Civilians to take a bigger role in police internal affairs
on June 26, 2009
The question of how to handle citizen complaints against the Oakland Police department became a point of contention at the Oakland Public Safety meeting on Tuesday night.
Public Safety Committee chairperson Larry Reid, who represents District 7 on the Oakland City Council, blew a fuse while discussing the proposal to transfer the complaint intake office from the Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs department to the Citizen’s Police Review Board.
The Citizen’s Police Review Board would like to be the first line of contact for citizens who want to file a misconduct complaint against an Oakland police officer.
“People are more comfortable talking to civilians. We’re being trained in police procedures to get the perspective of the officers,” said Tina Allen, Vice Chair of the Citizen’s Police Review Board.
Complaints filed with the Citizen’s Police Review Board will be forwarded on to Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs department within 24 hours.
The hope is to avoid situations where citizens feel blown off by Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs.
Joyce Donaldson said she was injured in an assault and an officer tried to intimidate her from entering the ambulance.
When she filed a complaint against that officer she said, “Internal Affairs said this didn’t occur.”
The proposal was first discussed at a May 26th public safety committee meeting. The committee asked the Citizen’s Police Review Board to return with a specific plan for where the funding would come from and how the transition would happen before they would recommend to pass it on to the Oakland City Council for approval.
Reid, was unable to mask his annoyance as person after person took the stand to express general support for the proposal. Instead he wanted logistical details that were more specific than what had been provided.
Reid couldn’t hold back any longer when fellow council members leaned towards approving the proposal in principal. This means the proposal could be voted on by the City Council even though it is not complete.
“I wanted a plan! I wanted a plan to tell us how to travel the path that we need to get to. We should hold this in committee,” he said. Seeming resigned he followed up with, “I’m not running for re-election. You guys frustrate me.”
The Citizen Police Review Board set a timeline for a year to make the transition and have officers who are no longer needed by Internal Affairs to be back on the streets as beat cops in 2010. The Board would need $1.27 million dollars a year to fund ten staff members.
Rashidah Grinage, from the Mayor’s Task Force was aware of the budgetary short comings when she presented the proposal to the board, and asked them to agree on principal anyway.
“We can start looking for funding and grant possibilities. In order for us to begin that process we need you to go on the record as a council saying this is something we want to do,” she said.
This was the issue that seemed to draw Reid’s ire the most. He was concerned that the lack of funding in the plan would become the public safety committee’s problem later if the police review board couldn’t secure funding on their own.
He warned Grinage in advance that his vote would be no.
He said, “With all due respect to Rashidah and the other advocates. I want to be where you want to be. This is not the way to do it.”
Council Member Jean Quan (District 4) cautioned the supporters that the City would not have money in the general fund available to pick up the slack if they couldn’t find funding.
Nancy Nadell (District 3) appeared dubious about the proposed time frame to make the transition. To save money Nadell suggested that civilians replace Internal Affairs officers as they turn over.
There is a three month training program and that all Internal Affairs workers must complete . They also have to be compliant with the required Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA) standards required by a lawsuit the city settled to improve police oversight and accountability.
This proposal doesn’t spell the end for Oakland Police’s Internal Affairs department because there are certain functions that only police officers can perform, like investigating internal police matters.
Quan would like to see the Citizen’s Police Review Board and Internal Affairs work together.
“Fifty percent of the complaints are that police didn’t do enough, that’s something that CPRB can do with more credibility than the police can,” said Quan.
The safety commission agreed to pass the proposal to the Oakland City Council.
There were other matters of importance addressed during the three hour meeting.
The committee approved proposals so the Oakland Fire Department could apply for funds to make repairs to stations 18, 25 and 29.
The Port of Oakland received the green light to compete for Homeland Security funds to merge various emergency communication channels into one system to enhance security.
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