Monday, October 10, 2016

Town Business: Uber for Parking; Police Sex Crime Scandal Undermined Trust in OPD

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Oct 10, 2016 at 7:22 AM

Uber for Parking: Oakland is poised to grant a franchise to a private company that uses a web of surveillance to develop apps for parking. The company is called Streetline.

Streetline's proposal is as follows: the company will blanket 750 city blocks with sensors and cameras to record the comings and goings of cars. Oakland will also turn over license plate recognition data, traffic camera feeds, gate and meter payment information, and other surveillance inputs to Streetline. The company will use this information to build a free "parking assistant" app that Oakland residents and visitors can download. The app literally guides drivers to open parking spaces.

The whole thing is free for Oakland. But of course nothing is ever free. Streetline will own all the data, and Streetline makes its money by selling this data to third parties. One money-maker is selling a "guided enforcement" app to cities that want a better way to spot illegally parked cars.

The deal with Oakland would last three years. Oakland will also have to participate in a marketing push to get at least 10,000 people to download and use the app.

Oakland's privacy commission will be examining the underlying technology and potential civil liberties issues regarding the Streetline app. But this week the proposal is coming before the Public Works Committee as part of a larger package of parking initiatives.

Police Sex Crime Scandal Undermined Trust in OPD: The Commercial Sexual Exploitation of Children Task Force, a multi-agency group that includes the Alameda County District Attorney, Oakland Police Department, and numerous nonprofits, just issued its annual report. According to the task force, efforts to stop the commercial sexual exploitation of children were undermined by dozens of cops from Oakland, Richmond, the Alameda County Sheriff's Office, Contra Costa Sheriff's Office, and other police agencies who sexually exploited a teenager. The case has damaged what trust there was in law enforcement, and will make it more difficult for the authorities to find and protect trafficked and exploited kids.

The task force wrote:

"The recent law enforcement sexual misconduct accusations led to heightened mistrust in law enforcement agencies and shone a spotlight on the issue of CSEC. Many service providers reported that the allegations further exacerbated their clients' mistrust in law enforcement. Others noted that this was one of the reasons why their clients felt isolated from safety measures in the city. The most significant impact is the damage the accusations had on OPD's credibility in the fight against sexual exploitation, damaging years of hard work and dedicated attention to handling CSEC in a comprehensive way."

In response, the task force is recommending that all City of Oakland employees undergo training to identify children who may be commercially sexually exploited.

The CSEC task force's annual report is scheduled to be heard at the Life Enrichment Committee on Tuesday.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

Hapless Chargers Punt Win to First-Place Oakland Raiders

by Nick Miller
Sun, Oct 9, 2016 at 9:50 PM

Michael Crabtree reels in a fourth-and-two fade pass for a touchdown in the third quarter. - COURTESY OF THE RAIDERS
  • Courtesy of the Raiders
  • Michael Crabtree reels in a fourth-and-two fade pass for a touchdown in the third quarter.

The struggling San Diego Chargers gifted the gritty Raiders a win this afternoon in Oakland, even though a porous Silver and Black defense did its best to blow the victory.

The Chargers, perhaps the league's most gaffe-prone team so far this season —  especially in the final quarter — committed four turnovers throughout the day. On top of that, punter Drew Kaser also shanked a 17 yarder, which led to a Raider touchdown in the second half.

But the lowlight for the Bolts was with the game on the line, when Kaser inexplicably botched the hold on what would have been a tying 36-yard field goal.

Despite these turnovers and an overwhelming time-of-possession advantage (36:17 to 23:42), the Raiders just inched out the win, 34-31.

After the game, Coach Jack Del Rio called out his defense's tendency to allow big plays. He said the guys needed to put an end to this and "stop playing Santa Claus."

Del Rio didn't name names, but safety Reggie Nelson and defensive back David Amerson botched multiple coverages during the afternoon. Tyrell Williams burned Amerson on a 29-yard post-route TD early in the game (no thanks to Nelson's blown help coverage). And Williams also shook Amerson for a 50-yarder later in the game after the DB took a bad angle on a tackle.

These defensive woes again highlighted the Raider secondary's troubles, especially when facing speedier wideouts. The Raiders also allowed more than 400 yards in opposing offense for the fourth time this season.

On the other side of the ball, it was the strongest showing of the year by Amari Cooper (138 yards, including a 64-yard shake 'n' bake touchdown), and Sebastian Janikowski drained four field goals.

Defensive highlights included new acquisition Perry Riley Jr., who caused two fumbles and led the squad in tackles, and Sean Smith and Karl Joseph both notched interceptions.

But the game's defining moment was another let-it-ride decision by Del Rio: On fourth-and-two, he called for a Derek Carr-to-Michael Crabtree fade route — which they executed flawlessly for a 21-yard touchdown. After a two-point conversion to Cooper, the Raiders took a 27-24 lead into the fourth.

Earlier in the game, however, Carr was careless, throwing a pick on the first drive of the day and nearly a second on the subsequent possession. He also almost threw a third pick in the second half as the Raiders threatened to score.

The third-year quarterback experienced a more robust pass rush than in the previous four games, and his spirals lacked accuracy perhaps because of this. Carr's QB rating was the lowest so far this year, at 50.7.

While Cooper's afternoon was huge, it could've been bigger. He experienced issues in the red zone, twice unable to drag his toes on potential touchdown grabs.

The backfield platoon struggled without Latavius Murray, as well, notching just over three yards a carry and only 76 total rushing yards.

All that said, it's another win for the team, which is now tied in first with the Denver Broncos, who lost to the same squad the Raiders fell to in week two, the Atlanta Falcons.

Friday, October 7, 2016

Privacy Commissioners Question Oakland Police About Capabilities of Cell Phone Surveillance Device

by Darwin BondGraham
Fri, Oct 7, 2016 at 6:56 AM

Oakland's privacy commissioners continue to raise questions about the capabilities of a powerful cell phone surveillance device the police hope to begin using before the end of the year.

The device is called a Hailstorm, and according to user manuals and other materials recently leaked to the media and civil liberties groups, its capable of imitating a cell phone tower to sweep up everything from a phone's unique identifying information and location, to the content of text messages and phone conversations. Privacy advocates worry it could be used by the police in a dragnet fashion during protests or sporting events to identify and track large groups, or that the police might use it to spy on people's communications without a wiretap order.

The Oakland police say they only want to use the device to identify the locations of specific cell phones, and only while pursuing a fugitive or during a "mass casualty" incident like an earthquake or terrorist attack. Oakland police officials also say they will always get a warrant to use the Hailstorm.

Deputy Chief Darren Allison and Tim Birch, OPD's head of research and policy, told the commissioners at a previous meeting the Hailstorm the Oakland police will be using doesn't have the ability to do anything other than locate specific phones and determine their signal strength and approximate location. According to Allison, the device was pre-set by the manufacturer, Harris Corporation, to only have limited capabilities.

But members of the city's newly formed Privacy Advisory Commission expressed concerns at last night's meeting that the device is capable of intercepting the contents of communications and other more sensitive information.

"When I hear the device can't do this, or it can't do that, I'm skeptical," said commissioner Robert Oliver during the meeting. "What I know from my own research is that the device could tell you the temperature of my behind in this chair, so when you say it can't do something, that doesn't sit well with me."

Privacy commission chair Brian Hofer noted that recently leaked documents written by Harris Corporation, the manufacturer of the Hailstorm, show that the ability to intercept the content of communications is built into the device. All that could be missing from the model acquired by the District Attorney and OPD is a software license to turn on the feature.

"These manuals made for law enforcement talk about interception," said Hofer. "I'm not confident that content interception wasn't disabled."

"We have no interest in using it for those purposes," Birch said in response to the possibility the Hailstorm OPD will have access to might be capable of intercepting content.

But when asked what software the Hailstorm will run on, Allison was unable to answer. And OPD staff didn't respond when asked by commissioner Said Karamooz as to whether the commissioners could be shown a demonstration of the Hailstorm to verify whether it is capable of spying on communications. 

Mike Katz-Lacabe, a surveillance technology researcher, told the commissioners that the Hailstorm's hardware is capable of intercepting the contents of communications.

"It's the software that matters," said Katz-Lacabe, adding that the DA has also purchased amplifiers to extend the device's range. "It will be operational before the end of October," he said about the DA's plans.

The commission ended up asking OPD to change wording in the privacy policy being drafted for the Hailstorm so it doesn't imply the device isn't capable of intercepting communications, only that OPD won't use it for this purpose. The commissioners asked that the word "cannot" be changed to "shall not" throughout the document.

The use policy for the Hailstorm is expected to return to the Privacy Commission at a special meeting in two weeks.

Monday, October 3, 2016

Town Business: Late Grand Jury Response; Oak Knoll

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, Oct 3, 2016 at 8:40 AM

Late Grand Jury Response: Coun
Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney.
  • Oakland City Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney.
cilmember Desley Brooks' disruptive "filibuster" at last Thursday's Rules and Legislation Committee meeting ruffled some feathers but she raised a couple good points. One of them — made as an aside — was about the city council's need to respond to the Alameda County Grand Jury investigation of Council President Lynette Gibson McElhaney's use of her office for personal gain.

In June, the Grand Jury reported that Gibson McElhaney had her city-paid staff work on an appeal to stop a developer from building a townhouse project on land next to her personal residence. Furthermore, McElhaney recruited Oakland's top planning and building official, Rachel Flynn, to intervene in the process. Flynn tried to get the developer and his architect to substantially change their building's design, which they did. But McElhaney's interference ultimately caused the developer to abandon the project.

According to Oakland's ethics rules, it is illegal for a councilmember to direct city staff like the planning and building director for any reason. The city's rules also state that city council staff and office resources cannot be used to do things that directly and personally benefit the councilmember. Gibson McElhaney violated these rules, according to the Grand Jury.

The Express first reported these ethics violations in February 2015. The Grand Jury's report largely confirmed our story.

But the Grand Jury also noted that the City of Oakland has yet to do anything to hold Gibson McElhaney accountable for breaking the law. Now, the city hasn't even responded to the Grand Jury's report on time.

State law requires that cities respond in writing to the presiding judge no later than 90 days after the Grand Jury issues its report. That would have been September 21, but Oakland has yet to issue a response to the court, or to even schedule a hearing at which a response could be publicly heard and approved by the city council.

Cassie Barner of the Alameda County Criminal & Civil Grand Jury told the Express in an email that Oakland officials asked for an extension in order to prepare their response regarding McElhaney's ethics violations. Oakland has been granted until mid-October to respond, she wrote, adding that such extensions are "not unusual."

Perhaps the city asked for more time in order to wrap up the Public Ethics Commission investigation into McElhaney? According to PEC director Whitney Barazoto, the commission opened an investigation into McElhaney's role in the demise of the townhouse project on February 18, 2015, seven days after the Express ran its first story about the matter.

In June, Barazoto told the Express that the case was still pending, due in part to the PEC's lack of staff and resources needed to clear its backlog of cases. She wrote in an email that she expects McElhaney's case to be resolved "by the end of this year."

It'll be interesting to see what the PEC investigation finds, and how and when Oakland responds to the Grand Jury.

Oak Knoll: One of the biggest development projects in the city is coming before the Planning Commission on Wednesday. Formerly a naval hospital, the Oak Knoll project will add almost 935 townhouses and single family homes to Oakland's housing stock. The developer, Suncal, tried to launch the project once before in 2006, but the Financial Crisis derailed it.

Affordable housing wouldn't be part of Oak Knoll's mix because Oakland doesn't have an inclusionary housing ordinance. However, the city's recently adopted impact fees will likely raise millions from the project because it falls in the city's "Zone 2" area where fees ranging from $2,600 to $16,500 apply to new townhomes and single family homes.

Suncal's plan calls for preserving 85 acres of the old naval hospital land as permanent open space, and for restoring Rifle Range Creek. The historic Club Knoll building will also be moved and refurbished as a community center.

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