The Oakland City Council’s Public Safety Committee next week will discuss a set of police accountability reforms that were proposed by 100 Black Men of the Bay Area during the wave of national outrage generated by the killing of Walter Scott by a police officer in April in South Carolina.
Among the recommendations are psychological screenings of new officers, enhanced police training in use of force, investigating and publicizing officer misconduct and legal protections of the right to record law enforcement.
100 Black Men says these new policies or laws would improve safety of all citizens, particularly African Americans, who according to city statistics have much higher rates of interaction with Oakland Police than other racial groups.
“The major objective is to overcome the systemic problems that we see in law enforcement, which has led to the rash of murders and abuse of African Americans in general, and specifically a disproportionate volume of African American men,” said Frank Tucker, president of the local chapter of 100 Black Men.
“We need policy change to make an impact and reduce the amount of killings of Black men by law enforcement,” he said. “We’re hoping that it becomes a national movement across the country in the other chapters.”
The proposals that will be discussed at the committee meeting call for the city to end the criminalization of victims in officer-involved shootings, adopting a policy on the release of criminal and personal information of victims involved in cases of excessive use of force; adopt legislation requiring psychological testing and screening of newly hired officers, and testing of all sworn personnel every five years; adopting policies requiring the police department to train officers more effectively to avoid the use of force, especially lethal force.
Other proposals include: adopt legislation to eliminate the concealing of investigations into police officer misconduct; mandatory firing and criminal prosecution for failure to report and/or disclose officer misconduct, and for providing false information in all cases of use of force by police; adopt legislation to send law enforcement video and dash cams to the cloud in real time, to prevent tampering of evidence; establish a “Do Shoot” campaign encouraging the public to record police stops and arrests as a form of self-defense.
The committee will also consider adopting an ordinance establishing the right to photograph, video, and/or audio record police and peace officers, as well as require a warrant before a police officer can obtain someone’s camera, phone, or other recording device.
City Councilmember Dan Kalb, a member of the Public Safety Committee, told the Post he is happy to support the ordinance to establish the right for people to record police officers.
“It’s another thing to walk up to a police officer and stand in front of them and stick your camera in their face so they can’t do their job,” Kalb said. “As long as they’re not getting in the way of the officer doing their job, I’m all for that.”
However, Kalb says he is not sure what the council can do to alleviate the problems related to police patterns of concealing investigations into officer misconduct and the criminalizing of victims of officer-involved shootings.
“OPD officers are trained and told that reporting misconduct is what they’re supposed to do. I’m not sure what we as a council can do to make sure that officers report misconduct about other officers,” he said.
He also says the city is in discussion about upgrading the police body camera system to secure video evidence.
Tucker said that 100 Black Men believes that action on these recommendations is urgent.
“Every minute that we delay in taking action, we take the risk of another African American life being senselessly lost,” he said. “If we can get these policies in place, we’re positioned to save lives.”
The local chapter introduced similar proposals in San Francisco, and will do the same in Berkeley and Richmond.
The Public Safety Committee is scheduled to meet Tuesday, July 14 at 5 p.m. at Oakland City Hall.