Letter to Oakland Leaders: Maintain Civilian Control of Citizens' Police Review Board

Dear Mayor Quan and Oakland City Council:

As a long term resident of Oakland, and as President of the National Lawyers Guild San Francisco Bay Area Chapter ("NLG SF Bay"), I strongly urge you to follow through with your commitment to the people of Oakland, in 2009-2010 as a city council member, while a candidate for mayor, and in your 2011 budget proposal, to maintain strong civilian monitoring and control of the Oakland Police Department ("OPD"). Now more than ever, it is important that the people in Oakland have effective control of the police who serve them.

The NLG SF Bay joins with the broad coalition of community groups and civil rights organizations to encourage you to continue to seek additional funds to follow through on the plan adopted by the city council and mayor in 2009-2010 and hire ten civilian auditors and intake personnel to work in the Citizens Police Review Board (CPRB). In order to ensure effective civilian control of the police, the auditors and intake staff cannot operate inside the OPD, the agency they are supposed to hold accountable. The CPRB must be independent and hold adequate enforcement power.

Staying true to your past commitments to the people of Oakland will help to ensure that the City and the Police Department are accountable to the people of Oakland. As you yourself have often pointed out, 85% of OPD officers are not city residents. Due to decades of police killings and police brutality, too many people in Oakland fear the police instead of trusting them. Recent police killings in Oakland include the shootings of Raheim Brown, Derrick Jones, Oscar Grant, Andrew Moppin, and Gary King. Although not all of these killings were by OPD officers (some were shot by OUSD police or BART police), people in Oakland have again and again demanded that the police from all agencies operating in the city be held accountable for their actions.

While the NLG SF Bay has long supported strong public employee unions, in this situation, there is a compelling financial benefit to ensuring civilian control of the police, because, as we understand, the civilian staff working in the CPRB will be doing more effective quality work, at a significant savings to the city when compared to the cost of dedicating full time OPD officers to monitor each other. It makes no sense to continue a duplicative and confusing system of having an Internal Affairs Department housed within OPD, and a Citizen Police Review Board.

The NLGSF Bay has been monitoring and challenging OPD misconduct for decades, through its Legal Observer program and legal advocacy efforts. The NLGSF Bay was a co-sponsor of the People's Hearing On Racism and Police Violence, held February 19-20 at an Oakland middle school. Panels of jurists and hundreds of people in attendance heard testimony from witnesses who have been harmed by police racism and violence. The jurists at the People's Hearing questioned governmental compliance with the Convention on the Elimination of all forms of Racial Discrimination, and the International Convention of Civil and Political Rights, human rights treaties which, having been adopted, are, according to the Constitution, "the supreme law of the land." On August 29, 2010, California adopted ACR 129, to publicize these treaties and submit reports on compliance to the U.S. Department of State and to UN Committees administering the treaties. Only a strong, independent CPRB can effectively monitor and reduce human rights violations by OPD.

We urge you to stay true to your commitments and serve the people of Oakland by ensuring civilian control of the police. Please use your power as mayor to ensure a fully staffed CPRB that is completely independent of the OPD. If you have questions and/or seek additional support in this effort, do not hesitate to contact us.

Sincerely,

R. Michael Flynn
Chapter President