OAKLAND -- Opponents of both enacted and proposed gang injunctions in the city cheered Tuesday night when the public safety committee asked police and the city attorney to answer the community's sharpest worries about the injunctions' impact.
Councilmember and committee chair Pat Kernighan (Chinatown/Lake Merritt) asked Oakland police and City Attorney John Russo, who have partnered in both injunctions, to file a report addressing, among other things, how much the injunctions are costing, whether the people named in the injunctions have come under any added danger as a result and what the existing injunction's impacts have been thus far in North Oakland.
The announcement drew cheers from a crowd that packed the city council chambers Tuesday night, when 40 speakers signed up to decry the injunctions as a tool of police oppression that would not improve public safety. The group included civil rights attorneys, members of "a new generation of Black Panthers" and at least two men named in the injunction, who both have criminal records but said they've been staying out of trouble.
Alex Katz, a spokesman for Russo, said in an interview Wednesday that the city attorney is glad for the chance to again address widely spread misinformation about the injunctions.
There are two injunctions: a court-approved one in North Oakland naming 15 adults and a pending one in Fruitvale naming 40 people. Both establish curfews and forbid proven gang members from associating with each other, among other behaviors.
The actions differ from those established elsewhere in California in several ways, Katz said. Most importantly, they require the city to prove each person named is a gang member with "clear and convincing" evidence, a burden of proof slightly less strict than is required for a criminal case, but stronger than in most civil suits.
The goal, according to Katz, is to pre-emptively address concerns about racial profiling commonly raised by looser injunctions that give police more discretion -- in Oakland, police can only apply the injunctions' rules to adults who've had their day in court and been proven to be gang members.
Further, Katz said, opponents of the injunction have falsely told local youths that the injunction will target them, when in fact nobody under 18 has been named as a target in either lawsuit.
Critics at the committee meeting said the injunctions undermine public relations with the police department, polarize the community and do little to solve the crime problem. However, police spokeswoman Holly Joshi said, the idea for the injunctions came from the communities' discussions with Problem Solving Officers, a popular Measure Y-funded program that was suspended after police layoffs last year but reinstated this month.
In meetings with PSOs, Joshi said, residents and business owners had said they fear for their lives because of rampant gang activity, asking for new solutions to the problem. The idea for the injunctions, Joshi said, was one result.
Kernighan's office is asking for the report to come to the Public Safety Committee meeting scheduled for Feb. 22. The court hearing on the proposed Fruitvale injunction is planned for Feb. 16.
To see documents of evidence Russo's office has posted online, go to www.oaklandcityattorney.org.