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Police Reform Measures: Possible Solutions for Vallejo

In an attempt to find the most promising solutions, the City Council has voted to conduct a citywide equity study that would help officials make meaningful decisions on which programs and services to fund amid the “defund the police” movement.

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Protestors with a sign that says abolish the police. Photo courtesy of Gabe Pierce via Unsplash

There is no magic solution to reforming a police department.

The city of Vallejo is learning that the hard way as it attempts to mend a police force that has killed 19 people since 2010 in the city of 120,000.

Moving forward, Vallejo will need to decide how to address not just the number of fatal interactions between the police and local residents, but also the broader issue of police-community relations and trust.

Three other Bay Area cities — Oakland, San Francisco and Richmond — have attempted reforming their police departments with approaches as varied as federal oversight to civilian commissions to community policing to bolstered social services.

At least some Vallejo leaders have taken note and seem particularly keen to apply the measures that build bridges rather than silos.

“The department needs an adequate command staff, which can help to change the culture,” said Vallejo Mayor Robert McConnell. “That culture change includes a respect for citizens, officers receiving the proper training, and learning how to apply the appropriate force when confronted.”

McConnell said he is confident the city is moving in the right direction when it comes to reforming the police force, “albeit the process is going slowly.”

Among the most promising reform measures, city leaders believe Vallejo might well benefit from a civilian-led police commission with an investigative agency that reports directly to the commission. Such oversight could bring real change to the department, especially if the Vallejo community has a voice in the process.

San Francisco and Oakland have powerful police commissions — and similarly powerful investigative agencies attached to those commissions. These commissions can impose officer discipline and even have the authority to fire their respective police chiefs.

Some activists, as well as many family members of those killed by Vallejo police, however, argue that a police commission doesn’t go far enough.

They argue that federal oversight is the only way to meaningfully reform Vallejo’s police force. That can be a long process. In Oakland, for example, the Police Department has been under federal oversight for more than 18 years with no end in sight.

Civil rights attorney James Chanin, who represented victims in “The Riders” case and helped secure the Negotiated Settlement Agreement that placed Oakland police under federal oversight, said reform efforts are moving in the right direction — although slowly.

“I would like to see (federal oversight) end with all the reforms met,” he said. “It was supposed to end within five years — with two additional years if needed. That would have been 2010 — we are a long way from 2010.”

Chanin said he hopes Oakland police will come into compliance by the end of 2022.

The civil rights lawyer said police reform is about political will.

“We tried with the city of Oakland. Settlements after settlements didn’t work,” said Chanin. “There was no political will to change so we went to the court instead.”

While some attorneys for the families of victims say they would like to see a federal monitor in Vallejo, that would require a court order or formal settlement, and in the absence of such an order it’s impossible to speculate what type of oversight a monitor might seek.

The city of Richmond and its efforts to connect police with residents may offer the most promising example for Vallejo. In Richmond, a neighborhood policing model adopted under former Police Chief Chris Magnus helped reduce crime and build a bridge between the Police Department and community.

Although it faces funding pressures, Richmond has used foot and bicycle patrols to put officers more in touch with community residents, and the results have been encouraging. Although homicide numbers, for example, are showing an uptick, they remain well below pre-beat policing levels.

Vallejo has made some small steps along this path. Through its Operation PEACE (Predictive Enforcement and Community Engagement) project, begun last year under Chief Shawny Williams, the city has sought to improve interactions between police and the community, using bike patrols and other measures. And last year, the city council agreed to hire an interim police auditor to review internal police investigations. City officials are also weighing an outside project called Advance Peace that works on a variety of levels to reduce gun violence.

These steps are all encouraging, but it seems clear that police-community relations remain characterized by community distrust of law enforcement and an us-versus-them attitude among officers. The Vallejo Police Officers Association did not respond to a request for comments on this series.

Perhaps the greatest reason for hope lies in the recognition that stronger measures are needed.

In an attempt to find the most promising solutions, the City Council has voted to conduct a citywide equity study that would help officials make meaningful decisions on which programs and services to fund amid the “defund the police” movement.

Vallejo City Councilwoman Pippin Dew pushed for the survey.

“We need to understand how these systemic biases exist. If we can understand it, we can change it,” said Dew, saying it doesn’t make sense to re-allocate city money, especially from the police budget, without having a plan on where to direct the funding.

Dew said she believes “defunding the police” should be more about placing money in “comprehensive, robust, early education centers” that are affordable and located in places that families can reach by walking.

“For me, it’s about coming at that approach to reduce crime,” Dew added. “I would love this to be a long-term approach to defunding the police. That’s where we start.”

Bay Area

Sept. 11, 2001, 20 years later: ‘Remembrance’ held aboard the USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

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U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment: Sgt. Tristan Garivay, Sgt. Michael Her, Cpl. Adrian Chavez and Cpl. Quentavious Leeks. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, Commanding Officer, 23rd Marine Regiment. Photo by Russell Moore, USS Hornet Sea, Air & Space Museum, Community Events & Outreach

The USS Hornet Sea, Space & Air Museum, moored at the City of Alameda, hosted a “Remembrance” ceremony of the events of Sept. 11, 2001, on board the ship on the 20th anniversary, Sept. 11, 2021.

The ceremony recognized the impact and consequences of the series of airline hijackings and suicide attacks committed on 2001 by 19 militants associated with the Islamic extremist group al-Queda against targets in New York City and Wash., D.C. Nearly 3,000 people died that day and 6,000 were injured.  This was the deadliest terrorist attack on American soil in U.S. history. 

The ceremony aboard the USS Hornet began with the presentation of the colors by the U.S. Marine Corps Honor Guard, 23rd Marine Regiment. (Pictured above.)

Leon Watkins, co-founder of The Walking Ghosts of Black History, was the Master of Ceremonies. He spoke about the extensive death and destruction which triggered the enormous U.S. effort to combat terrorism.

Daniel Costin, a special agent with the Federal Bureau of Investigation, spoke of the lasting impact of 9/11 terrorists attack on first responders. He recounted incidents where first responders rushed into the scenes of the attacks, many at the sacrifice of their own lives. More than 400 police officers and firefighters were killed that day: 343 members of the New York City Fire Department and 71 members of their law enforcement agencies.

Quintin Jones, Colonel, USMC, commanding officer of the 23rd Marine Regiment, spoke about the recovery efforts at the Pentagon following the terrorists’ attack where 125 people perished. He reflected on the actions of three first responders who recovered the U.S. Marine Corps flag from the commandant of the Marine Corps’ office at the Pentagon. This flag was still standing after the attack. It was a symbol of America’s resolve.

At the end of the formal presentations, the Marine Corps Wreath Bearers went to the fantail of the Hornet. After the playing of ‘Taps,’ they tossed a wreath into the San Francisco Bay to give final honors.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Bay Area

Castlemont High Coach Launches “Books Before Balls” Project

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

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Tamikia McCoy/Photo Courtesy of Tanya Dennis

 

Michael Franklin

Tamikia McCoy, an Oakland Athletic League phenomena in 1991 – 1993, dominated girls’ basketball, becoming a walk-on at Grambling to win the Southern Western Conference of 1993-1994.  

For two years, she played with the Running Rebels, an Oakland all-star basketball team.  After earning many degrees, McCoy returned to her beloved Castlemont as Coach in 2019, and quickly realized a responsibility to her students beyond winning games and created Books Before Balls.

Another Castlemont alumni of that same year was not as fortunate as McCoy.  Like McCoy, Michael Franklin was a basketball beast.  He was awarded first team All-City for the Oakland Athletic League 1993-1994 and was Northern California’s All American that same year. 

Franklin continues to hold the record for scoring 43 points in one quarter in a game against McClymonds. Tragically, he was killed Dec. 14, 2016, at a gas station at 98th and Edes in Oakland.

Coach McCoy’s concerns about violence inspired her to create the Books Before Balls Project to address academic and social gaps that are working against student success. 

“For violence and bullying to cease, the underlying reasons have to be addressed,” said McCoy, “Food scarcity may seem unrelated to violence, but it’s a signal that economic opportunities are lacking, which leads to trauma and desperation.”  

McCoy is also concerned that Castlemont’s library was closed and is spearheading a campaign to reopen and revitalize the library.  

She has joined with Oakland Frontline Healers and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkids movement to address issues of food scarcity, lack of economic opportunity, lack of resources and lack of support for students entering college.  

Together, they are creating a model that is duplicatable and hopefully will be adopted at other OUSD schools. Oakland Frontline Healers are a collaborative of 30 nonprofits and doctors offering services, food, and resources to mitigate the effects of COVID-19.  

Players and families will be tested weekly by Umoja Health before games, and the COVID-19 vaccine will be available for those that wish to take it.

With a grant from the Department of Violence Prevention, Building Opportunity for Self-Sufficiency (BOSS) and Adamika Village#stopkillingourkidsmovement, are honoring Michael Franklin’s life by hosting a series of “Mike’s Knights” Basketball Tournaments at Castlemont High School beginning the last Friday in November.  

Participants will be paid stipends to participate in the league or cheer squad and will be tutored and mentored during the tournaments, which will include family forums to discuss ending violence in East Oakland.

Books Before Balls invites the community to donate to the organization to support the Lady Knights’ basketball team, the success program that funds first year college students, or join their initiative to reopen the library. 

 For more information contact:  Ladyknights2019@yahoo.com For youth interested in joining the eight-week tournament contact Adamika Village at adamikaadamika@gmail.com 

Together with school leaders and administrators, and with the support of Oakland Frontline Healers, Books Before Balls is staging a “Student’s Against Bullying” event Friday, Sept. 17 from 3 p.m. – 5 p.m. at Youth Uprising, 8711 MacArthur Blvd. in Oakland.

The Oakland Post’s coverage of local news in Alameda County is supported by the Ethnic Media Sustainability Initiative, a program created by California Black Media and Ethnic Media Services to support community newspapers across California.

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Activism

Bay Area Officials Condemn Texas Abortion Restrictions, U.S. Supreme Court Ruling

Bay Area and state officials lambasted both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas state government after the high court declined to approve an emergency petition to stop a Texas law banning abortions six weeks or more after conception.

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Law Books/Clarisse Meyer Via Unsplash

Bay Area and state officials lambasted both the U.S. Supreme Court and the Texas state government after the high court declined to approve an emergency petition to stop a Texas law banning abortions six weeks or more after conception.
Texas Gov. Greg Abbott signed the law, Senate Bill 8, in May, but it went into effect September 1 at 12:01 a.m. local time.
Late that night, the court issued a 5-4 ruling, with Chief Justice John Roberts joining the court’s three liberal justices in the minority, declining to rule on the petition, which was filed by Texas abortion clinics.
The court could still strike the law down in the coming days as unconstitutional, but abortion rights activists expressed skepticism that the court would do so after letting the law go into effect in the first place.
The law effectively overwrites the precedent set in 1973 by the court’s ruling in the case of Roe v. Wade by preventing pregnant people from seeking an abortion after their sixth week of pregnancy, a time when many people are not yet even aware that they are pregnant.
Rep. Barbara Lee, D-Oakland, called SB 8 “one of the most severe attacks on reproductive rights” in U.S. history.
“SB 8 is an appalling violation of human rights and reproductive rights, and will put the health of millions of people in jeopardy, especially for low-income people and people of color,” Lee said in a statement.
SB 8 does not make exemptions for pregnancies resulting from rape or incest and allows people to sue doctors, medical staff and even a patient’s ride to a medical clinic if they suspect the patient has had an abortion after six weeks.
Plaintiffs also are not required to show damages or have a connection to the patient to file a lawsuit under SB 8, and are entitled to $10,000 and their legal fees if a judge rules in their favor.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco, said the law constructed a “vigilante bounty system” that could keep people from seeking reproductive health care of any kind.
“This provision is a cynical, backdoor attempt by partisan lawmakers to evade the Constitution and the law to destroy not only a woman’s right to health care but potentially any right or protection that partisan lawmakers target,” Pelosi said in a statement.
Vice President Kamala Harris echoed that sentiment.
“This decision is not the last word on Roe v. Wade, and we will not stand by and allow our nation to go back to the days of back-alley abortions,” Harris said in a statement. “We will not abide by cash incentives for virtual vigilantes and intimidation for patients.”
Jodi Hicks, the CEO and president of Planned Parenthood Affiliates of California, argued in a statement that the Supreme Court’s decision will inevitably lead to other states passing their own abortion restrictions.
Nearly a dozen states have already passed so-called “abortion trigger laws” that would fully outlaw the practice in the first and second trimesters as soon as Roe v. Wade is overturned.
“The inaction by the Supreme Court on a blatantly unconstitutional ban has taken away a crucial right to millions of people in Texas and without a doubt threatens their ability to make decisions about their body, their lives, and their futures,” Hicks said.
On September 2, Pelosi announced that the House of Representatives will formally take up legislation to codify abortion rights in federal law instead of relying on the court decision alone.
However, that bill, the Women’s Health Protection Act, is unlikely to find enough support in the U.S. Senate to reach President Joe Biden’s desk for a signature.
Biden said in a statement on September 1 that SB 8 “blatantly violates” the decision in Roe v. Wade and pledged to defend abortion rights across the country, but did not elaborate on what that might entail.
California Assemblywoman Buffy Wicks, D-Oakland, argued in a Twitter post that the purpose of SB 8 is clear: “to intimidate women (and) providers.”
“It cannot stand,” she said.

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