Oakland, Calif. — Hundreds of people packed an Oakland City Council Safety Committee public hearing Jan. 15 to protest a proposed $250,000 contract to hire William Bratton, who is notoriously credited with originating stop-and-frisk tactics as a policing strategy. Eighty-four people signed up to speak, with the main chambers, balconies and an overflow room packed with angry Oakland residents. They had first rallied on the steps of City Hall before coming inside to express their displeasure to the committee.
As New York Police Department police commissioner and Los Angeles Police Department chief of police, Bratton gained notoriety at the expense of Black, Brown and oppressed communities. He is known as the architect of modern-day zero-tolerance policing and a supporter of gang injunctions, curfews, anti-loitering ordinances and aggressive ticketing tactics. These tactics, along with stop-and-frisk, disproportionately target people of color, youth and poor people.
The corporate media have been propagandizing about high crime in Oakland, and Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana have come up with the quick fix of hiring another consultant to be the Oakland Police Department’s new anti-crime enforcer.
All this is occurring as U.S. District Judge Thelton Henderson is scheduled to appoint a Compliance Director over the OPD. The department failed to comply with the requirements imposed on them from the landmark Riders case, in which the Oakland Police Department was found to be out of control in its use of police brutality and other insidious and racist tactics.
‘Stop bringing killer cops into our community’
Speaker after speaker talked about racial profiling tied to stop-and-frisk policies and how the real answers to crime lay in meeting people’s basic needs for jobs, education, housing and health care. Dan Siegel, a civil rights attorney and member of the Justice for Alan Blueford Coalition, said, “Stop-and-frisk doesn’t work; gang injunctions don’t work. [Former New York City Mayor Rudy] Giuliani urged [then Oakland Mayor Jerry] Brown to adopt Bratton’s stop-and-frisk, which led to the Riders case.”
David Firestein, also of the JAB Coalition, said, “In Bratton’s first year in NYC, police killings increased by 24 percent!” Cat Brooks, co-chair of the Onyx Organizing Committee, stressed, “Why is there a crime problem? [Because] we have created a society of prisons. Invest in finding out why OPD can’t stop killing Black and Brown men! There is something fundamentally wrong with the OPD.”
Ali Saleem Bey said, “Jim Crow is alive and well in Oakland, Calif. Our community is militarized. We need to de-occupy Oakland. [OPD Chief] Howard Jordan is the problem.”
“We already have stop-and-frisk,” stated Jermando Alan, who said he was one of the targets of a gang injunction in the Oakland neighborhood of Fruitvale. “People believe in me,” he said, “and are giving me opportunity to do something with my life.” He talked about how he started the Aztlan Beautification Project.
Fred Hampton Jr. talked of the need for “care of the oppressed, not this international terrorist, Bratton. … The City of Oakland’s most notorious gang is the OPD.” When the city council secretary ruled him out of time and asked if anyone in the audience would cede him more time to speak, Chairman Fred responded that “Oscar Grant and Alan Blueford,” both victims of police killings, would.
Tim Killings, of the Laney College Black Student Union, said he was “laughing that [City Councilmember] Larry Reid says it’s a state of emergency. It’s been a state of emergency — they closed five schools last year. … How about taxing the Port of Oakland? Solutions that work are schools, not gentrification. Tax the corporations; tax Chase [Bank]. Policies like stop-and-frisk mean that 80 percent Blacks are being stopped. Fire and prosecute [the cops]. My people say no! Your people are not being killed. It’s my people.”
Sagnicthe Salazar, of Youth Together, said, “It’s been a state of emergency in public housing. No locking up victims or making way for gentrification. These policies, these measures will not stop the violence. We’ve long ago lost respect. We’ve been here time and time again bringing you solutions. People cry on my shoulders at Castlemont High School. If you really want to save lives, stop bringing killer cops to our community.”
After a five-hour meeting, the committee approved the financing of the consulting contract to advise OPD on a citywide crime-reduction program without specifically naming Bratton. The full City Council will hear the proposal on Jan. 22. The community is preparing to pack the Council chambers again in protest.