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Community Rallies Around African American Fremont Police Commander

According to Kirn Gill a longtime Fremont resident, “ Captain Bobbitt is an absolute legend and jewel, and the community will not stand for him to be treated this way, we need police leaders with his mentality and experience”.

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Oakland
native and Oakland Police Academy graduate Captain Fred Bobbitt of the Fremont Police Department is receiving an unprecedented amount of community support in his fight to continue implementing his “Community First” approach to policing in the Bay Area’s fourth largest city. 

 

Community outrage is growing and is being directed at Fremont City Manager Mark Danaj afterallegations that Danaj reportedly tried to push Bobbitt to retire in September 2020, just two months after Captain Bobbitt was recognized by the Chief of Police and the community for effectively managing peaceful social justice protests that occurred in Fremont after the killing of George Floyd.

Captain Bobbitt, 53, is a 35year veteran of the Fremont Police Department who has managed to go his entire career without a single community complaint or disciplinary action.

Captain Bobbitt is widely recognized for training officers under his command to be “community friendlyto achieve the most effective results. In 2017. he founded the “Building Bridges” program in collaboration with the Fremont school district.

 

The program allows each sixth-grade student to meet, interact and play games with officers as a way tobuild early trust. To date, 9,000 children and families have participated in what is considered a highly successful program.

 

Captain Bobbitt was also recognized for his work with faithbased institutions, including the Sikh community, the Muslim community, the Hindi community, the Christian community and multiple other faith denominations that serve Fremonts large AAPI community. He was honored by former Assemblymember Kansen Chu as a community hero.

During a virtual town hall meeting in support of Captain Bobbitt on April 26, all 175 registration spots for the meeting were filled within seven days after the meeting was announced.

 

Responding to questions from the Post News Group, the City of Fremont sent a formal statement in an email on May 18, saying the cityis aware of an online town hall meeting that was held April 26, 2021 on behalf of Captain Fred Bobbitt.

 

Though disagreeing with the allegations, the city said it could not comment on the specifics.  

 

The meeting flyer and various forms of information circulating on this matter, contain many untrue statements. However, because this matter involves a personnel issue governed by the Memorandum of Understanding with the Fremont Police Managers’ Association (FPMA), the City will not comment on a confidential personnel matter involving Captain Bobbitt.”


According to a summary and timeline posted on the town hall flyer, City Manager Danaj allegedly attempted to force Captain Bobbitt out in a manner that would not have required the City Council and the Mayor to be notified.

After being presented with an offer to retire, Captain Bobbitt’s family, many of whom reside in East Oakland, encouraged him to reject the offer, which included his full union pension as a captain and a large undisclosed cash payout.

 

His family reinforced the need for his leadership and the need for him to continue leading reform in this critical moment of history. After his official refusal to retire, he was promptly reassigned to an office at the Animal Shelter away from contact with FPD officers, which many community members see as retaliation for his refusal to retire and for his insistence that his communityfirst approach be continued.

During the recent town hall meeting, the primary question posed by the community was: “Why. in a moment in of history where the entire country is desperate for African American leadership in law enforcement and is demanding lowcost police reform;  the question was why would the Fremont City Manager want to force the retirement of the city’s longest serving  African American police officer and the city’s longest tenured Black employee.

During the town hall meeting, it was alleged that City Manager Danaj has had a questionable past in managing major personnel decisions. People pointed to news articles that said Danaj had been placed on administrative leave and terminated without cause from his post as City Manager of Manhattan Beach CA in January 2018.

 

In addition, in October 2018, he was the subject of a pension investigation during his brief employment in the Santa Clara City Managers Office (just prior to taking the job in Fremont).

According to Kirn Gill a longtime Fremont resident, “ Captain Bobbitt is an absolute legend and jewel, and the community will not stand for him to be treated this way, we need police leaders with his mentality and experience”.

According to Nick Austin who recently retired from the Fremont Police Department due to injury, Captain Bobbitt was a liaison between the city administration and helped get me the doctors I needed  for my injury. Any time I was stressed or worried, Captain Bobbitt was there for my family. In my opinion Captain Bobbitt is the leadership at the PD, and I considered him not only my boss but a great friend and a great person.


I think it’s extremely disappointing that Captain Bobbitt is being treated with absolute disrespect after over 35 years of dedicated service for an organization of which he loves.

According to a letter written to the Fremont City Council and Mayor from Yulanda Williams, president of Officers for Justice,  3rd vice president of San Francisco NAACP and a lifetime member of Black Women Organized for Political Action (BWOPA), Leadership and logic need to prevail here. This moment in history has no place for the personal agenda or politics of the Fremont City manager.”

During virtual town hall meetings, calls for the City Manager to be fired came from multiple community leaders.

 

The city’s formal  email response to the community did indirectly defend Captain Bobbitt’s transfer and reply to allegations against City Manager Denaj.

 

The Police Chief is solely responsible for all police department appointments” and that Captain Bobbitt was moved to the “Professional Support Services Division,” where he is in commend of 80 full-time employees,  “the second largest division in the department,” the email said.

 

While the city “can’t specifically commenton City Manager Danaj’s personnel matter in Manhattan Beach or the pension investigation, it is known that his employment contract was ended “without cause,”  according to the cityemail, which posted links of several news articles quoting the City Manager in his own defense.

Below are several news articles related to the city’s manager’s past job performance.

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Activism

Call to Protect Geoffrey’s Inner Circle from Threatened High-Rise Development

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by reso-lution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and cul-ture of Oakland.

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By Ken Epstein

Geoffrey’s Inner Circle, a downtown Oakland Cultural Center that has featured live jazz and served music lovers and the Black community for decades, is now under threat from a proposed real estate development that could undermine the stability and future of the facility.

Geoffrey’s, located at 410 14th St., is part of the city’s Black Arts Movement and Business District which was formed in 2016 by resolution of the Oakland City Council to protect Black-owned businesses and enhance a downtown district that would encourage the historic African American legacy and culture of Oakland.

Now, the Oakland Planning Commission is considering a high-rise building proposed by out-of-town developers next to Geoffrey’s, which would jeopardize both the survival of the venue and the Black business district as a whole.

In addition to running a business that has been a crucial institution in the local community and the regional arts scene, Geoffrey Pete, founder, has utilized his business to offer meals for thousands of unsheltered individuals and hosted countless community events.

The following petition is being circulated in defense of Geoffrey’s and the Black Arts district (To add your name to the petition, email info@geoffreyslive.com):

“The African-American community in Oakland has been seriously damaged by developers and public offcials who are willing and sometimes eager to see African Americans disappear from the city. Black people comprised 47% of the population in 1980; now they make up only 20% of said population. In response to this crisis the 14th Street Corridor from Oak to the 880 Frontage Road was established as the Black Arts Movement and Business District by the City Council on Jan. 7, 2016, in Resolution 85958.

Tidewater, an out-of-town developer, is proposing to build a high-rise building at 1431 Franklin, which will damage the Black business district and the businesses in the area including the iconic business of Geoffrey’s Inner Circle at 410 – 14th St.

We demand that the Planning Commission and the City Council reject this predatory building proposal and proceed with plans to fund and enhance the Black Business District.”

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Bay Area

Popular Chief LeRonne Armstrong Placed on Administrative Leave During Investigation of Police Misconduct

In a press statement, Mayor Sheng Thao said that placing Armstrong on paid administrative leave was not punitive but was a standard procedure when investigating possible officer wrongdoing. “We must do what we need to do to get out of that oversight,” she said, explaining that she wants to show the public and the court monitor that there will be no favoritism. A rookie officer or the top officer will face the same investigative process.

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In his remarks, Armstrong defended OPD’s internal affairs department and fellow officers who were criticized in an independent report that found “systemic deficiencies” in the police department.

“I did nothing wrong. I violated no policies,” said Armstrong, speaking at a press conference

By Ken Epstein

Refusing to accept administrative leave during a police misconduct investigation, OPD Chief LeRonne Armstrong fired back with a press conference of his own this week, organized by a high-profile corporate public relations and communications firm.

“I should be the chief of police and remain in my position,” he said. “I did nothing wrong. I violated no policies.”

Mayor Sheng Thao placed Armstrong on administrative leave with pay while his role in an officer misconduct cover-up scandal is investigated by internal affairs. The case involves a highly paid police sergeant who was involved in a hit-and-run automobile accident in San Francisco and is accused of later discharging a gun in an OPD freight elevator and disposing of the shell casings by throwing them off the Bay Bridge.

At a press conference Monday at the office of PR consultant Sam Singer’s office in Emeryville, Armstrong did not blame Mayor Sheng Thao for placing him on leave but instead denounced federal monitor, Robert Warshaw, who oversees the police department and evaluates its reform efforts as a representative for the federal court that has overseen OPD for two decades.

In his remarks, Armstrong defended OPD’s internal affairs department and fellow officers who were criticized in an independent report that found “systemic deficiencies” in the police department.

“This to me, clearly, is a last-ditch effort to destroy the credibility of me…and to make the community believe that Oakland police is involved in some shady business,” he said.

He blasted Warshaw’s “ulterior motives,” accusing him and his team of seeking a reason to continue to be paid over $1 million a year to oversee the department, which was potentially set to exit from federal oversight at the end of May.

“It’s hard to say a mayor who’s been in the seat for just a couple of weeks would be able to push back against a monitor at this point,” Armstrong said, adding that some city officials might be “intimidated” by Warshaw’s team.

City Attorney Barbara Parker said in a statement that her office agreed that the recent report on OPD deficiencies “revealed failures that call into question the integrity of (OPD’s) internal investigation processes.”

Many observers and police accountability activists are saying that the present scandal and subsequent community uproar over Chief Armstrong is best resolved by removing police misconduct investigations from OPD and instead turning the cases over to an independent civilian body.

Defending the department’s internal investigation, Armstrong said the investigation that was conducted was “consistent with the findings that were presented to me.”

“To work and get to this point and have it taken away from you hurts. It doesn’t just hurt me, it hurts my community because every day I come into this job to try to make Oakland better,” he said. Prior to this incident, Armstrong has been widely praised for helping make significant reforms at OPD and paving the way for an end to federal court intervention.

Armstrong said the sergeant involved in the case, who was identified in the media as Michael Chung, was placed on leave following the shooting incident, but that the chief was unable to review the case because Warshaw had taken over the investigation.

Sergeant Chung, one of Oakland’s most highly paid employees, received total pay and benefits of $492,779.77 in 2021, including regular pay of $160,828.84 and overtime pay of $276,959.38.

Armstrong, who has deep ties in the Oakland community, was born and raised in West Oakland, California, and was a graduate of McClymond’s High School. He joined the OPD as a police officer in 1999, after spending four years with the Alameda County Probation Department. He has a bachelor’s and master’s degree.

In a press statement, Mayor Sheng Thao said that placing Armstrong on paid administrative leave was not punitive but was a standard procedure when investigating possible officer wrongdoing.

“We must do what we need to do to get out of that oversight,” she said, explaining that she wants to show the public and the court monitor that there will be no favoritism. A rookie officer or the top officer will face the same investigative process.

“I want to make sure that everyone understands that, under our administration, that we take these findings seriously and it’s important that we look at taking the corrective action that is needed to make sure that we stay on track to make sure that we get out of the federal oversight,” she said.

“My belief is that, by holding ourselves accountable, we can be safer and a more just city,” Mayor Thao said.

At a federal court hearing Tuesday, Judge William Orrick, not addressing the criticisms of Warshaw’s role, said he was “profoundly disappointed” by the findings of the outside report conducted by attorneys hired by the City of Oakland, which revealed “significant cultural problems” that still exist after 20 years of court oversight.

The oversight began as a result of the negotiated resolution to a civil rights lawsuit in the Riders scandal in which plaintiffs alleged that four veteran officers, known as the ‘Riders,’ planted evidence and beat residents, while OPD turned a blind eye to the police misconduct.

“This is the third time since I’ve been overseeing the implementation of the (settlement) that the city has seemed to come close to full compliance,” Judge Orrick said, “only to have a serious episode arise that exposes rot within the department.”

Mayor Sheng Thao said she takes this case seriously, not a minor fender bender as some have dismissed it, and that said those involved will be “disciplined appropriately.”

“This particular misconduct is serious because it provides fertile ground for other misconduct to thrive,” she said at the hearing. “I will not tolerate toxic subcultures that try to demonize or deter officers who do the right thing.”

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Arts and Culture

IN MEMORIAM: Autris Paige

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

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AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.
AUTRIS T. PAIGE grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

August 17, 1938 – January 12, 2023

AUTRIS T. PAIGE was the youngest child born to Estella and Overton Paige in Sugar Land, Texas on Aug. 17, 1938.  He passed away on Jan. 12, 2023 in Oakland after a brief illness.  He was supported and comforted by his longtime companion Donna Vaughan.

Mr. Paige grew up in Oakland, California where he attended Star Bethel Church and graduated from McClymonds High School. He received a Bachelor of Arts degree from San Francisco State before pursuing advanced studies in musical theatre at the University of Southern California.

He served in the U.S. Air Force.

In 1971, he made his debut with the Los Angeles Civic Light Opera, appearing in Candide at the Los Angeles Music Center and at the Curran Theatre in San Francisco. He appeared with Ray Charles and the American Ballet Theatre and performed in several musical theatre productions on Broadway including Lost in the Stars; Don’t Bother Me, I Can’t Cope; as Walter Lee in Raisin; and in Timbuktu with Eartha Kitt.

Mr. Paige has also sung with the New York City Opera, the Houston Grand Opera, the Metropolitan Opera and with the San Francisco Opera. Other opera companies in which he performed include the Seattle Opera and the Glyndebourne Opera in England. He was featured in the PBS film and award-winning EMI recording of Porgy and Bess as well as the recording of the opera X, The Life and Times of Malcolm X.

When he returned to Oakland to “retire” he met Dr. W. Hazaiah Williams, Founder and Director of Today’s Artists Concerts (now Four Seasons Arts), who auditioned Paige and invited him to perform on his series. Mr. Paige began a new phase of his musical career.

He appeared many times under the auspices of Today’s Artists Concerts/Four Seasons Arts in New York’s Alice Tully Hall and in venues around the Bay Area in their Art of the Spiritual programs. He was featured in his own Spiritual Journey in 2009. His recently released solo CD, Spiritual Journey, based on this program, has received critical acclaim.

Paige performed regularly at Four Seasons’ Yachats Music Festival in Oregon from 1983-2017, with artists from around the world. Puerto Ricans Ilya and Raphael LeBron, soprano and baritone, remember him: “He leaves us with a warm memory of the simplicity that made him great: as a human being, as a friend and as a masterful artist!” Baritone Anthony Turner of New York says: “Autris was the embodiment of class and elegance. He delivered every song with a warm silken tone and economy of gestures. Autris gave of himself, his truth, his joy and love.”  Pianists Dennis Helmrich and Gerald Hecht often collaborated with Mr. Paige said: “Autris Paige was among the most intuitively refined musicians we have encountered: a pure pleasure and a cherished memory.” Pianist Jeongeun Yom, pianist, responds,”Autris will be remembered for his kindness, cheerfulness, and above all for his voice, with which he touched  the listeners’ heart.”

In 2011, Mr. Paige was featured in Four Seasons Arts’ annual W. Hazaiah Williams Memorial Concert with the Lucy Kinchen Chorale and later with soprano Alison Buchanan. In 2013, he performed his Spiritual Journey II in Berkeley with pianist Othello Jefferson. A second CD entitled Classics and Spirituals was released in September 2013. Pianist Jerry Donaldson of Oakland was a frequent collaborator with Mr. Paige, performing throughout the Bay Area.

A Celebration of Life for Autris Paige will take place Friday, Feb. 3 at 11:00 a.m. at Third Baptist Church of San Francisco, 1399 McAllister Street, San Francisco.

A repast will follow the service.

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