Sunday, June 19, 2016

Oakland Police: To Protect and Serve?

About a month ago, a friend who works for SFPD tweeted: "So work was crazy and shocking today and is going to be weird and different tomorrow." I looked at the news, and found that the San Francisco police chief had resigned after several scandals in the police force.

I didn't expect that Oakland would not just one-up San Francisco, but three-up them. It's actually astounding. Read it, and then come back here.

I'm going to say up front that I had a really low bar for the OPD. I've seen them in action (or inaction) many times, up close, and I really had very low expectations. What's the opposite of surpass? They have opposite-of-surpassed my very very low expectations.

When I was teaching, we had an attempted kidnapping at my school. A homeless person wandered onto the playground when the gate was open for the kindergartners to go home, and grabbed a fifth grader by his jacket, and tried to take him of campus. Fortunately, the student was smart enough to wiggle out of his jacket and escape. Several of us called the OPD emergency line, and they finally came... after 55 minutes. We weren't far from one of their stations; there was no reason it should have taken them that long.

Another time, some kids from the middle school next door came to our school with rocks and knives and started frightening and threatening our students. I called the middle school and they said they couldn't do anything and to call the police. I called the police and they said they couldn't do anything and to call the school.

Once my wallet got stolen from my classroom. The kids knew who did it, and the person used my credit card in over 15 different places. Two of the places had her on security camera and offered to give the footage to the police. I knew who had done it anyway. I called to make a police report and told them all that, and the officer I spoke to said, "What do you think we're going to do about it?"

My student who saw his friend murdered -- in front of him -- was taken by Oakland officers to the suspect's house, and asked my student to identify the suspect in full view of the suspect and his whole family so that my student and his family were then in severe danger. The next day they took my student -- who was 14 years old at the time -- in for questioning for hours without letting him have his mom there. As soon as a lawyer friend called to check up, he was released, but they kept him all night.

(By the way, that student's mother had called about the shooter the previous month and the officer told her that unless someone was dead they couldn't do anything. So they waited until a middle schooler was dead)

I was driving in West Oakland a few years ago when a man had very very bad road rage. Someone swerved into my lane, and I swerved so as not to get sideswiped and cut someone off. I knew I was cutting him off but I figured it was better than an actual accident. He became extremely angry, progressing to chasing me down at red lights, taking a baseball bat out of his trunk and swinging it, and then chasing me for miles, trying to pull in front of me and cause an accident. I called Oakland Police's emergency line and they put me on HOLD and then said there was nothing they could do unless he hurt me.

These are only the firsthand accounts that I have. This doesn't include the numerous reports I've heard from kids and parents about being mistakenly detained, because the description was "African American male" and they just found the closest one. This is not including my employees' stories about being pulled over for driving while black. This is not including all my coworkers' stories about calling because a parent with a gun came on campus (being told that if they didn't know the parent's first and last name, an officer wouldn't be sent).

All of the secondhand reports could be false. I wasn't there, I didn't hear it or see it, and it could be like a game of telephone. But the other ones... I was there for them.

The OPD has always had its problems. Right before I began working in Oakland, they had the "Riders," which is its own story. I've talked to cops who wanted to go in and make a difference, and they're now working elsewhere because the culture at the OPD was too much and there was no making a difference.

But three chiefs gone in nine days? And no chief now? That's impressive.