from our coalition allies, Critical Resistance- Oakland:
In the news…
In Friday’s headlines, Oakland residents witnessed one more time how the City of Oakland’s twisted priorities could put its youth in jeopardy. News broke that the West Oakland Youth Center—a project five years in the making and developed by youth and grassroots organizers—may not open due to lack of funding to operate the center and staff its programs. The Mayor’s budget proposal assumes that Oakland cannot absorb these operating costs, amounting to roughly $340,000, while the city has had no problem throwing good money after bad in support of policing consultants and policies that continue to fail Oakland. According to Councilperson Desley Brooks, “We’re talking about $340,000 for both programs combined out of a $1 billion budget. You can’t tell me that we can’t find $340,000 for our kids.”
Even as investments in policing continue to increase (totaling more than half of general fund expenditures), Oakland can’t seem to find less than one third of one percent of its budget to invest in safe spaces and quality programming for its youth. According the KPIX news reporting on the issue, the Mayor’s budget “sacrifices costs for both youth programs [slated for the West Oakland Youth Center] in favor of putting more cops on the streets.” These trade-offs should not surprise us.
In January, for instance, no belt tightening or shortfalls were predicted when the City Council agreed to extend Strategic Policy Partnership’s contract with the OPD to the tune of $250,000. The City pursued the contract despite overwhelming opposition to the inclusion of William Bratton in the contract and insufficient support to suggest that any additional consultants to the OPD were even necessary, especially given the fact that Oakland is already paying the Frazier Group and independent monitors to stem the devastating harm that OPD cops continue to do to Oakland communities (Frazier was also just named OPD compliance director with a salary of $270,000).
To add insult to injury, after repeated assurances that Bratton would only play a minor role in the consultancy and minimal public presence, the Council and OPD have begun to refer to the contract as “The Bratton Contract,” and “the Bratton Group” indicating their complete lack of commitment to their word or respect for their own constituents.
So where do we go from here?
Policing fails Oakland. Oakland continues to pay the social and economic costs of the legacy of the Riders, and feel the antagonism generated between community members and cops through policing projects such as gang injunctions, sweeps, raids, and stop and search. The impacts of investing in quick fix policing approaches rather than in the kinds of programs and services that have been proven to stabilize communities in the long term, such as community centers, illustrates a stubborn, blind dedication to misguided solutions.
Councilperson Libby Schaaf, for instance, continues to cling desperately to outmoded, police-heavy approaches despite clear, consistent messages from a wide range of Oakland residents about what they want instead. In an email blast to her district residents on May 31, Schaaf herself reminds Oakland that when it comes to policing in our city “there are a plethora of dusty plans sitting on shelves” but then goes on to implore us to “stick to the plan”.
Although it’s been said over and over, it obviously bears repeating—Oakland cannot police its way out of poverty. No revolving cast of police chiefs, or board rooms full of consultants, or shelves full of policing plans will prevent policing from failing Oakland. It’s high time that Oakland invests in its future by investing in its youth, its families, and its neighborhoods rather than continuing to invest in policies and practices that destabilize and separate our city. As West Oakland Councilperson Lynette McElhaney stated, “Make no mistake about it we are going to spend money on these kids. We will either spend it in a proactive way, through youth centers and positive programming, or we will spend the money on arresting them, incarcerating them, putting them in juvenile hall or God forbid to treat them in emergency rooms because they’ve fallen victim to violence.”
Building community…from the ground up
Yet while the City makes desperate moves that destabilize and separate our city, every day we see the hard and true work of community members using all the resources they have available to build a better, healthier city. The West Oakland Youth Center is not yet a dream deferred, it is a possibility. All of us continue to build. We’re coming off the heels of an amazing Malcolm X Jazz Festival, in its 13th year of bringing thousands of Oakland residents together in celebration, art, politics and education. Next weekend, on June 8, the Stop the Injunctions Coalition will be having a Saturday workday in the thriving Community Garden at 28th and Foothill. We look forward to planting possibilities together in what seems like an impossible time, continuing to grow into our vision of what Oakland can be.
STIC members respond to the Bill Bratton and Bob Wasserman consultancy contract with the City of Oakland/ Oakland Police Department. They emphasize that Bratton-style policing (zero-tolerance, lifestyle/ quality policing, suppression-style policing) is particular brand of policing that Oaklanders have sumamrily rejected: gnag injunctions, youth curfews, anti-loitering laws. Further, suppression-style policing is something we must be particularly wary of creeping in with Bratton, given that the the history of the OPD is one of regular harassment and mistrust with Oakland communities. Lastly, this particular contract is just one more bureaucratic layer, rather than signalling any shift in OPD behavior or practice.
Our large anti-Bratton mobilizations to City Hall have dramatically shifted the conversation around the Bratton and Wasserman contract in Oakland. The broad slew of media coverage below show a changing conversation where politicians have distanced themselves from Bratton’s notorious zero-tolerance policing policies and are now even going to lengths to hide him from the public. While the contract was approved by the City Council, we succeeded in shifting the terms of the debate. Bratton will be coming in much more feeble and under the watch of a strong popular front that stands united against his suppression policing tactics:
“But that plan changed after it became clear that Bratton’s support for aggressive police tactics made him a lightning rod for protesters who filled the council’s chamber two weeks in a row. Instead, Bratton’s consulting duties in Oakland will be limited to behind-the-scenes work surveying crime reduction efforts, setting forth a crime reduction strategy and interviewing city leaders.”
Media Round Up City Council Vote on Bratton 1.22.12
Last week Oakland residents filled City Hall, and nearly 100 public speakers debunked the myth that the notorious William Bratton would be welcome in Oakland. Public Safety Committee members went so far as to ask if Bratton was too “toxic” for Oakland.
WE DEMAND: Remove William Bratton from the Wasserman contract or reject the contract altogether. Bratton is too toxic for Oakland!
WHY SHOULD WE REJECT BRATTON?
William Bratton is notorious for his implementation of suppression-style policing—stop and frisk, curfews, gang injunctions, aggressive ticketing and harassment— in cities across the country and the world. Targeting people of color, poor people, and young people, his policing methods have led to the displacement and imprisonment of thousands of people, and have left a wake on instability in countless neighborhoods. Bratton is NO GOOD for Oakland.
The City wants to waste $250,000 of its scarce resources on Bratton’s consulting even though the City Administrator’s report states, “The Chief of Police has firmly and unequivocally stated that racial profiling is wholly unacceptable and clearly prohibited by Department training, policies, and law. The Department is committed to police practices that build community relationships and trust.” If the City has a commitment to rejecting these policies, why bring in the guy responsible for popularizing them as an advisor?
Including Bratton in this contract defies common sense. He is slated to work on 3 of 19 activities outlined in the contract, one of which is consulting on a crime reduction strategy. If Chief Jordan and the Council say that they reject racial profiling, stop and frisk and similar zero-tolerance policing practices, why would they spend 60% of the contract’s resources on a subcontractor doing 15% of the work to advise them to use policies they have already rejected? It makes no sense.
Last week Oaklanders spoke clearly and tonight we will again. William Bratton and his zero tolerance approaches have no place in our city. Join us tonight to stand in solidarity against zero tolerance policing and send a clear message to the City Council that Oakland rejects William Bratton.
Last week we succeeded in debunking the myth that Bratton could work in Oakland.
JOIN US TO KEEP HIM OUT OF OUR CITY!
TUESDAY JANUARY 22, 5:30 pm (roll through anytime you can! 7pm is not too late to arrive.)
Oakland City Hall
OUR DEMANDS: Remove Supercop William Bratton from the Wasserman contract or reject the contract altogether. Bratton is too toxic for Oakland!
Sign up here and fill out a speaker card if you want to voice your opinion at the meeting. We will provide talking points to support you.
In the wake of Tuesday night’s Oakland City Council Pubic Safety Committee meeting, during which nearly a hundred residents spoke against the a proposed contract with controversial police consultant William Bratton, STIC and other community organizations continue to debunk the myth surrounding the so-called supercop. With members of the Council wondering if his reputation is too toxic for Oakland, scrutiny has focused on Bratton’s zero tolerance police policies—including gang injunctions, stop and frisk, curfews, and quality of life ordinances—causing Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordon to publicly distance himself from those measures. Speaking earlier this week on consulting the OPD, Bratton himself defended stop and frisk saying, “I’m sorry, but any police department in America that tries to function without some form of ‘stop-and-frisk,’ or whatever terminology they use, is doomed to failure. It’s that simple.”
Resolute in their opposition to Bratton consulting with the OPD, community organizations and concerned residents vow to return to City Hall for the full City Council meeting on Tuesday, when the controversial contract will be back for a vote.
The fierce opposition to Bratton expressed at the Public Safety Committee suggests that Bratton is a greater liability than an asset, as he may be unable to garner enough community support to fulfill the work indicated in the Wasserman contract. If Jordon says hey won’t pursue zero tolerance policing, then he shouldn’t pursue Bratton. The two come hand in hand.