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Judge Orders Police Reforms, Says Mayor Did Not Honor Her Word

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Following a hearing this week with Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf and other top city officials, U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson issued a court order Wednesday requiring the City of Oakland to reform how it conducts investigations of police misconduct. The judge’s order came in response to the June 21 report of a court investigator that found the city had  “severely mishandled” the investigation into allegations that Oakland Police Department had sexually exploited underage teenager Celeste Guap.

Attending the Monday court hearing were Mayor Schaaf, Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, City Council members and police command stand.

 

“Defendants continue to say many of the right things,” wrote Judge Henderson in the court order. “However…good intentions are not enough. Now, more than ever, is the time for action and not just words.”

Some of the changes the judge is requiring:

    1. OPD criminal investigators must inform the District Attorney whenever they have a reasonable suspicion that an officer committed a crime;
    2. OPD´s special victims unit should lead investigations in to alleged police sex crimes, instead of homicide investigators;
    3. Internal affairs must brief the mayor and the city administrator monthly on major police misconduct cases;
    4. Internal affairs investigators should notify the Oakland City attorney´s Office early in police misconduct investigations.

The city is required to file a report to the court by Sept. 15 on the implementation of the reforms.

 

“For any changes not yet fully implemented, the city shall include a timeline for implementation, as well as a list of responsible person who may, if warranted, be subject to contempt proceedings or other sanctions for any missed deadlines,” the court order said.
A follow up hearing will be held on Oct. 2.

For the past 14 years, Judge Henderson has been overseeing police reforms required as part of the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, which settled the lawsuit against the city in the infamous Riders Case, in which officers were alleged to have kidnapped, planted evidence, and beat citizens. After Judge Henderson retires on Aug. 11, the case will be handled by Judge William H. Orrick III.

“When the police sexual misconduct issue first was revealed, Mayor Schaaf tried to divert the public’s attention by announcing her concern over the texting of racial images by some Black officers. She emphasized the race of Black officers’ inappropriately texting rather than pointing out the race of the non-Black officers involved in teenage sextings,” said Post publisher Paul Cobb after Post staff interviewed her.

Activism

Nation’s First Bill to Extend Victim Services to Survivors of Police Brutality

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

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The California Senate’s Committee on Public Safety this week unanimously passed SB 299. Authored by Senator Connie Leyva (SD-20), which would extend services to victims of police violence and expand eligibility for survivors of homicide victims.

“It is unacceptable that in order to receive assistance through the Victim Compensation program, police reports and the opinion of police would carry such heavy weight in the application for compensation when the injuries were sustained as a result of police actions,” Senator Leyva said.

 “SB 299 will improve access to vital resources for victims of police violence as they recover from the physical and emotional injuries caused due to the actions of police or—in the cases of individuals killed by police—be able to bury their loved ones with dignity and respect,” he said. 

“Just as the state’s Victims Compensation program can use evidence beyond police reports for victims of sexual assault, domestic violence and human trafficking, so too do victims of police violence deserve similar recognition of their circumstances so that they can get fair access to the help they need.”

Police reports and opinion can also prevent families of homicide victims from obtaining compensation, without any recourse or due process. Families in shock at a violent loss then struggle to bury their loved ones. SB 299 would, for the first time, expand eligibility to make sure survivors of homicide victims are not denied based on the contents of inaccurate, unfair or biased police reports.

“We cannot continue to let the police decide who is a ‘deserving’ victim,” says Youth ALIVE! Director of Programs, Kyndra Simmons. “This has prevented many survivors and victims, including victims of police violence, from accessing the resources and support meant to help them heal.”

“Qualifying for victim compensation was life-changing for me after my son Jordan was killed,” says Tonya Lancaster, trauma survivor and Youth ALIVE! client. “I want to see that support for everybody who needs it.”

Under existing law, victims of limited types of crimes are eligible to receive compensation from the California Victim Compensation Board’s Restitution Fund. That compensation can cover a range of needs spanning medical expenses, burial expenses, wage and income loss and much more. 

SB 299 would extend this eligibility to include incidents in which an individual sustains serious bodily injury or death as a result of a law enforcement officer’s use of force, regardless of whether the law enforcement officer is arrested for, charged with, or convicted of committing a crime. 

This would ensure that survivors of police violence and loved ones of those killed by police are no longer dependent on either a police report documenting the victimization, which is often elusive, or the opinion of involved police when assessing a victim’s responsibility. 

“We cannot tolerate treating victims of police violence with any less care and compassion than we extend to other crime victims,” said Controller Betty Yee, California’s chief fiscal officer. “We must work toward a just, fair, and peaceful society, and this expansion of victim compensation is one small step in that work.”

“”Advocacy for victims must include all victims and survivors, regardless of who caused the harm. That’s why my office started a first-in-the-state program in 2020 to ensure that our Victim Services Division compensates victims of police violence like any other victim,” said San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin.  

“Unlike victims of other crimes, victims of police brutality are commonly denied access to victims compensation funds to cover burial costs, medical expenses, lost income, therapy and more,” said Prosecutors Alliance Executive Director Cristine Soto DeBerry. “No one should have to start a GoFundMe page to cover the costs of burying a loved one lost to violence.”

SB299 is co-sponsored by California Controller Betty Yee, San Francisco District Attorney Chesa Boudin, Los Angeles District Attorney George Gascón, Californians for Safety and Justice, the Prosecutors Alliance of California, and Youth ALIVE! It will be heard next by the Senate Committee on Appropriations.

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Activism

Racism and Its Deadly Cousins

Black women and Asian women have often been both fetishized and demonized as hypersexual temptresses threatening the innocence of and purity of white Christian men. Young people raised in churches that emphasize “purity culture” are taught to have deep shame about their sexual feelings, and girls and young women’s bodies portrayed as threats to boys and young men. 

 

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Ben Jealous

What does it say about our country when we don’t have time to absorb the impact of one mass shooting before news of the next one comes across our phones and TV screens? 

 

     Grief upon grief. 

 

    This column is not about gun culture or laws that make it easier to buy an assault rifle than to register to vote. We need to talk about those things. 

 

     But we also need to pay attention to one response to the Atlanta spa killings: the way some conservatives rushed to insist that race and racism had nothing to do with the murders. 

 

     It is true that the man who confessed to the Atlanta killings said they were not racially motivated. He reportedly told police that he was struggling with a “sex addiction” and the killings were a way to “eliminate temptation.” 

 

    There’s a lot in that statement to unpack, and a lot of smart people have been unpacking it over the past two weeks. 

 

    Marcela Howell, who leads In Our Own Voice: National Black Women’s Reproductive Agenda, was among the Black women who spoke in solidarity after the killings. “While law enforcement officials have announced that the shooter’s motivation was ‘sex addiction,’ we know that sexual violence and racism are often intertwined when it comes to violence against women,” she said in a statement. 

 

     “As Black women, we know that our Asian-American sisters are disparately impacted at the intersections of racism, sexism, and xenophobia,” Howell said. 

 

    There is a long history of bigotry and legal discrimination that directly targeted Asian immigrants and Asian Americans. Over the past year, that hostility was inflamed by bigoted rhetoric from former President Donald Trump describing COVID-19 as the “Kung flu” and warning that if he weren’t re-elected Americans would have to learn Chinese. 

 

     As Howell and many other activists and scholars have pointed out since the killings, racism in this country is deeply connected to sexism directed at women of color. And racism and misogyny are both intertwined with the history and culture of conservative white evangelicalism in which the Atlanta shooter was apparently steeped. 

 

    Kathryn Gin Lum, an associate professor of American religion at Stanford University, said the killings reflected “a toxic brew” of racism, sexism, and religion. That toxic brew has been used to justify anti-Asian laws and stoked anti-Asian violence going back to the 19th Century. 

 

    Religion scholar Bradley Onishi and others point out that Jim Crow apartheid and anti-race-mixing laws were not only defended as necessary to protect the sexual purity of individual white women, but also the racial and religious purity of White Christian America. 

     Black women and Asian women have often been both fetishized and demonized as hypersexual temptresses threatening the innocence of and purity of white Christian men. Young people raised in churches that emphasize “purity culture” are taught to have deep shame about their sexual feelings, and girls and young women’s bodies portrayed as threats to boys and young men. 

 

     We don’t yet know, and may never fully understand, just how all these influences combined in the mind of this particular young man who chose to commit multiple murders. 

 

    But we can and should push back against law enforcement officials, conservative pundits and religious leaders who dismiss the reality of systemic racism or refuse to recognize the ways that women of color are particularly harmed by the mixture of racism and sexism that plagues our culture. 

 

Ben Jealous serves as president of People For the American Way and People For the American Way Foundation. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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Crime

Sen. Nancy Skinner Introduces Reforms to Reduce Sentences of Certain Non-Violent Offenses

“Serving on the Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code gave me the opportunity to engage with experts and advocates to identify common sense proposals for criminal justice reform.” Skinner said. “SB 81 sends a clear message to our courts: Sentence enhancements should be used judiciously, and only when the enhancement is necessary to protect the public. And SB 82 will help ensure that in the case of theft, the punishment meets the crime.”

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State Sen. Nancy Skinner

East Bay State Sen. Nancy Skinner introduced two criminal justice reform bills this week, designed to reduce sentences for several categories of non-violent felonies.

    Skinner’s two bills were introduced in response to a new report from the state’s Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code. The committee, of which Skinner is a member, was appointed by Gov. Gavin Newsom and the Legislature to comprehensively examine California’s Penal Code and issue recommendations for reforming it.

   The first bill, SB 81, would reform the state’s use of sentencing enhancements, which add years to prison sentences,but, based on widespread research, fail to improve public safety. SB 81 would create a set of guidelines for courts so that sentence enhancements would no longer be applied to nonviolent offenses and certain other cases unless a judge determines that the enhancements are necessary to protect public safety. 

   The other bill, SB 82, would update a 150-year-old statute that has allowed prosecutors to elevate a petty theft charge into felony robbery. SB 82 would establish a clear distinction between theft and robbery for cases when no deadly weapon was used and no one was seriously injured. 

   “Serving on the Committee on the Revision of the Penal Code gave me the opportunity to engage with experts and advocates to identify common sense proposals for criminal justice reform.” Skinner said. “SB 81 sends a clear message to our courts: Sentence enhancements should be used judiciously, and only when the enhancement is necessary to protect the public. And SB 82 will help ensure that in the case of theft, the punishment meets the crime.”

  The vast majority of people in California prisons — 80% — are serving a sentence term that includes extra time added on by a sentencing enhancement. In some cases, the amount of prison time added due to sentencing enhancements is five to 10 years or more — longer than the term for the underlying conviction. The committee’s report also noted that “enhancements are applied disproportionately against people of color and people suffering from mental illness.”

   Research reviewed by the Penal Code Revision Committee showed no evidence that the proliferation of sentencing enhancements in California has made the state safer.

 

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