The Oakland City Council began the process this week of placing a ballot measure on the November ballot that, if approved, would bolster the independence of the commission that conducts oversight on the Oakland Police Department.

The ballot measure would make more than two dozen changes to the commission, including allowing the body to have its own legal counsel and inspector general and propose changes to department policies.

Oakland’s chief of police or his or her designee would also be required to attend commission meetings and compose an annual report on the department’s expenditures on local priorities.

City Council President Rebecca Kaplan, who co-authored the proposed measure with Councilman Dan Kalb, said the measure is intended to make the commission as robust as possible to ensure the protection of Oakland residents from law enforcement officers who engage in misconduct and violence.

Thomas Hawk Oakland City Council is considering a November 2020 ballot measure that would bolster the independence of the police commission. Mayor Libby Schaaf opposes the move.

Kaplan said:

“As we know, the Oakland Police Department has been under federal court supervision for an extensive amount of time that grew out of cases involving abuse and particularly abuse toward African Americans.”

The council unanimously voted to continue discussions of the measure at a future meeting, at which time it will also consider a streamlined version of the proposal, which would only include giving the commission its own inspector general and legal counsel.

The council would then have to hold a meet-and-confer session with city law enforcement prior to sending the proposal to the ballot.

The Oakland Police Officers’ Association and Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf have both expressed their opposition to the proposed changes to the commission, arguing that it would give the oversight body near unlimited control over local law enforcement and public safety.

Barry Donelan, OPOA President, said:

“The plan by Council members Kaplan and Kalb will give full control of the Oakland Police Department — and its ability to protect the public — to a group of unelected and unaccountable Police Commissioners without any public oversight.”

In an open letter to Oakland residents, Schaaf urged them to contact their councilmembers and urge them to reconsider placing the measure on the ballot.

Schaaf also emphasized her support of 2016’s Measure LL, which established the commission, and some of the proposal’s details like giving the commission control over its own director and legal counsel.

She said in the letter:

“At a time when Oakland must cut $122 million from our budget, this proposal is certain to add costs to Police Commission operations, as well as could subject the city of Oakland to even more financial liability from lawsuits.”

The City Council will consider both versions of the proposal at a to-be-determined date. The Police Commission will also discuss the two proposals before they come back to the council.

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