Based on the most recent report issued by federal monitor Robert Warshaw, the Oakland Police Department will most likely require additional monitoring, even as it approaches compliance with the Negotiated Settlement Agreement, now in its 11th year.
No other city in the United States has required this length of time to bring its police department into compliance with a federal consent decree.
It is indisputable that the city of Oakland has lacked the ability to hold its police department accountable to the public it is sworn to protect and serve, and this inadequacy has led to the expenditure of many millions of dollars in costly lawsuits, monitoring and consultants -- resources that might have been used to hire additional police officers or meet other critical needs
The Coalition for Police Accountability, composed of Oakland residents, formed to address this crisis and has drafted a ballot measure to amend the City Charter to create a Public Safety Oversight Commission (PSOC).
This initiative is being sponsored by City Council Public Safety Committee Chair Noel Gallo and will be discussed at its meeting 6 p.m. Tuesday at Oakland City Hall.
Currently, the city administrator manages the personnel matters of the Oakland Police Department along with every other city department. This authority is granted by the city's charter. This initiative will transfer authority to discipline officers found to have violated policy to the PSOC.
The PSOC will also make budget and policy recommendations to the mayor and City Council for implementation.
This structure is based on the police commission model in Los Angeles and San Francisco. The PSOC would consolidate the staff of the existing Citizens Police Review Board and Community Policing Advisory Board, so no additional taxation is sought. The mayor and City Council members will retain authority to make final decisions concerning the budget, policies, major program initiatives and selections of the police chief.
The Oakland Police Officers Association believes that police do not need civilian oversight, that they can adequately police themselves and for decades the city's leadership has deferred to this view. The result is clear: OPD's failure to adhere to the terms of an agreement to complete reforms within five years reveals an ingrained resistance to change that has prolonged noncompliance more than 11 years.
The solution we propose protects reforms and best practices using Oakland citizens instead of expensive federal court monitors to oversee structural change in OPD policy, practice and fiscal management.
If the city's residents and leaders do not install adequate civilian oversight of OPD, we may find ourselves back to the future with ongoing expensive lawsuits and misconduct settlements after the NSA is concluded.
These issues are critical. Neglecting the need to create adequate local mechanisms of police oversight for so many years has resulted in massive, prolonged expenses that Oakland simply can't afford. The City Council owes it to the residents, its constituents, to allow them to choose in November whether or not to adopt this long-overdue corrective measure.
Susan Shawl is a former member of Oakland's Civilian Police Review Board. Robert Oliver is a former member of the Oakland Police Department. They are both Oakland residents.