Oakland police chief faces council over details of August immigration raid

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Questions regarding Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick’s truthfulness about police cooperation in an immigration home raid in West Oakland this summer were on the minds of many in the chambers at Tuesday’s city council meeting, but those would have to wait nearly four hours and more than 30 agenda items until the issue was finally heard.

The agenda item was only an informational report, yet it was the first time Kirkpatrick had to answer publicly to the city council regarding an Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) home raid on August 16, for which Oakland police officers provided traffic enforcement. That morning ICE agents raided a home on 27th Street to serve a sealed criminal search warrant as part of a federal criminal investigation into human trafficking, according to Homeland Security Investigations (a division of ICE) Special Agent in Charge Ryan Spradlin. No one was arrested during the raid in connection with a crime, but according to federal ICE documents, Oakland resident Santos de Leon was arrested after an ICE agent asked if he “had legal status to reside in the United States,” to which he said no.  He is currently out of detention on civil immigration bond, but faces a potential deportation for “unlawful presence,” according to Brian Hofer, chair of Oakland’s Privacy Commission.

Oakland’s sanctuary city resolution, passed by the council in November, 2016, bans cooperation with federal law enforcement regarding civil immigration violations—such as arrests, detentions, and deportations for being undocumented—but it states that “the Oakland Police Department will continue to cooperate with Federal immigration agencies in matters involving criminal activity.” Critics have argued that because ICE increasingly engages in collateral arrests—arresting any undocumented people they may come into contact with—during any type of operation, any collaboration with ICE is a violation of Oakland’s sanctuary city policy.

Kirkpatrick’s presentation had been several weeks in the making. Hofer first invited her to answer questions about the raid during the Privacy Commission’s meeting nearly two months ago, on October 5. She failed to appear, and Hofer ultimately filed a complaint to the Citizens Police Review Board (CPRB) against her—in his individual capacity with seven other Oakland residents—for making false statements.

Among his allegations were that she did not tell the truth in a town hall meeting on September 6.  In a video of the event shot by East Bay Express reporter Darwin Bond Graham, Kirkpatrick states, “Only one person has been charged with a crime, and there is not a deportation matter in this case.” ICE documents obtained by Hofer indicate that no one was charged with a crime as a result of the raid, and that de Leon faces deportation proceedings for nothing more than being undocumented.

The council’s Public Safety Committee planned to hear the issue on November 14, but Councilmember Annie Campbell Washington (District 4) unexpectedly postponed the item at the previous week’s Rules Committee meeting, saying that because it was under a police Internal Affairs and CPRB investigation, it shouldn’t be concurrently heard by the council.

Councilmember At Large Rebecca Kaplan disagreed and initiated proceedings to “clarify and reaffirm” the city’s policy to not cooperate with ICE “in any capacity,” which is scheduled for the December 5 Public Safety Committee meeting. At this meeting, the committee will hear Kaplan’s amended resolution to ensure the city’s non-cooperation with ICE, including not providing traffic support or assisting with criminal investigations. Her resolution has been co-sponsored by Councilmembers Desley Brooks (District 6) and Noel Gallo (District 5).

Then, Kirkpatrick, with the support of the Mayor Libby Schaaf, City Administrator Sabrina Landreth, and Council President Larry Reid, used an arcane rule—Rule 28 of the council’s rules of procedure—to bring the item directly to the full council meeting Tuesday night, bypassing the requirement for agenda items to first pass through one of the council’s committees.

“The issue of my integrity has been called into question,” Kirkpatrick said as she began her PowerPoint presentation. “Regardless, my integrity can withstand any attack to it or any examination of it.”

Kirkpatrick said that the raid was for federal authorities to serve a criminal warrant for human trafficking, not a civil immigration violation. She said this was the case when Homeland Security Investigations (HSI) Special Agent in Charge Ryan Spradlin first informed her of the raid the day before it occurred, as well as when she called him later this fall to assuage rumors that it hadn’t been. Kirkpatrick said that on Tuesday, she received a letter from Brian Stretch, the US Attorney for Northern California, assuring her it had been a criminal warrant.

According to Kirkpatrick, ICE asked her to provide traffic control on the morning of the raid, but would not show her the sealed criminal warrant. Over two months later, on November 2, both Kirkpatrick and Mayor Schaaf did finally see the warrant, according to a statement previously made by Schaaf, but it has not been made available to the public.

Both Kaplan and Brooks immediately berated the chief. “There’s been a lot of attempts to not get to today by the [police] department, by the administration, and by members of this council,” Brooks said. “There has been a lot of attempts to try to hide behind things, and I guess get more time to try to perfect a story.”

“No doubt it was criminal,” Brooks continued. “But what the documents say is that the person who wound up getting arrested that day wasn’t the subject of that warrant, and that’s what we need to talk about.”

“In a lot of incidents that happen, they say the cover-up is what makes you look bad,” Kaplan added. “ICE has made explicit that they are acting to target non-criminals. The targeting of people with no crime alleged is up 156 percent over the last year by ICE. Acting ICE director [Thomas] Homan has publicly stated, ‘If you’re in this country illegally, you should be scared. You should be uncomfortable and looking over your shoulder.’”

At one point, Brooks paused the stream of 25 public commenters—who overwhelmingly spoke against the police chief and in favor of Kaplan’s amended resolution—so that KTOP could project the video of Kirkpatrick’s false statements from the September 6 town hall.

“We need to know what HSI [Homeland Security Investigations, ICE’s investigative arm] means by human trafficking,” said community activist JP Massar during the public comment period. “If I were the uncle of some child in Mexico, and that child came across the border and I put them up in my house, they consider me to be a human trafficker.”

“The Oakland City Council, the Oakland police, they really cannot do much about what ICE is doing,” he continued. “But they can do one thing: They can say unequivocally that Oakland will not participate or support the actions of this rogue and, let’s be clear, terrorist-inducing agency in any, any way.”

“I have personally cross examined and interrogated various HSI officers who have perjured themselves on the stand,” said Jackie Gonzalez, immigration policy director at Centro Legal De La Raza, who was also on site during the August 16 raid. She said HSI officers routinely participate in removal, or deportation, operations, even though they claim that that they are solely engaged in investigations.

“What happened in Oakland is what happened in Santa Cruz months ago,” she said. “The [Santa Cruz] chief of police said, ‘We got played by ICE.’ What’s most concerning to me is that we haven’t stopped to just say that.”

Kaplan later echoed her comments, saying, “I think Oakland got played here. Anne [Kirkpatrick] should know better.”

The council reluctantly received the police chief’s report, and Councilmembers Kaplan and Brooks encouraged the public to come to theDecember 5 Public Safety Committee meeting to support their amended ordinance to prohibit city cooperation with ICE, including criminal investigations.

Earlier that evening, in an unexpected turn of events, Councilmember Campbell Washington pulled the final reading of the tenant relocation ordinance—which requires landlords to pay a minimum of $6,500 to tenants during no-fault evictions—from the agenda. It had already passed its first reading at the previous council meeting, and was expected to pass on the consent portion of the agenda along with 27 other items for its second and final reading.

“We received a lot of email and phone calls about the fact that this ordinance does not include a minimum residency period for tenants to be eligible for a relocation payment,” Campbell Washington said, requesting an amendment on that point to be heard during the council’s December 12 meeting.

Brooks admonished Campbell Washington for pulling the item rather than adding the amendment at that night’s meeting, “because now this isn’t going to be passed until the end of January and there is a crisis.”

“This is not the first time that the attempt to establish uniform relocation benefits has been pulled, both times by Councilmember Campbell Washington,” said James Vann, co-founder of the Oakland Tenants’ Union, speaking during public comment. “There is a snake in this council, and this this is not the first time this councilmember has gummied up the works when tenants are trying to get basic rights in this city.”

The council also approved a $1.2 million contract renewal with Vievu, a private body camera company owned by law enforcement equipment vendor Safariland, for police body cameras. Though the item only concerned the contract’s approval—with funds that were already budgeted—members of the public and the council made note of the fact that there is no council policy governing OPD’s use of body cameras. Councilmembers indicated that such a policy would be taken up at a later date, and Police Captain Paul Figueroa said that any policy would require meeting and conferring with the police union.

Councilmember Dan Kalb (District 1) also said he plans to introduce legislation next year that “will require disclosure for ex parte communications dealing with real estate matters that are voted on in closed session and real estate matters that come to the council in a quasi-judicial fashion, like appeals.” He was responding to a summer report from the Alameda County Civil Grand Jury—a local government watch-dog entity composed of county residents appointed annually by county judges—from this summer that stated: “The city’s process for selection of developers for city-owned property is not open and transparent.” The council, via President Reid, formally disagreed with the report.

Kaplan also spoke about the city’s new storefront cannabis dispensary permits, which are set to go into effect in 2018. Four of the eight permits are reserved for equity applicants, who reside in certain areas of the city, or have previously been convicted of a cannabis-related offense in Oakland that led to jail time. Kaplan said there were more equity applicants—over 100—than general applicants for the permits.

The council also passed an economic development road map for 2018-2020, which can be accessed here.

The next council meeting will be held on December 12, the final council meeting of the year.

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