Police announced Thursday that the head of the Oakland Police Department homicide section will be transferred next year as part of a routine and mandated rotation of command staff.
Lt. Ersie Joyner III, a 17-year veteran of the department, will be transferred — along with three to six other lieutenants — in anticipation of his promotion to captain.
Commanders insisted that the move was routine and not related to the investigation into the slaying of journalist Chauncey Bailey. That investigation was supervised by Joyner along with more than a hundred other cases as commander of the section.
"Ersie Joyner is a well-respected, competent commander who will excel at any assignment," Assistant Chief Howard Jordan said.
Joyner will remain in the homicide section until February.
"I will give 110 percent," Joyner said. "I look forward to going to the patrol division — the backbone of the Police Department," he said. "But my heart will always be with the homicide section."
He expressed his faith in his successor, Lt. Brian Medeiros. "He is more than capable of carrying on the rich tradition of the section."
The news came the same day as a contentious forum meant to bridge the gap between the public confidence in the department's use of deadly force and police procedure. The meeting sparked long-simmering anger among the crowd that gathered on Thursday evening at City Hall for the Citizens' Police Review Board, a civilian police oversight agency for the city of Oakland that investigates complaints against police.
"There needs to be more accountability," Oakland resident Janet King said. "I support the officers, "... but I don't support them killing two unarmed men within the last year."
She was referring to the Sept. 15 shooting of 20-year-old Andrew Moppin-Buckskin by officers Hector Jimenez and Jessica Borello. Police said it was the second time Jimenez was involved in an incident involving an unarmed man. The investigation into the shooting is ongoing, and the officer is on paid leave.
The main source of the tension revolved around why police respond with deadly force, particularly in cases in which victims were found to be unarmed or were fleeing when officers discharged their weapons.
"Every situation is different," Sgt. Randy Pope said. "The suspect dictates what the officer does."
Police react to the level of threat the officer perceives, he said. They will use lethal force only to defend themselves or others who they believe are in imminent danger when they have no other alternative, Pope said. But, he added, they will not pause for alternatives when they believe that the threat is immediate and lethal.
No law, policy or rule requires police to be injured or killed before an officer can take action against individual, he said. "We force until we are able to gain control."
The commissioners struggled to keep control over the forum that was interrupted numerous times.
"We're operating on two different levels. The officers are talking about policy which does not jibe with the way you see things happening on the streets," board commissioner Tony Lawson told the two dozen or so people in the audience. "Your questions about specific issues will not be answered tonight. But that doesn't mean you won't be heard."
Oakland officers have been involved in eight shootings this year.
Cases are reviewed by multiple departments including Internal Affairs, an outside agency and the Alameda County district attorney's office. But no use of deadly force has ever been considered unjustified by officials, although numerous incidents have resulted in civil lawsuits.
Civil rights attorney Jim Chanin said in some cases the use of force was justified and others were not. Police departments, however, rarely admit officers were wrong.
"That would be refreshing," he said. "Until it happens, the community's faith in the process will suffer. People need to feel that someone cares."
Chanin was part of a legal team that handled a 2003 lawsuit alleging police misconduct.
As a result of the settlement, Oakland officers have to follow guidelines restricting how and when they can use force.
But speakers also complained about the lack of communication and transparency.
"There's always two sides to the story," said Oakland resident Kris Longoria. "And then there's the truth."