November 24, 2020

Oakland’s police commission, auditor remain at odds over report


OAKLAND — The Oakland Police Commission and the city auditor’s office remain at odds over a list of recommendations in a recent audit and are in sharp disagreement over a July 16 deadline that was missed.

Police Commission Chair Regina Jackson noted at the commission’s July 23 meeting that the commission has complied with several recommendations and provided a list of those it will take up. But City Auditor Courtney Ruby said it was “outrageous” and “a blatant affront” to Oakland voters that the audit deadline came and went.

“It is outrageous that the police commission failed to comply with the July 16 deadline, despite citizens’ protests, and still has not provided my office with a plan to implement the audit recommendations,” Ruby said in a statement.

Oakland City Auditor Courtney Ruby. (Courtesy of Oakland City Auditor’s Office) 

“This is a blatant affront to the Oakland residents who voted to create civilian oversight to hold the Oakland Police Department accountable and yet the commission fails to be accountable to an independent audit the people mandated,” she continued.

“A measure to increase the police commission’s authority is on the ballot this November — I encourage every resident to read the comprehensive audit and demand the commission first be in compliance with their original mandate passed by the voters in 2016.”

On June 25 and again on July 21, Ruby, in her office’s email newsletter, exhorted Oakland voters to contact the commission concerning the deadline. Ruby listed the links to the audit report of the commission and the Community Police Review Agency and the 13 recommendations. Ruby also said the commission was resisting oversight and accountability in an op-ed that appeared in the San Francisco Chronicle.

The city charter requires those being audited to respond within 10 days. However, the auditor extended that to 45 days for the commission because it is a public body.

In the June audit, Ruby found that the commission got off to a rocky start and has been hampered by a lack of planning, administrative support and problems in its investigations. The audit cited 13 key requirements and 23 others called for in the city charter and municipal code that the commission has not implemented. The audit covered the two-year period through December 2019.

Jackson responded with a sharply worded critique of Ruby. “The auditor’s concerted efforts to attempt to embarrass our work in email newsletters and op-eds are shameful,” Jackson said in a text. “I told her that we would address this work in October” at a retreat.

“We are a group of volunteers who need a retreat-type scenario to focus solely on the in-depth, multi-level work plan she (Ruby) requested in a short six weeks. She has already mentioned that we have too much work, yet identifies a short turnaround such as this,” Jackson said.

The audit is required by Measure LL, approved by voters in November 2016, which created the police commission. The police commission oversees the Oakland Police Department’s policies and practices and the community police review agency, which investigates police misconduct and recommends discipline.

Jackson said the commission has accomplished quite a bit, including adding senior staff, reviewing the police budget, evaluating the director of Oakland’s civilian police review agency, plus reviewing and approving its work.

According to Jackson, the commission does plan to take up recommendations from the audit, including:

  • Developing a budget proposal;
  • Coming up with a formal process to review the police department’s policies;
  • Ensuring the city provides training online for the commissioners;
  • Finalizing evaluation rules for the police chief;
  • Guiding the community police reform agency on prioritizing cases;
  • Establishing a formal orientation program; and
  • Finalizing a code of conduct.

“If the auditor disagrees (with the commission’s work), it’s in the auditor’s power to publish what she sees fit in a report,” Jackson said in a statement. “At the same time, the commission is independent of the auditor and free to express its good-faith disagreement with any recommendation that misses the mark. That’s the point of an independent police oversight body. Elected politicians are not in charge of police oversight in Oakland,” she asserted.

Jackson pointed out the commission’s accomplishments over the past three months “have continued to demonstrate that the commission is serious about ignoring political games and getting its work done.”

Jackson noted the commission’s completion of a first draft of a use of force reform policy “that promises to be a game-changer nationwide,” including outlawing neck holds and protecting people from asphyxia.

The commission also approved a draft to reform the police department’s use of military weapons and announced a staff reorganization. It also recommended that the Oakland City Council take steps to defund the police department and reallocate funds to community-based services. The council Tuesday approved a task force that has the goal of defunding the police department by 50% over the next two years.

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Author: Jon Kawamoto