Wednesday, October 17, 2012

Oakland Police Dept. actually gets scarier and more repressive

Oakland PD visits Israel to study counterterrorism, and has been found by investigators to be increasing its human rights abuses of people.

2012-10-17 "US police visit Israel to study counterterrorism" by BEN HARTMAN from "Jerusalem Post"[]
Jerusalem hosting week-long seminar for US experts, plan to share tactics on high-risk combat.
 Counterterrorism experts from some of the biggest police departments in the United States are in Israel for a week-long seminar with representatives of the Border Police, where they plan to share tactics on high-risk combat.
The 10-member delegation includes officers from police departments in New York; Los Angeles; Austin, Texas; Oakland, California; and Houston, Texas.
They are visiting Israel as part of the American Jewish Committee’s “Project Interchange,” and organizers said the week-long meeting “will showcase Israeli technological and operational advances in counterterrorism tactics,” and allow the US participants to “exchange information on best practices with their Israeli counterparts,” in a press release issued on Wednesday.
During the visit, the attendees will also visit Megiddo Prison, where Israel houses well over a thousand security prisoners. The visit’s delegates will also take part in briefings on Israel’s handling of Palestinian terrorism and cooperation between Israeli and PA security agencies.
The program is the 10th such meeting held by the organization. In the press statement, Los Angeles Police Department Commander Richard Webb is quoted as saying that Israelis “are considered world leaders and innovators in counterterrorism and security. My experiences in meeting with the various experts and leaders confirm they not only are experts, they are pragmatic and collaborative.”
Webb also vowed to take what he learns from his Israeli counterpart back to Los Angeles, and made mention of “multi-level security measures at an international airport.”
Montgomery County Police Department Assistant-Chief Russell E. Hamill says that so far on the trip he has learned “not only the importance of hardening the country against terror attacks but also of the community in refusing to be terrorized. The Israeli people live that; they refuse to be terrorized.
In the battle against terrorism, that’s how you win and the Israelis are winning. They are not victims but survivors.”

2012-10-15 "Monitor finds Oakland police regressing" by Matthai Kuruvila from "San Francisco Chronicle"[]:
A court-appointed monitor overseeing Oakland police reforms said in a report released Monday that he was "dismayed" by the department's lack of progress, citing a "stubborn resistance to compliance." Robert Warshaw found that the Oakland Police Department actually took a step back, falling out of compliance with one of its tasks, which involves the creation of a monitoring system to track officers engaging in potentially problematic behavior.
The report is Warshaw's last before the federal judge who appointed him hears arguments in December about whether to place the department under federal control. Oakland city and police leaders have been eager to show that they are making progress. Oakland's department would become the first police department in the nation to be placed in federal receivership.
Warshaw made a point of recognizing "the challenges that the brave men and women of the agency face on a daily basis" but said the department's leadership "lacks consistency of message and a unanimity of purpose."
The department was ordered to make reforms after four officers, who called themselves the Riders, were accused in 2000 of systematically beating and framing suspects in West Oakland. A federal consent decree listing the reforms began in 2003, and the city was expected to comply within five to seven years.
There are 22 reforms still being monitored, with 12 in compliance, seven in partial compliance, one not in compliance, and two being deferred until a later date.
The report evaluated the reforms from April 1 through June 30.
 Officers who engage in at-risk behaviors - such as unusually high numbers of arrests, use of force or pointing of weapons - are tracked. If they reach a certain threshold, they are recommended for additional training or supervision. It is not a disciplinary system, but a corrective system.
Warshaw, however, said commanders and deputy chiefs have a high tolerance for at-risk behaviors by officers.
In his last report, Warshaw said the department was "almost stagnant" in its efforts to comply. Three months later, Warshaw said the department showed "regression."
John Burris, a civil rights attorney who is advocating for the department to be put in receivership, called Warshaw's latest description of the department "damning."
"For us, it's just another point in consideration that led us to filing a motion for the appointment of receivership," Burris said. "The system is not working."
The union representing the city's police officers and sergeants noted that Warshaw repeatedly pointed to department leadership as the problem. The reform task that fell out of compliance, for example, is completely out of the hands of rank-and-file officers, said Sgt. Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers Association.
Warshaw also raised other concerns. His report said officers routinely violate policy by not turning on their lapel cameras in required circumstances, and their supervisors do not discipline them for it. Warshaw also said he was troubled that officers use confidential informants - who he said often have credibility issues - to justify stops and the pointing of weapons.
Despite the criticisms, Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said the department had made progress over the past year. She said she will be pushing the City Council to spend more money on the reform effort.
"We're either going to be done, or we're going to have a very specific timeline (for compliance) by the end of the year," she said.
Quan said Police Chief Howard Jordan has been caught between two difficult forces - a monitor who wants change and a police union that thinks he's disciplining officers too harshly.
Last week, Jordan announced that he was seeking to fire two officers, demote one and suspend 15 more for their handling of Occupy Oakland protesters.
The union denounced the move as scapegoating, but Quan said it was an example of Jordan's ability to make tough decisions.
"He worked very hard to create a report that was very fair and balanced," she said.

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