Wednesday, September 30, 2015

California Okays Hit-And-Run "Yellow Alert" System, Will Broadcast Suspect Information

by Sam Levin
Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 5:17 PM

click image Highway signs will now display hit-and-run "yellow alerts." - WIKIMEDIA COMMONS / BOB BOBSTER
  • wikimedia commons / Bob Bobster
  • Highway signs will now display hit-and-run "yellow alerts."
Governor Jerry Brown has signed legislation to enact a hit-and-run "Yellow Alert" system that will enable police to broadcast information on freeway signs about vehicles suspected of fleeing serious or fatal crashes. This new alert system — proposed in Assembly Bill 8, authored by Assemblymember Mike Gatto (D-Glendale) — could be particularly useful for Oakland, which has consistently had the highest rate of hit-and-crashes of any large city in the state. As we reported earlier this year, the Oakland Police Department solves only a small fraction of hit-and-run cases: In 2013, out of 346 hit-and-runs in which victims were injured or killed, only 14 cases — 4 percent — led to criminal charges. And in 2014, police solved only 3 percent of serious hit-and-run cases. And there is an alarming number of hit-and-runs here; roughly one out of every six motorists who injure or kill a victim flees the crime scene. 

The Yellow Alert system will function in a similar manner as the emergency "Amber Alerts" that law enforcement currently send out to spread the word about child abductions. The state will only use Yellow Alerts when local law enforcement agencies have sufficient descriptions of a vehicle or the identity of a suspect — and only for collisions that are fatal or result in "serious bodily injury." Brown vetoed similar legislation last year, citing concerns about the emergency system being overloaded with alerts.

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Wednesday Must Reads: Schaaf Secures $750,000 Donation to Hire Local Cops; McClymonds’ Coach on Leave for Assault on Student

by Robert Gammon
Wed, Sep 30, 2015 at 9:35 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Libby Schaaf.
  • Libby Schaaf.
1. Mayor Libby Schaaf secured a $750,000 anonymous grant to train local residents to become Oakland police officers, the Trib$ reports. The city plans to use the funds to expand the Oakland police cadet program in conjunction with Oakland public schools. The grant, along with $450,000 in funds appropriated by the city council, will pay for 25 new cadet positions for recent high school graduates. More than 90 percent of the Oakland police force lives outside of the city — a problem that city officials have struggled to fix for years.

2. A McClymonds High School football coach is on paid administrative leave after a video surfaced of him pushing and tackling a student on a school bus, the Chron reports. The video shows DeCarlos Anderson, coach of the McClymonds junior varsity squad, shoving the student in the chest and body slamming him during the team’s return trip from a game in Crescent City.

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Tuesday, September 29, 2015

OPD Responds to Noise Complaints by White Man Against Black Drummers at Lake Merritt, Sparks Concerns About Racial Profiling

by Sam Levin
Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 1:07 PM

click image SambaFunk! drummers at a different Lake Merritt event. - ELISE EVANS / COURTESY OF SAMBAFUNK!
  • Elise Evans / Courtesy of SambaFunk!
  • SambaFunk! drummers at a different Lake Merritt event.
On Sunday night, a white Oakland resident called the Oakland Police Department on a small group of Black and Latino drummers by Lake Merritt, resulting in multiple citations and sparking extensive debates online about racial profiling, biased policing, and gentrification. The story has since gone viral on social media with a Facebook post from local radio journalist Davey D Cook who argued that this case is just the latest example of white residents who are newer to Oakland and the Lake Merritt area complaining about the activities of longtime residents of color — leading to unnecessarily aggressive responses from police.

I spoke by phone this morning with Theo Williams, the artistic director of local group SambaFunk!, who was part of the drum circle on Sunday and had also posted an account of the incident on his Facebook page. Williams, who is Black and grew up in Oakland, said that roughly a dozen OPD officers ultimately responded to the call and that he felt many of the officers had not treated him or his fellow drummers fairly and were clearly biased toward the caller, who is a white man who apparently lives nearby. 

An OPD spokesperson told me via email that officers responded to a call at 9:51 p.m. to the 100 block of Lake Merritt Boulevard (the south side of the lake at the Lake Merritt Amphitheater) after receiving a "report of a noise disturbance and an assault." The officers issued multiple citations related to the assault allegations and will have to appear in court before a judge, according to the spokesperson, who did not respond to my requests for additional information. 

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Tuesday Must Reads: Berkeley Median Home Price Tops $1 Million; Governor’s Realignment Plan for Prisons Has Had Few Effects

by Robert Gammon
Tue, Sep 29, 2015 at 9:24 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

home_for_sale_sign.jpg
1. The median home price in Berkeley topped $1 million for the first time ever at the end of the second quarter of 2015, SFGate reports, citing a Red Oak Realty analysis published on Berkeleyside.com. The median price for a single-family home was $1.05 million in Berkeley, where homes are selling for an average of 19.9 percent over the asking price. The median home price in San Francisco is $1.425 million. In Alameda County, only 18 percent of the population can afford to pay the median home price.

2. Governor Jerry Brown’s much-touted prison realignment plan has had few impacts since it was implemented in 2011 — other than relieving overcrowding in the state’s prisons, the SacBee$ reports, citing a new analysis by the nonpartisan Public Policy Institute of California. Realignment, which transferred nonviolent inmates from prison to county jails, has failed to save any money and has had no effect on recidivism — as Brown and other proponents had claimed it would. It also has not led to any increases in crime, as opponents had claimed.

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Monday, September 28, 2015

Data Shows Disproportionate Stops and Searches of Blacks and Latinos by Berkeley Cops

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 6:20 PM

Despite being only 8.4 percent of Berkeley's population, Black people accounted for 30 percent of all traffic stops by the Berkeley Police. They were 56.6 percent of all searches. - DARWIN BONDGRAHAM
  • Darwin BondGraham
  • Despite being only 8.4 percent of Berkeley's population, Black people accounted for 30 percent of all traffic stops by the Berkeley Police. They were 56.6 percent of all searches.
Recently obtained data tracking Berkeley police stops and searches appears to show racial bias among officers. A coalition of groups including the Berkeley NAACP; UC Berkeley Black Student Union; Berkeley Copwatch; the ACLU of Berkeley; and the National Lawyers Guild, San Francisco Bay Area Chapter obtained the data set through a public records request. They shared the data set with the Express.

See also: OPD Still Appears to Be Targeting Blacks
See also: Oakland's 'Unacceptable' Stop Data, By the Numbers

"We have long suspected that there was racial profiling happening," said Anrdrea Prichett, a founding member of Berkeley Copwatch who wrote the records request. "We’ve tried to get some data that would verify that, but for the longest time BPD said they didn’t collect this kind of information."

Last year, the city began requiring its police to collect stop data including the race, gender, and age of each person stopped, whether a search was conducted, and if the stop resulted in an arrest, citation, or a warning.

The Berkeley police stop data set tracks 4,659 traffic stops conducted by Berkeley police officers between January 24, 2015 and August 12, 2015. While Blacks only account for 8.4 percent of Berkeley's total population, they represented 30.5 percent of all stops by Berkeley police officers. White people, on the other hand, who account for 56 percent of Berkeley's total population, were only 36.7 percent of those stopped by the police.

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Oakland Proposes New Rate Hike on Recycling to Resolve Contractor Dispute

by Sam Levin
Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 1:03 PM

click image CALIFORNIA WASTE SOLUTIONS
  • California Waste Solutions
While much of the recent controversy around Oakland's new garbage contract has centered on the exorbitant rate increases for commercial composting, the City of Oakland has quietly put forward a new proposal to increase the recycling rates for all residents beyond the fees that officials negotiated and approved last year. On the agenda of the Oakland City Council tomorrow is a proposal from the city's Public Works Agency to raise recycling rates by more than 10 percent to resolve a dispute with the private contractor California Waste Solutions (CWS). The proposed hike would enable CWS to increase its annual revenue by roughly $800,000, according to the report. 

CWS — a West Oakland-based firm that took over citywide residential recycling services in the new franchise agreement that began in July — said that city officials had originally provided the company with incorrect information on the total number of households it would be serving, according to the report. Joel Corona, chief operations officer for CWS, said in an interview today that the city initially told CWS that the company would be serving roughly 165,000 customers — which the company used to determine its rates. But according to Corona, that was an overestimate and the company is now only serving roughly 155,000.

It's unclear why the city overestimated the number of households that CWS would be serving under the new contract. The report states that the city used "raw data" from Waste Management (the other Oakland private contractor that previously did half of the city's residential recycling services), but that this number "proved to be incorrect." Sean Maher, spokesperson for the city's Zero Waste Program, declined to comment today. According to the city's report, CWS has claimed that the difference equates to annual losses of roughly $800,000.

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Monday Must Reads: McCarthy Speakership Would Be a Boon to Big Ag; Immigrants Far Less Likely to Commit Crime than Native Born

by Robert Gammon
Mon, Sep 28, 2015 at 9:30 AM

Stories you shouldn’t miss:

Kevin McCarthy.
  • Kevin McCarthy.
1. After John Boehner’s surprise resignation announcement on Friday, California Republican Congressman Kevin McCarthy is now the favorite to become the next speaker of the US House of Representatives — a development that would be a boon to Big Ag and bad news for the environment, the LA Times$ reports. The conservative McCarthy, of Bakersfield, has pushed to gut environmental protections of the Sacramento-San Joaquin River Delta in order to ship more water to agricultural interests in the south. He also opposes air pollution rules — even though his district has some of the worst air pollution in the nation.

2. A new comprehensive study confirms earlier research that found that foreign-born people in the United States are far less likely to commit crime than native born residents — a fact that blows a hole in GOP presidential frontrunner Donald Trump’s claims about immigrants, the Times of San Diego reports (h/t Rough & Tumble). The new study by the National Academy of Sciences found that “men aged 18–39 are jailed at only one-fourth the rate of native-born American men of the same age.”

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Friday, September 25, 2015

Hayward School Board Acknowledges Physical, Allegedly Criminal Acts by Superintendent

by Steven Tavares
Fri, Sep 25, 2015 at 3:28 PM

Stan Dobbs.
  • Stan Dobbs.
Four members of the Hayward school board publicly acknowledged at a special meeting Thursday night that Superintendent Stan “Data” Dobbs allegedly berated and cursed the board in a closed session meeting on September 16 and then made physical contact with at least one of the boardmembers. The board, however, following a two-hour closed session meeting Thursday night, made no decision on Dobbs’ future with the school district.

Two members of the board, Luis Reynoso and William McGee, filed incident reports with the Hayward Police Department following the confrontation. Reynoso said he plans to press charges against Dobbs, while McGee Is awaiting findings from an investigation by the school district before making a decision.

According to Reynoso and McGee’s account given to police, which was backed up by their board colleague’s comments Thursday, Dobbs, who was hired as superintendent in 2013, began cursing the entire board during the September 16 closed door meeting. When McGee asked Dobbs to calm down, Dobbs approached him and stood over McGee. Dobbs again began yelling profanities at McGee. Among the comments made by Dobbs was: “I have to deal with motherfucking punks like you all day,” according to both Reynoso and McGee.

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Thursday, September 24, 2015

Jury Awards Whistleblower $613,302 in Lawsuit Against City of Oakland

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 12:01 PM

Deanna Santana. - CITY OF OAKLAND / FILE PHOTO
  • City of Oakland / file photo
  • Deanna Santana.
The City of Oakland lost a big whistleblower lawsuit yesterday in federal district court.

The case, brought by Daryelle Lawana Preston, Oakland's former director of employee relations, included allegations that a top Oakland official pressured her to falsify reports to the city council, and that other Oakland officials improperly negotiated labor contracts with city unions, and willfully violated labor union contracts. Preston said she was punished, and ultimately fired, for speaking up about these activities. A jury agreed with Preston, awarding her $613,302 in damages.

Allegations in the lawsuit hint at the power struggles and intrigues happening within Oakland City Hall in 2012 and 2013. Preston said that former City Administrator Deanna Santana pressured her to lie on multiple occasions in order to get Councilmember Desley Brooks ousted from office. According to the lawsuit, “defendant Santana asked Ms. Preston to falsify a report about East Oakland’s Rainbow Teen Center (“RTC”) and state that City Councilwoman Desley Brooks intentionally and knowingly engaged in hiring practices and purchasing at RTC that violated the City Charter.”


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Air District Balks at Capping Refinery Emissions as Pollution Worsens

by Jean Tepperman
Thu, Sep 24, 2015 at 11:48 AM

Richmond's Chevron refinery.
  • Richmond's Chevron refinery.
Bay Area regulators plan to reduce harmful emissions from oil refineries, so they should start by not letting emissions increase — that’s been the demand of the Refinery Action Collaborative, a coalition of community and labor groups, since 2013, when the Bay Area Air Quality Management District started working on oil refinery rules.

But earlier this week, air district staffers presented yet another draft of proposed refinery rules that still had no data on possible emissions caps. “We were supposed to get a presentation on numeric caps. That was mandated June 3,” said air district director John Avalos, a San Francisco supervisor. “It didn’t happen.”

Instead, in their presentation to the board’s stationary source committee, staffers outlined a new set of steps for reducing emissions, with reports and proposals going back and forth between the refineries and air district for a number of years. The staffers said they were on track to meet a goal set by the air district board last year: a 20 percent reduction in the emission of certain chemicals and in health risks by 2020.

But boardmembers Jan Pepper, mayor of Los Altos, and John Gioia, Contra Costa supervisor, expressed concern about the lengthy process presented by staff. Pepper pointed out that it could take five years or more to get any actual cuts in emissions. “Our goal is to get reductions as soon as possible,” Gioia said. He suggested that staffers “focus on quicker timelines when you report to the full board.” In the June meeting, Gioia had commented, “We don’t want to see emissions go up while we’re making rules.”

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