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Will an Independent Police Oversight Commission Make the November Ballot in Oakland?




The Oakland City Council, operating under the cloud of a continuing police child sex abuse scandal, is set to decide July 19 whether to place a measure on the November ballot to create a civilian police oversight commission. 


At issue is not only whether the measure will go on the ballot but also whether the ballot proposal will create a commission that will be sufficiently independent of the influence of the police union and the city administration, which have been accused of undermining police discipline and accountability for many years.


In a letter to city officials, the Coalition for Police Accountability urged the council to create an independent police commission.


“The community is especially committed to the core principle that the commission must be independent,” said Larry White, who signed the letter for the coalition.


“There is a universal perception that if commissioners are directly appointed by elected officials, they will owe allegiance to and be susceptible to influence from those who appointed them, and to that extent, they will not function independently.”


In addition, the coalition wants the commission to be separate from the City Attorney’s Office, which has repeatedly lost police discipline hearings, resulting in the rehiring of officers who had been fired.


“We are … convinced that the commission must be served by legal counsel that is not part of the City Attorney’s office, as is the case currently with our Citizens’ Police Review Board,” according to the letter.


A major question will be how members of the commission will be selected. A compromise proposal would allow the mayor to appoint three of seven members of the commission.


However, the coalition is arguing that in the wake of the present police scandal, such as compromise is not necessary.


The coalition’s proposal is that the mayor and council members would appoint a selection panel, which in turn would interview and select a diverse commission.


“No individual would be appointed directly by a councilmember or the mayor and would have no allegiance to any of them—that is the way to have a commission that is independent,” said Rashidah Grinage of the coalition.


In a following issue, the Post will feature Councilmember Dan Kalb’s promise to the community to support an oversight commission.




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