New Oakland PD Oversight Board Begins With Big Ideas

The Oakland Police Commission, created by a ballot initiative, will have broad authority to hire and fire the police chief, discipline officers, and set policy for the department.

The inaugural members of Oakland’s Police Commission hope to make sweeping changes to the city force as part of a new civilian body vested with broad authority over officer discipline and policy-making in the department, reports the San Francisco Chronicle. The nine appointees awaiting City Council approval include a Harvard-educated lawyer, a probation manager, a grandfather of six, a former military attorney and a school administrator. They were chosen from a pool of 144 residents vying for a spot on the commission. Based on interviews they gave with a selection panel and the Chronicle, commissioners are likely to take up issues of community policing, training, recruitment, racial profiling, and uncompleted tasks spelled out in a 2003 negotiated court settlement.

One appointee said she wanted police to enact programs to improve interactions between officers and people who are homeless or mentally ill. Another said he wanted a better understanding of use-of-force policies during protests. Councilman Dan Kalb, lead author of the ballot measure that created the body, said the commission should increase the community’s level of confidence in police. “We need to get to a point where everybody, no matter the color of their skin or their neighborhood, trusts the Police Department and officers, and we’re not there yet,” Kalb said. The City Council is expected to confirm the seven appointed commissioners, plus two alternates, when it comes back from summer recess next month. Within some restrictions, commissioners will have the authority to fire the police chief, help select her successor, discipline officers and create new general orders for the department.