Wednesday, November 9, 2011

The Police & The People

The Police & The People
Co-Chairs GP & Cat
ONYX Organizing Committee

In East Oakland yesterday, community, family and friends gathered for a vigil to mark the one year anniversary of the murder of Derrick Jones by the Oakland Police Department (OPD). The murder of Derrick “DD” Jones happened just days after the laughable sentence given to Johannes Mehserle for the murder of Oscar Grant. Following the sentencing on November 5th, OPD and other law enforcement agencies around the state were imbibed with a renewed sense of impunity; where the killing of unarmed Black, Brown and poor people were concerned. There was and continues to be a drastic increase in the number of officer involved shootings and murders yet no charges are being rendered. This is despite obvious instances of wrongdoing on the part of the police themselves.

Note the recent killing in San Francisco , by the SFPD in which they claimed Kenneth Harding shot himself in the neck, killing himself. A highly unlikely scenario. In another incident Oakland police shot at a 15 year old boy, in front of a Lucky's supermarket on Mac Arthur Blvd. And there are whispers among some citizens that Oakland police may be involved in some of the random unsolved violence taking place throughout the city.

It is more than mere coincidence that as more officers receive pink slips, more violence is perpetrated by rogue cops throughout the city and the Bay Area as a whole. Increased crime places increased pressure on city officials who are charged with keeping constituents safe. Creating an "unsafe" atmosphere gives a false impression that there is a necessity for more officers, when in fact, we may just need fewer adequately trained officers patrolling the streets. Or a reimagining of ways the people can keep their communities safe on their own. Bay area citizens in poor communities have enough stress to contend with, without the constant threat of trigger happy police officers feeling and acting as though they have a license to kill.

One of the grossest examples of police tyranny in recent history happened on October 25th when thousands of peaceful protestors took to the streets to protest the early morning raid on the Occupy Oakland camp. During the march and with little warning, the OPD in concert with 17 other police agencies from around the country open fire with tear gas and flash granades on the elderly, disabled, women and children, critically wounding and maiming many in the crowd.

Who is responsible for these rogue cops? The mayor of course. Whether Mayor Quan was here or not, she gave the order to take down the camp and the order to suppress the protestors. She may not have ordered them to use brute force but the history of OPD is clear. She essentially sent a pack of wolves into a sheep den and told them to play nice as she jetted off to Washington D.C.

The Oakland Police Department has a long history of heinous activity. And it has not gone unnoticed by the Feds. In 2003, the FBI investigated the department for allegations that the head of the Oakland Police Department’s Internal Affairs Division beat a drug suspect who later died and then ordered subordinate officers to lie about it. ( And of course there is the infamous Riders case, where Oakland Police Officers were accused and predictably cleared of allegations that included kidnapping, the beating of falsely arrested suspects, and submitting falsified police reports.

Mayor Quan should have known better.

Much more pressure needs to be put on the mayor's and the district attorney's offices to start bringing officers to justice swiftly and effectively for their heinous practices. Bay Area citizens deserve to know that the (in)justice system doesn't exclude law enforcement officials from its practices and policies. Or maybe we need to know that it does. Law enforcement officials must be made to understand that their actions will not continue to go unaddressed. As was evidenced in the streets two weeks ago, Bay area citizens are no longer willing to accept the staus quo of shoot first and ask questions later. Nor are we willing to continue to be the whipping posts of law enforcement. The citizenry will fight back.

If our Mayor can't control police then we need a new mayor. But that doesnt mean that will should join the forces of Don Perata, whose mayoral campaign was funded by the police and prison unions. And we need to be sure that whomever assumes the role of the new police chief has a clear understanding that Oakland is done with being brutalized by our police forces. It is definitely a time for change in Bay area law enforcement. But the question is what will the people do to bring about that change?

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