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Kaplan Proposes Law to Protect Police Commissioners From Official ‘Intimidation and Harassment’

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Reacting to reports that the City Administration secretly spent $50,000 to hire an outside contractor to investigate a member of the Oakland Police Commission, City President Rebecca Kaplan is proposing an ordinance that reaffirms that the City Charter gives investigative author-ity solely to the Police Commission and the City Council.

The proposed ordinance “reiterates the importance of an independent police commission and that neither the City Administrator nor the Chief of Police are authorized to engage in any action against commissioners, nor are they authorized to assume the powers granted to the Council, the Ethics Commission or the Police Commission.”

This conflict between the authority of the council and the administraor authority has been brewing for a while, focusing on repeated moves by the Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick and the City Administrator Sabrina Landreth against Oakland Police Commission Vice Chair Ginale Harris.

“Several meetings ago, I requested a copy of the contract between the City Administration and the outside project investigator who apparently was hired to investigate a police commissioner without notice to council, without a vote of council,” said Kaplan, speaking at Tuesday’s Public Safety Committee meeting.

This administrative action “was felt by police commission members as intimidating and harassment of them,” said Kaplan.

She never received the copy of the contract from the City Administrator but was eventually given a copy this week by a blogger, known as Hyphenated-Republic (hyphenatedrepublic.com), who had obtained it through a Public Records Act request to the city.

The contract confirms that the administrator in November 2018 hired a company to investigate “a specifically named member of the police commission,” Kaplan said.

“I believe that what was done was illegal,” she said.

“The charter of the City of Oakland states that it is the City Council that has the power to remove a commissioner for misconduct,” said Kaplan.  “I don’t see any authority anywhere for the city administrator to independently decide to undertake an investigation.”

In a memo accompanying the proposed ordinance, Kaplan noted that Measure LL, which estab-lished the police commission, specifically quoted the National Association for Civilian Oversight of Law Enforcement about the key importance of creating a commission with “independence from the executive branch of government.”

According to the City Charter, as quoted in the memo, “The City Council may remove members of the commission for cause as provided in Section 601 of the charter, or members of the commission may be removed by a majority vote of the commission, only for conviction of a felony, conviction of a misdemeanor involving moral turpitude, a material act of dishonesty, fraud, or other act of moral turpitude, substantial neglect of duty (and) gross misconduct in office.”

A more recent incident involving an attempt to remove Harris took place in November 2019 when OPD Chief Anne Kirkpatrick complained about Harris to Police Commission Chair Regina Jackson by phone and email.  In the email dated Nov. 19, Kirkpatrick mentioned an “anony-mous” call to internal Affairs concerning a verbal dispute between Harris and an administrator at her child’s school in San Francisco.

“While Harris’ style is more ‘sharp’ than some, her observations have often been proven to be accurate This sort of treatment feels like bullying,” said Jackson in an email to the Oakland Post.

“The Police Commission was voter approved by 83 percent of the citizens of Oakland,” Jackson continued.  “We are volunteers seeking to understand and improve structures and policies in order to support OPD in being more emotionally intelligent and transparent in their accountability to communities they serve. We take our jobs seriously and have been resisted since we started.”

This latest incident, which led to coverage by the Bay Area media, predated the City Administrator’s hiring of the investigator by one year and involved different allegations.

The city administration also has filed two or three Public Ethics Commission complaints against Harris, and she was exonerated in all these cases, according to Commissioner Henry Gage.

“The question of who investigates the commission is an important one,” Gage said. “We don’t want someone who is too close to the police department to turn around and investigate the commission.”

“The administration should be on the side of increased police oversight,” he said.

The criticisms of Harris “seem very trivial,” said civil rights attorney Dan Siegel, who is repre-senting Harris.

“The city administration does not have the authority under the charter to be investigating members of the police commission,” said Siegel. “It does not seem like the City Administrator is justified in dealing with this like she is an employee.”

Representatives of the City Attorney and the City  Administrator who attended the committee meeting said they didn’t have the information to be able to comment on the issue.

This conflict over the police commission reflects a broader problem: the city administration ignores, subverts or buries City Council decisions that the administration does not like, according to Rashidah Grinage of the Coalition for Police Accountability.

“Basically, Oakland is replicating Washington, D.C.,” said Grinage.  “We have an administration that basically thumbs its nose at the City Council and decides what decisions it wants to implement.”

“Once something passes the City Council, it goes into a black hole. It is really quite astonishing,” she said.

The decision on Kaplan’s proposed ordinance was postponed to the Tuesday, Feb. 11 Public Safety Committee meeting, to give the City Attorney a chance to look at the proposal.

Kaplan Proposes Law to Protect Police Commissioners

From Official ‘Intimidation and Harassment’

Activism

Collaboration Key to Anti-Trafficking Efforts

According to District Attorney Lori Frugoli, community education is paramount in the work of the coalition. Student, parent, and teacher education is also something that MCCEHT strongly supports through the PROTECT program, coordinated with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). MCCEHT member Marlene Capra has worked with MCOE and the 3 Strands Global Foundation to keep efforts to stop human trafficking in the spotlight and teach residents and school educators about the realities of human trafficking.

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Many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family.
Many human trafficking victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family.

Local work t stop human exploitation coordinated through DA’s Office

Courtesy of Marin County

According to the Federal Bureau of Investigation, the North Bay region and San Francisco are among the top sex trafficking areas in the United States. As the co-chair organization of the Marin County Coalition to End Human Trafficking (MCCEHT), the Marin County District Attorney’s Office is addressing the problem and working with partnering nonprofits and agencies to increase public awareness, prosecute those who commit the crimes, and put a halt to all types of slavery.

On Jan. 11, the Marin County Board of Supervisors passed a resolution to proclaim the month of January as National Slavery & Human Trafficking Prevention Month. Jan. 11 happened to be Human Trafficking Awareness Day as well. Video of the presentation is on the County website (skip ahead to agenda item #4, Consent Calendar A).

The DA’s staff has worked closely with key stakeholders to make sure the red-flag warnings of human trafficking are widely known, even using advertisements at bus stops to urge people to speak up and report potential exploitation.

According to District Attorney Lori Frugoli, community education is paramount in the work of the coalition. Student, parent, and teacher education is also something that MCCEHT strongly supports through the PROTECT program, coordinated with the Marin County Office of Education (MCOE). MCCEHT member Marlene Capra has worked with MCOE and the 3 Strands Global Foundation to keep efforts to stop human trafficking in the spotlight and teach residents and school educators about the realities of human trafficking.

A new nonprofit created by Capra arose from her community work. SpeakSAFE, with SAFE meaning Save Adolescents from Exploitation, assists with local fundraising for educational efforts and has provided online learning opportunities during the pandemic.

“With our coalition, the DA’s Office [has] been extremely supportive and helpful in partnering on our work and connecting us with law enforcement, service providers and community members,” Capra said. “It really is all hands on deck, and their involvement has been pivotal. Our work has always been a priority with them in supporting our youth.”

Frugoli said human trafficking is difficult to detect and rarely reported. Many victims are moved from county to county or state to state, making the trafficker harder to follow and the victim feel isolated and unfamiliar with surroundings.

“Many victims are reluctant to report the crime as they are genuinely in fear for their life or that of their family,” Frugoli said. “Our coalition’s mission is to develop our regional collaborative approach to end all forms of human trafficking. We’ve focused our efforts on education and outreach advocacy. We have turned several cases over to state and federal authorities because the conduct occurred over multiple jurisdictions.”

Cecilia Zamora, Executive Director of the Latino Council and Co-Chair of MCCEHT, emphasized the need to have the coalition’s work be grounded in multicultural best practices, ensuring that the messaging and resources are shared with our thriving Latino communities across the county.

“We do this,” she said, “by successfully utilizing our nonprofit members as partners in the education and outreach to their own constituents.”

The Human Trafficking Prevention Education and Training Act (AB 1227) became California law in 2017 and provides a basis for localized anti-trafficking work. The MCCEHT Steering Committee meets monthly. MCCEHT’s quarterly online meeting on Jan. 19 will feature guest speaker Antonia Lavine of the San Francisco Collaborative Against Human Trafficking and County Supervisor Judy Arnold. The videoconference begins at 11 a.m., Spanish translation will be provided. Participation details are on the MCCEHT website.

Learn more about local anti-trafficking efforts via the PROTECT website or call the DA’s Office at (415) 473-6450.

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Activism

Kaiser Mental Health Therapists Strike for Racial Justice on MLK Day

“People of color don’t stop being people of color when negotiations are done,” said Jessica Dominguez, the founder and lead clinician at Kaiser Permanente’s La Clínica. “Racism within the Kaiser system does not end when we ratify a contract. These issues are deeply embedded in this system and will not simply go away. And it is not enough to denounce racism. We must be anti-racist… We will not give up and we will not give in because mental health is a social justice issue.”

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Striking Kaiser workers march for racial justice. Photo courtesy of the National Union of Healthcare Workers web site.
Striking Kaiser workers march for racial justice. Photo courtesy of the National Union of Healthcare Workers web site.

By Matthew Artz

Refusing to let Kaiser pay lip service to racial justice while failing to provide culturally responsive health care for communities of color, mental health clinicians at Kaiser Permanente’s Richmond and Oakland offices held a one-day strike on Martin Luther King Jr. Day.

Nearly 100 psychologists, social workers, addiction counselors and marriage and family therapists picketed outside Kaiser’s Oakland Medical Center at 3600 Broadway and marched through Downtown Oakland, chanting “Therapist! Power!” on their way to a rally outside Kaiser’s corporate headquarters in the Ordway Building at 1 Kaiser Plaza.

“This is my ‘bus boycott.’ This is my ‘sitting at the lunch counter’… This is what MLK would have done,” Sabrina Chaumette, a social worker, who is one of only five Black clinicians on Kaiser’s adult team in Oakland, told colleagues and allies during the rally.

Speaking on the picket line, Assemblymember Mia Bonta, D-Alameda, told the striking clinicians, “When you have people and workers here who want the dignity of celebrating the most sacred and important day in our country… I say, ‘be anti-racist, Kaiser.’”

Clinicians in Oakland and Richmond voted nearly unanimously to strike after Kaiser executives broke their promise to make Martin Luther King Jr. Day a paid holiday in 2022.

In response, Kaiser CEO Greg Adams announced that Kaiser will treat the King holiday as a paid holiday for all Kaiser employees in 2023, but Kaiser executives have still refused to work with clinicians to address structural racism within the HMO, which has resulted in the departure of clinicians of color, further depriving patients of culturally competent care.

Kaiser has rejected proposals aimed at improving recruitment of therapists of color and bilingual therapists, as well as addressing structural racism within the organization.

“Kaiser pays a lot of lip service to racial justice, but when it comes to taking action, it’s always ‘wait till next year,’” said Chaumette, whose schedule is so overbooked that new patients must wait four months for an appointment. “If Kaiser can’t even keep its promise about honoring Martin Luther King Jr. Day this year, how can we trust that it will ever take action to address structural racism in its ranks?”

Besides Bonta, participating elected officials included Alameda County Supervisor Nate Miley and Oakland City Council members Sheng Thao, Nikki Fortunato-Bas and Dan Kalb.

According to a 2019 report from the Substance Abuse and Mental Health Services Administration, Black adults in the U.S are significantly more likely than their white counterparts to report persistent symptoms of emotional distress, such as sadness, hopelessness and feeling like everything is an effort. Despite the need for mental health care, the same report found only one in three Black adults receives it.

At Kaiser, a recent survey of more than 1,500 Kaiser employees represented by the National Union of Healthcare Workers found that 62% of non-white workers reported experiencing racism on the job and 37% of all workers surveyed reported witnessing racism toward their patients.

Additionally, 41% of all respondents reported having patients who struggled to access or maintain treatment because they could not be seen by a culturally competent provider.

“We are living in a time of reckoning, a time when people of color are no longer content with the status quo,” said Jessica Dominguez, the founder and lead clinician at Kaiser Permanente’s La Clínica. “Because (the) status quo has never included people of color. Status quo is white supremacy.”

In response to claims from Kaiser that the clinicians were “weaponizing” the King holiday because they’re bargaining for a new contract, Dominguez said that “structural racism is baked into the Kaiser system.

“People of color don’t stop being people of color when negotiations are done,” Dominguez said. “Racism within the Kaiser system does not end when we ratify a contract. These issues are deeply embedded in this system and will not simply go away. And it is not enough to denounce racism. We must be anti-racist… We will not give up and we will not give in because mental health is a social justice issue.”

Matthew Artz works for the National Union of Healthcare Workers, a member-led movement representing 15,000 healthcare workers, including more than 4,000 Kaiser mental health clinicians in California and Hawaii.

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Activism

S.F. Public Library Awarded $2 Million to Expand Services for Incarcerated Individuals

“Low literacy and limited access to information-rich networks continue to be chief contributors to the prison pipeline,” noted Tracie D. Hall, executive director of the American Library Association. “Research shows that increasing the literacy rates and strengthening the library and information access opportunities for detained and formerly detained individuals often correlates to successful rehabilitation and reentry.

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Reading a book in a library. (Photo courtesy of Marin County)
Reading a book in a library. (Photo courtesy of Marin County)

From the Mayor’s Office of Communication

Mayor London N. Breed announced a $2 million grant from the Andrew W. Mellon Foundation to support a collaboration between San Francisco Public Library (SFPL) and the American Library Association aimed at improving and expanding library services for incarcerated individuals both locally and nationally.

“For many who are incarcerated, access to information and resources through the library is a lifeline and critical to their rehabilitation process,” said Breed on Thursday. “I want to thank The Andrew W. Mellon Foundation for recognizing the pioneering work of this collaboration between San Francisco Public Library and the American Library Association, which will improve access to resources for incarcerated individuals nationwide.”

Co-led by SFPL’s Jail and Reentry Services team and the American Library Association (ALA), the Expanding Information Access for Incarcerated People initiative includes a comprehensive survey of existing models for library services to people in jails and prisons and a revision of outdated standards in collaboration with formerly incarcerated people and librarians.

Additionally, the project will involve the development of an interactive map that can be used to locate library services for incarcerated individuals nationwide and create a year-long virtual training series led by SFPL staff and other experts in the field.

Lastly, the project will pilot digital literacy trainings to support people in the process of reentry. The project will create three new positions at SFPL, an administrative position for grant fund distribution, a research analyst, and a librarian to provide support for the Jail and Reentry Services team.

“Little information is publicly available about the types of library services available to incarcerated people,” said City Librarian Michael Lambert. “This project will allow us to see where library services exist, where they can be better supported, and to provide that support through collaborations and training that will ultimately increase the amount of library services inside of jails, juvenile detention centers and prisons.

“Our justice-involved patrons deserve more equitable access to the full spectrum of library programs and collections,” Lambert said.

This project will have national visibility and share models for providing resources to people in jails and prisons across the country. To do this, SFPL will convene librarians and library staff providing services to the incarcerated population for a half-day meeting prior to the ALA 2022 conference in Wash., D.C.

Additionally, at the conference, ALA will host a hearing on the standards for library services in jails and prisons.

“Low literacy and limited access to information-rich networks continue to be chief contributors to the prison pipeline,” noted Tracie D. Hall, executive director of the American Library Association. “Research shows that increasing the literacy rates and strengthening the library and information access opportunities for detained and formerly detained individuals often correlates to successful rehabilitation and reentry.

“This grant will allow us to address some of the gaping information access needs of incarcerated people by identifying and improving existing services and growing new access points for library and information services. As a nationwide advocacy body, the American Library Association can help create standards and programming that hold weight with prison and jail administrations and influence library policy to better serve this community,” Hall said.

“For those who are incarcerated, access to literature can be the difference between rehabilitation or rearrest,” said San Francisco Sheriff Paul Miyamoto. “The Sheriff’s Office welcomes all programs that encourage education and support for opportunities upon release.”

Expanding Information Access for Incarcerated People will begin in the coming months pending Board of Supervisors approval. Mayor Breed will work with the Board of Supervisors to approve an Accept and Expend Ordinance to receive the funds.

The motion is expected to be heard at the Budget and Finance Committee in the coming months. Once the Ordinance passes, the Library can proceed with hiring staff to fulfill the roles outlined in the grant, which are additive to the Annual Salary Ordinance.

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