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Causes of Police Brutality Misdiagnosed

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As I sit here in prison, in the pit of unfathomable misery, I contemplate the need to speak and write about what is and has been going on as the “routine business” of unfettered police brutality in the poverty-stricken communities of color.

These actions are not based primarily on so-called law and order but rather are centered on the racial disparity and demeaning of certain people in those communities.

Some claim that acts of brutality come from just a few bad apples within the police department. But I think it is more of a systemic problem within police forces.

Some people claim that these abuses are minor, but I ask how one can minimize assaults. mental abuse, terror, mayhem, and murder on a national level and label it a disease equivalent to a pandemic.

This disease is not some abnormal bodily condition but rather is a mental disconnect that often results in improper police conduct.

To be clear, not every police department is burdened with such improper conduct. And there are some exceptional departments doing the job as proscribed.

It is time for us to accept the fact that police misbehavior is not irrelevant. We need to continue to highlight the importance of police reform nationally.

We, as a society, must create a dialogue with police departments that addresses the need for real positive changes that respects communities of color. Pretending that no problem exists allows it to remain as “business as usual”,

The police brutality pandemic is just as lethal and widespread as any other life- taking force. One does not need to be a doctor to see that the nation is ill in many ways: the difference is the cure is readily available right now.

Unlike the necessary protocols required to approve vaccines for the COVID-19 plague, there is no need for experimental drug trials and antidote tests within the minds of the people at this time.

The deaths of the many George Floyds, Jacob Blakes, Breonna Taylors, Sandra Blands, and the countless others who have been victims of this chronic disease cannot be in vain.

We should not seek revenge. We should seek corrections.

Bay Area

What Oakland’s Homeless Audit Says About Evictions, Policing, and Fire

Although the audit was vast in its analysis, this guide attempts to outline key points from the audit related only to evictions and hygiene services, police response and costs, and fire department response and costs.

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A tent in Oakland that serves as a home for a resident, October 2, 2019 Photo Credit: Zack Haber

On April 14, Oakland’s City Auditor Courtney Ruby released an audit of the city’s homeless encampment management interventions and activities for the fiscal years 2018-19 and 2019-2020. The 95-page report includes data and estimations about interventions, populations, costs, and availability of services related to homeless people and their communities. 

Claiming that the city “lacked an effective strategy…and did not provide sufficient policy direction or adequate funding,” Ruby also included recommendations for better addressing homeless communities. Although the audit was vast in its analysis, this guide attempts to outline key points from the audit related only to evictions and hygiene services, police response and costs, and fire department response and costs.

Evictions and hygiene services

The audit’s data on evictions and hygiene services is limited to the 2018-19 fiscal year and the first eight months of the 2019-20 fiscal year, when the city suspended most homeless evictions and cleaning interventions due to the COVID-19 pandemic in March 2020. During this timeframe, the city evicted 181 homeless communities. Of these evictions, 123, or about two-thirds of the total, were classified as “re-closures,” which the report defined as occurring “when homeless individuals return to a previously closed [homeless community].”  In the fiscal year 2018-19, about 60% of evictions were re-closures. From July 2019 through February 2020, this ratio increased, and about 77% of evictions were re-closures.

The audit reports 1,599 interventions classified as “hygiene and garbage services,” and defines such interventions as “providing portable toilets, hand-washing stations, regular garbage service, and/or traffic barriers.” For each of these services performed per homeless community, the audit counts one intervention. These interventions are lumped together and lack individual data, meaning that the audit did not report precise data on how often the city provided trash pick-up to homeless communities.

The audit reports that the city increased its hygiene and garbage interventions. From 2018-19, the city provided 797 such interventions, or about 66 per month. During the first eight months of 2019-2020, the city performed 802 such interventions, or about 100 per month. After March 2020, in response to COVID-19, the audit claims the city increased the number of homeless communities that receive hygiene interventions from 20 to 40, but the vast majority of homeless communities in Oakland still do not get hygiene and/or trash services with any regularity. The audit estimates that there are at least 140 homeless communities in Oakland but acknowledges “that this estimate may be conservative.”

Police response and costs

Data recorded in the audit shows police response to 911 calls in homeless communities was not timely. While over 99% of 911 calls were classified as “Priority 2,” which the audit claims “ideally should be responded to in 10 to 15 minutes,” data provided by OPD showed the median police response time to Priority 2 calls was two hours in 2018-19, while the mean response time was four hours. In 2019-20, response time slowed by about 50%, with the median response time being about three hours, while the mean response time was about six hours. Data OPD listed related to response time range show the department took over two days to respond to at least one 911 call in 2018-19 and over six days to respond to at least one other 911 call in 2019-20. Although OPD recorded 1,458 calls to homeless communities during the two years of the audit, the audit only analyzed 988 of these calls, claiming that “response data was incomplete” for 470 calls.

The audit records OPD using about $3.1 million in costs associated with homeless communities. But that $3.1 million does not include an accurate account of overtime pay. OPD only started recording overtime pay related to homeless communities in February 2020, just before the frequency of interventions, notably evictions, declined dramatically.

About $1.7 million, a slim majority of OPD’s recorded costs related to homeless communities, are recorded as labor costs that went to the three members of The Homeless Outreach Team. The Homeless Outreach Team consists of one sergeant and two officers who dedicate 100% of their time to homeless community work. 

    The Abandoned Auto Unit incurred over $800,000 in labor costs to provide support at moderate to large homeless community evictions. They were responsible for “traffic control and tagging and towing vehicles at [homeless communities] when necessary.”  About $600,000 went to labor costs incurred by Patrol staff responding to 911 calls.

Fire Department response and costs

The audit reports that The Oakland Fire Department responded to 988 fires in homeless communities in 2018-19 and 2019-20, which is more than one a day. The data recorded shows that the OFD response times for such fires were timely, arriving in just over seven minutes and 50 seconds to over 90% of calls. Such responses were slightly faster than responses to non-homeless community related calls, which, in 90% of cases, OFD responded to in about eight minutes and 10 seconds. OFD has recorded no injuries to firefighters fighting fires at homeless communities. One homeless resident died in 2020 as a direct result of a fire. The audit did not record fire-related injuries to homeless people or their lost possessions.

OFD-related costs accounted for an estimated $1.8 million in funds related to homeless communities in 2018-19 and 2019-2020. About $676,000 went to “fire prevention labor,” which includes labor costs associated with fire hazard inspections, investigations related to fires, and removal of hazardous waste. Over $ million went to both labor and equipment costs related to “fire suppression.” Fire suppression costs include costs related to fighting fires and rescue activities. OFD costs related to homeless communities rose over 40% from 2018-19 to 2019-20 while total fires at homeless communities increased about 17% over these years.

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Marin City Gets Vaccinated

Nearly 900 of the 3,000 residents have received at least one vaccine dose.  Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health officer says: “vaccination rates among African Americans are the same or higher as other groups in that community.” 

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Yes or no on vaccinations? Education and outreach are so important to share  about getting the #covid19vaccination.    See what happens when community leaders and local committed volunteers work with health officials! They not only wrapped their arms around Marin City to get #covid19vaccinations to those who want them and information to those who are nervous about getting vaccinated, they actually made sure they received their own vaccination to urge community residents to get theirs. 

The April 7 edition of the Marin Independent Journal report does a great job explaining the comprehensive approach. Nearly 900 of the 3,000 residents have received at least one vaccine dose.  Dr. Matt Willis, Marin County’s Public Health officer says: “vaccination rates among  are the same or higher as other groups in that community.” 

California has a program called “Together Toward Health,” which gave a grant to six local non-profit organizations –Performing Stars, First Missionary Baptist Church, Marin City Health and Wellness Center, Sausalito Marin City School District, Marin City Community Services District and Community Development Corporation and Marin County Health and Human Services — also provided additional  funds for outreach to low-income and multicultural communities.

If you are interested in getting your vaccine, contact Marin City Health and Wellness Center at 415-339-8813 or Performing Stars at 415-332-8316.

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Bay Area

Non-Profits, Faith-based Groups to Get Expert Advice on Re-Opening When COVID-19 Restrictions End

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Ana-Marie Jones

The San Francisco Foundation FAITHS Program the Master Class Series, 2021 draws on the knowledge of experts in their fields with decades of experience. Sessions will prepare nonprofit and faith-based leaders to navigate five key areas critical to more than surviving the season of COVID-19, by preparing for whatever comes next.  It’s time to THRIVE!

The second of the five interactive sessions,From the Experts – Rolling Out Your Reopening: The Right Way to the New Normal,” is scheduled for April 29, 2021 from 10:00 a.m. to 12:00 p.m. This training addresses what faith and nonprofit organizations should consider, plan for, and do before re-opening. 

Master teacher Ana-Marie Jones, a nationally recognized expert in community readiness and resilience, will share concrete approaches and easy-to-implement solutions that will help keep congregations and communities safer throughout the reopening process. 

Jones will be joined by Master Teacher John McKnight a community branch manager for the San Francisco Department of Emergency Management, Emergency Operations Center in response to COVID 19. Participants will learn:

The key considerations for reopening safely; the importance of maintaining diverse community contacts; effective partnering with public health entities; advice for managing staff, volunteer, consumer, and community expectations; how to make physical environments support new messaging, assigning new roles and responsibilities for staff and volunteers; and how to best leverage available community resources such as updated health information, recommendations, and other free resources.

Future THRIVE! topics include – “Pivot into Tomorrow: Tech Savvy;” “Building a Strong Health Ministry or Department;” and “Where to Find COVID-19 Recovery Resources.”

To register, go to:  https://sff.zoom.us/meeting/register/tJEuceCuqj4uHtwIx2ffv0vC1N9SOuyf884T

For more information contact: Michelle Myles Chambers at mmc@ssf.org or (415) 733-8539

Or Sayron Stokes at sstokes@ssf.org  or (415) 635-3319.

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