you’ve read any of my Facebook rants against binding “rights” arbitration for police and fire, or you’ve read why Washing DC revoked that for future police contracts, you’ll understand why it’s very likely that the arbitrator will “split the baby” and reinstate the officers.
But if that happens, it doesn’t mean the Commission is a failure. It means that binding “rights” arbitration must be repealed at the ballot box via another charter amendment.
If you read my Facebook posts, you will see why the only effective opposition to repeal is the united opposition by all the city govt unions plus the Alameda Central Labor Council. It is NOT the police and fire union opposition that is preventing repeal.
Knowledgeable members of Bay Area labor unions declare how much they support BLM and police accountability.
They go silent when asked why their unions support binding rights arbitration for police.
Residents can’t wait for the city unions to wake up. We need to push our council members to approve a ballot measure repealing binding arbitration for police and fire “rights”.