In the City of Oakland’s attempt to seat volunteers on its new, voter approved police commission, a flyer was posted on the city’s website. Read it carefully, I had to do a double take:
Applications Accepted Now
to oversee the Oakland Police Department
Must be an Oakland resident.
Must be at least 18 years old.
Formerly incarcerated individuals encouraged to apply.
Oakland city leaders, are you kidding me? You want to put ex-cons on a panel that oversees the Oakland Police Department? That oversees police policies and procedures? That will investigate police misconduct and recommend discipline? Furthermore, no current police officer, no current city of Oakland employee, no former Oakland police officer, and no current or former representative of a police officer labor union need apply? This is a recipe for disaster. A recipe for a mass exodus of city police officers, officers who have lead clean, decent, respectful, crime-free lives and taken an oath to protect and serve, not to commit crimes against people or property and spend time “incarcerated.” Please.
Take a lesson from the California State Legislature, if you will. When lawmakers are considering a public safety bill, they often turn to Assemblymembers Jim Cooper and Tom Lackey, both lawmakers with decades of law enforcement service. These two assemblymembers know what it’s like to put their lives on the line, how officers are trained and why officers do what they do during various calls. California legislators know the value of law enforcement insight. Because legislators have turned to Assemblymembers Cooper and Lackey for insight, they have steered bad bills to decent bills. How does having a criminal who has done something wrong and served time for it, on the commission give better insight? That person is going to make decisions about officers who have clean records, gone through psych-evaluations, the academy and extensive field training.
A highly qualified commission? Oakland, you are reaching low. You are sending a terrible message to your law enforcement officers. Don’t be surprise if they send a message back, by going to work for another city, county or the state. One that has respect for the job they do and knows better than to put those who break the law in power over those who enforce it.