Nearly 100 people showed up to speak at Tuesday’s city council meeting in support of a strong, independent police oversight commission in Oakland, which will be voted on next Tuesday.
Councilmembers Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo are putting forth the measure, which, if passed next week, will appear on the November ballot.
“Thirteen years of federal oversight, seven Black men murdered by OPD in 2015, Black women and children brutalized for peacefully protesting in Oakland, the rape and trafficking of a 17-year-old child, that is the Oakland Police Department,” said Cat Brooks, co-founder of the Anti Police-Terror Project.
“There is no way that any rational person can say that we don’t need a police commission in this city,” Brooks said.
Brooks was one of many to deliver moving speeches and testimony Tuesday night. Pamela Drake, an organizer with the Coalition for Police Accountability, called the evening “a cathartic moment for the community.”
“How can I respect an organization that takes an oath to protect and serve, yet they shoot to kill,” asked Jeralynn Blueford, whose 18-year-old son, Alan Blueford, was shot and killed by an Oakland police officer in 2012.
The current proposal would give authority to the commission to investigate complaints, examine potential misconduct on its own initiative, approve OPD policies and even fire the chief.
It would establish a commission made up of seven members, three of which would be appointed by the mayor. The remaining four members would be picked by a selection committee, which would be appointed by City Council and mayor.
Several speakers on Tuesday demanded, however, that Oakland residents get the opportunity to appoint members of the police commission.
Critics argued that the politics of mayoral and City Council appointments would interfere with the type of independent, citizen-run commission needed to fairly access actions by the police department.
“We demand that we have an independent process for what’s happening,” said activist Carroll Fife, who urged the council to keep the original proposal that would allow citizens to select commission members.
Others who spoke said the proposal would be necessary for Oakland’s police department to move away from federal oversight, which came out of the infamous Riders case 13 years ago.
“Our police department is still under federal oversight,” said Oakland Private Industry Council CEO Gay Plair Cobb. “Had we had an empowered and independent oversight commission, we would be in a very different situation today regarding accountability and bad behavior.”
Representatives from SIEU Local 1021 also shared their support for the measure to be placed on the ballot.
Previously, the union had lobbied to strip the measure of all language that would remove binding arbitration.
Earlier this week, activists from the Coalition for Police Accountability said they had come to an agreement with SIEU Local 1021 and that arbitration would be eliminated from the ballot measure.
Both the union and coalition released a statement on Tuesday saying, “Local 1021 has expressed full support and backing of this progressive proposal to bring a communitydriven measure to the ballot.”
Concluding her powerful testimony, Blueford said to the city council, “Be the examples in the U.S. of coming together, building a strong police commission, supporting the citizens’ review board, and standing up for our young Black lives.”