Len Raphael 
Member since Oct 22, 2011


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Posted by Len Raphael on 07/20/2016 at 11:01 PM

Re: “Survivor, Oakland City Hall: Power Struggle Led to Expulsion of City Clerk from Closed Session

I've had a couple of dozen interactions with City Clerk Simmons or her department over the past few years. Under her supervision her staff performs their functions efficiently and courteously regardless of who you are or whether you politically oppose whoever is currently in the seats of Oakland power.. She is also one of the select few city employees who answers emails after hours and on weekends on time sensitive matters.

Let her do her job. She's good at it.

There should be very few closed sessions and only in very limited circumstances such as discussions of the litigation risks in law suits. Holding a closed session to say hide the City Attorney's opinion that a City decision was illegal, needs to be publicly disclosed, even if it costs us a lawsuit.

Posted by Len Raphael on 07/20/2016 at 8:33 PM

Re: “SEIU 1021 and Activists Say They're Joining Forces to Support Oakland Police Commission

Update: Tonight, Tues July 19th we had a big turnout of supporters for a strong, politically independent Police Commission selected by a "citizens’' committee with a broad mandate for investigating all complaints about police misconduct and disciplining police and the police chief. People expressed their support to giving the Commission the power to review all policies and procedures of OPD. Out of about a few dozen speakers, maybe 3 people raised a few mild objections to certain provisions. No one publicly supported allowing any mayor to directly select any Commission members.

In essence all of the changes proposed by our Coalition for Police Accountability were supported by many people I had never heard or seen before, and by well-known residents also.

Two former members of the existing Civilian Police Review Board spoke. They both described how their frustration with the toothless Board made them quit. Three other former members have told me the same exact thing in private.

In the next few days we will ask for firm commitments from every CM to support our original charter amendment after deletion of any reference to changing binding arbitration. That was our agreement with all of organized labor except for OPOA and that's fine by most of us in the Coalition for Police Accountability.

The Mayor has stayed publicly silent on the amendment and only once arranged a meeting with the Coalition. Not unreasonable to assume the Mayor privately expressed her wish for her office to directly select 3 out of the Commission members, but we don't know.

But much can still happen in the week before the July 26th special session of Council to vote on a revised charter amendment. I'm sure OPOA has not given up their fight to weaken the Commission.

So please contact your council member and at-large CM Kaplan asking them to support the Coalition for Police Accountability modifications to the Kalb/Gallo proposal.

Len Raphael, CPA
Treasurer Coalition for Police Accountability

Posted by Len Raphael on 07/19/2016 at 11:30 PM

Re: “Town Business: A Strong or Weak Police Commission?

Dan Kalb has just relayed the announcement that the Council will only be taking the public testimony tonight, not voting.

It's good because we'll be heard earlier tonight. It also gives all of us more time to contact our council members.

Not so good in that it also gives the police union, OPOA, to throw their political weight at the council members to force a watered down Police Commission that will just be a better funded version of the ineffectual Civilian Police Review Board that we currently have.

Please show up tonight no later than 630. Register online to talk or just to cede your time when you get to the meeting.

This week contact Rebecca Kaplan and your local council member to express your support for the version advocated by our Coalition for Police Accountability. They'll know what you want.

Len Raphael, CPA
Treasurer www.CoalitionForPoliceAccountability.org

Posted by Len Raphael on 07/19/2016 at 2:44 PM

Re: “SEIU 1021 and Activists Say They're Joining Forces to Support Oakland Police Commission

BUT as Dan Kalb announced, the Council will be taking the public testimony tonight. It's good because we'll be heard earlier tonight. It also gives all of us more time to contact our council members.

Not so good in that it also gives the police union, OPOA, to throw their political weight at the council members to force a watered down Police Commission that will just be a better funded version of the ineffectual Civilian Police Review Board that we currently have.

Please show up tonight no later than 630. Register online to talk or just to cede your time when you get to the meeting.

This week contact Rebecca Kaplan and your local council member to express your support for the version advocated by our Coalition for Police Accountability. They'll know what you want.

Len Raphael, CPA
Treasurer www.CoalitionForPoliceAccountability.org

Posted by Len Raphael on 07/19/2016 at 2:41 PM

Re: “Town Business: A Strong or Weak Police Commission?

The politics of a police commission charter amendment are messy, affecting the interests and power of the OPOA, all the other city unions, Mayor, City Council, and lastly the residents.

The detailed wording of the charter amendment will mean the difference between a pumped up version of the current Civilian Police Review Board and a community responsive Police Commission able and willing to step on any toes needed to improve constitutional policing in Oakland.

You touched on most of the remaining points of possible contention: mayoral direct selection of several commissioners, subpoena power, and selection/supervision of the commission's attorney.

Your omitted disagreement on whether the scope of the Commission to investigate and to review/recommend is to be limited to a very short list of current police misconduct.

The Coalition's original amendment and it's subsequent recommended change to the June 14th Kalb/Gallo version "allows the Police Commission to review all OPD policies, procedures, customs, and General Orders."

We also strongly recommend that the Commission be empowered " to investigate every public complaint it receives" instead of just "to investigate all complaints involving use of force, in custody deaths, profiling, and First Amendment assemblies" because as policing methods change, so will the subject of complaints. The current wording would not even allow the Commission to investigate OPD cover-up of the statutory rapes.

After several years of studying police commissions and review boards in cities across the US and talking to people who have served on those commissions and boards, to activists, academics, and a cross section of Oakland residents, we reached consensus on a model police commission for Oakland.

The Commission needs to be more than just an adequately funded version of the current Civilian Police Review Board.

Len Raphael, CPA

Posted by Len Raphael on 07/18/2016 at 11:08 PM

Re: “Why are Oakland's City-Worker Unions Making it Harder to Fire Bad Cops?

Some background on binding arbitration: All City of Oakland employees covered by union contracts have the right to choose to go to binding arbitration to contest discipline imposed by management for violation of work rules that were set by contract negotiations. Alternatively, the employee could choose to go to court and pay big legal fees and court costs.

Binding arbitration does a good job protecting employees from arbitrary, capricious discipline that could be imposed on police officers as much as on City Parks maintenance employees, etc. But typically, arbitrators "split the baby in half" in their decisions. Since it is impossible to half fire someone, terminated police officers invariably get re-instated.

Regardless of a charter amendment, any change to arbitration would not take effect until expiration of current police contract, two years from now.

In addition, Police and Fire sworn personnel also get binding arbitration to resolve contract deadlocked negotiations. No other City unions get that.
Two years ago Palo Alto repealed that type of binding arbitration for police and fire. They promptly reduced fire and police pay by 5%. Police and fire fighters are prohibited by state law from striking.

Binding arbitration for all city employees including police for discipline matters is common in big cities. SF is one of the few big cities that does not allow binding arbitration for serious discipline matters of police and fire.
For discipline matters, the arbitrator is selected by a process of elimination by City Attorney's office staff and the union's attorney (or equivalent) from a pool of arbitrators certified by a state body. Arbitrators who are partial to either management or employee end up without work if both sides are on the ball and exercising their veto power in the selection process.

Everyone except the police union agrees that the discipline binding arbitration process make it very difficult to fire bad cops. There is no consensus on how to fix that without going to the other extreme and eliminating it entirely for at least serious discipline charges. Not simple to fix in an equitable way. For example, if there's a police officer disliked by brass because she/he went to the press to disclose problem within OPD and brass brought bogus charges against them, it wouldn't be good to force the accused cop to file a lawsuit if an arbitrator would do the right thing.

As the article described, the nonpublic safety unions see any reform of police discipline binding arbitration as an attack on binding arbitration for all city workers.

Will T. asked which Council Members refused to approve the amendment with even a mild reform to the method of selecting the arbitrators (which probably would have no effect on the outcome of their decisions). I'd say all of the council members other than Kalb and Gallo.

Personally, I favor a variation of the SF approach combined with an independent Police Commission (SF's is not very independent) where binding arbitration is repealed only for police and only for serious offenses.

But it's more important to establish a strong, politically independent Police Commission none of whose members are chosen directly by any Mayor, with broad oversight and subpoena powers and scope, with its own staff attorney, then to fail approval because of insistence on reforming binding arbitration.

If this charter amendment is approved by voters in November we will have two years until the police contract expires to evaluate whether the Commission is able to fire bad cops and effectively discipline other officers and their supervisors. If we see most of the officers and their supervisors who were complicit in the cover-up of the statutory rape, get off with the usually binding arbitration letter of reprimand plus full back pay and restoral of rank, then we have to come back to Council to repeal binding arbitration for police serious discipline matters.

Regardless of future binding arbitration reform, we have to insist on transparency of all future contract negotiations with the OPOA (police union) so that whether we change arbitration or not, that we make sure the City has negotiated hard for clear enforceable standards of behavior for all police officers, including the brass. Without such rules, it is always going to be difficult for either an arbitrator or a court to uphold a disciplinary action.

Len Raphael, CPA
(opinions expressed are my own)

Posted by Len Raphael on 07/16/2016 at 11:59 PM

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