Monday, May 8, 2017

Town Business: Marijuana Is the Most Common Bust Oakland Cops Make When They Search Someone

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, May 8, 2017 at 8:01 AM

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For years, the Oakland police have documented every search of a person or vehicle they carry out as part of a larger effort to collect "stop data." Among other things, officers write down the race, gender, and age of the person they stop, whether they searched the person, and whether the search turned up anything illegal. All this information goes into a database which can be used to measure possible racial bias or other problems involving police stops.

And for years, OPD's stop data has shown that a substantial number of searches have turned up illicit drugs — i.e. narcotics. The implication is that these stops were justified and resulted in dangerous drugs being confiscated.

But OPD has traditionally lumped marijuana into a larger category that includes drugs like speed and heroin, calling it "narcotics and/or marijuana." So when an officer stops and searches someone and finds a few grams of pot, they can record the search in the database as having yielded narcotics.

The obvious problem is that marijuana is quickly being decriminalized. In fact, the City of Oakland is trying to turn marijuana into a big business, enticing weed manufacturers and distributors to set up here, and hoping that pot smokers will come to Oakland to buy their herb.

So why then are Oakland cops still busting people for possessing only marijuana? And how many of the people stopped and searched by OPD end up as a statistic in the police stop data each year?

Councilmember Rebecca Kaplan asked OPD to disaggregate the searches that turned up only marijuana from the data. A report on this will be heard at Tuesday night's Public Safety Committee meeting.

According to the department's report, they couldn't zero in on marijuana for most of the stop data they collected in 2016. It would just be too time consuming to look through every police report to tell which searches only turned up weed, and not also a narcotic like cocaine or methamphetamine.

But for a small sample of searches carried out between October 11 and December 31 last year, OPD was able to separate out the searches that turned up only pot.

The results show that the recovery of only marijuana during a search was the most common type of recovery of contraband. Seven percent of all searches yielded weed, and only weed.

By contrast, 5 percent of searches turned up a "narcotic," and 2 percent turned up a firearm.

OAKLAND POLICE DEPARTMENT
  • Oakland Police Department

Thursday, May 4, 2017

City of Oakland to Settle Wrongful Attempted-Murder Conviction for $300,000

by Darwin BondGraham
Thu, May 4, 2017 at 11:06 AM

Ronald Ross.
  • Ronald Ross.
Ronald Ross was convicted in the 2006 attempted murder of Renardo Williams and spent nearly seven years in prison. Oakland's city attorney is now recommending that the city council settle a malicious-prosecution lawsuit for $300,000.

The 2006 case against Ross appeared to be a slam dunk. The Oakland police and Alameda County District Attorney alleged that Ross went to Williams' apartment in West Oakland's Campbell Village housing complex and shot him with a .22 in the stomach.

Williams, while he was recovering in Highland Hospital, identified Ross' photo when Oakland police Sgt. Steve Lovell showed him a lineup of six faces.

And another witness who was with Williams at the time of the shooting also fingered Ross as the gunman.

Ross was arrested and convicted by a jury. His sentence was to 32 years-to-life.

But then the Northern California Innocence Project and attorneys with the Keker Van Nest law firm took up Ross' case.

They alleged that Williams and another witness perjured their testimony. They also claimed that Lovell botched the case by influencing the witnesses to identify Ross, and that Lovell failed to pursue another lead on a different suspect.

Ross believes that the Oakland police fabricated testimony against him. As evidence of this, his attorneys obtained a 2011 signed statement from the victim, Williams, who claimed that, when Lovell initially showed him the six-picture lineup, he didn't identify anyone as the shooter. But then Lovell "silently indicated" that he should pick Ross' photo. Williams allegedly felt that he owed Lovell a favor, according to court documents.

However, in a later interview with several investigators from the Alameda DA's office, Williams reversed this statement, claiming again the Ross was the shooter and that he wasn't influenced by Lovell. But other doubts undermined the conviction.

For example, Lovell acknowledged during Ross' trial that he helped Travis Abner, the second witness who claimed Ross was the shooter, move out of Campbell Village and into a safer part of Oakland along with the rest of his family. The assistance supposedly was not linked to Abner's statement in favor of the prosecution, but Ross believes it was a favor in exchange for Abner identifying Ross as the shooter.

Ross' attorneys also obtained a taped interview with another man who was present when the shooting happened. He said Ross wasn't there and had nothing to do with the incident.

In 2013, Ross was exonerated and freed from prison.

Ross sued the city and Lovell in 2014 for $32 million, alleging that the Oakland police engaged in malicious prosecution and committed a Brady violation — by willfully withholding exculpatory evidence. The city countered, claiming there had been ample reason to investigate Ross, and that Lovell had probable cause to consider him a prime suspect.

U.S. District Court Magistrate Judge Maria-Elena James ruled in favor of the city and Lovell in 2015 and threw out Ross' lawsuit.

Ross appealed this decision. In March of this year, after a mediation process, the City of Oakland agreed to pay $300,000 to Ross to settle the lawsuit.

Tuesday, May 2, 2017

Thousands Flood Oakland Streets to Support Immigrant Rights on May Day

by Azucena Rasilla
Tue, May 2, 2017 at 1:56 PM

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The heat wave was no match for the estimated 5,000 people who marched on International Workers’ Day, also known as May Day, yesterday in Oakland.

The day began with an act of civil disobedience: a group of protesters blockaded the Alameda County Administration Building in downtown Oakland, demanding that Alameda Sheriff Gregory Ahern end collaboration with federal immigration agents who have access to the county's jails, and also cancel the "Urban Shield" SWAT training and weapons exposition hosted by his agency each year.

They are also opposing the planned expansion of Santa Rita Jail, and many want the county to strengthen its sanctuary policies that shield immigrations from federal enforcement.

Across town in Fruitvale Plaza, students from over ten high schools organized a walk-out and rallied at the corner of 35th Avenue and International Blvd. The sentiment among them was the same. They were marching for their undocumented family members and friends who have been targeted, and demonized by the Trump administration.

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“Beautiful Brown, African, Asian people, this is not what the Trump regime wants to see,” the Anti-Police Terror Project's Cat Brooks told the rally.

The protesters marched from Fruitvale to San Antonio Park with a sea of signs and messages: "Sanctuary for ALL," "My students and their families are not criminals," "No human is illegal," "Legalization, not Deportation."

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The rally concluded at San Antonio Park in East Oakland, where organizers offered trainings on what to do in case of an ICE raid, and an art exhibit by the Palestine Youth Movement.

"As the attacks on immigrants, workers, and communities of color are increasing under Trump's administration, we are mobilizing in the thousands to demonstrate our power and resistance against the fear and violence that this government is imposing on our communities here and abroad," said Sharif Zakout of the Arab Resource and Organizing Center during the march.

Monday, May 1, 2017

Town Business: Oakland's Proposed $2.6 Billion Budget

by Darwin BondGraham
Mon, May 1, 2017 at 7:32 AM

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Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf released her proposed 2017-2019 budget late last Friday. She's projecting a $32.5 million gap over the two years that will have to be bridged with spending cuts and new revenue.

According to the mayor, growing CalPERS pension costs, retiree medical bills, the old Police and Fire Retirement System, and federal cuts are what's driving Oakland's deficit.

Of course, Schaaf's projections are debatable. It's possible the city will pull in more revenue, and costs won't soar so high. That has happened in past years. Then again, the current economic expansion can't last forever. If there's a recession, Oakland's budget will suffer.

Whatever the actual revenues and costs turn out to be over the next two years, the budget is a big puzzle. Schaaf's proposal is one way of arranging the city's complicated finances. Here's a (very incomplete) preview of what Schaaf wants to do, but keep in mind, it's the city council that holds the purse strings and will ultimately decide what gets funded, and at what levels.

50 more cops: $1.5 million would pay for a third police academy in 2018-2019, adding fifty more officers to the department. This would bring the total number of sworn officers to 792 from the current 754. This comes on top of $9.4 million approved last year, outside of the budget process, for the hiring of more police officers. Another $9.3 million was similarly allocated for the hiring of more police officers in 2015, outside of the normal budget process.

12 more fire inspectors: The Fire Department would gain six more civilian inspectors next year, and then another six in 2019, tripling the number. But the city will have to successfully hire and fill these positions. In recent years, positions in the Fire Prevention Bureau have gone unfilled despite being budgeted. The costs of adding these inspectors would be $1.79 million per year, but the jobs would be self-funded through fees paid by property owners.

26 more firefighters: The Fire Department would also gain 26 firefighters by adding an academy in 2018 and 2019 at a cost of $2.6 million.

More planners for faster development: Schaaf's budget adds at least 11 new positions to the Department of Planning and Building that would focus on helping developers get the permits they need to break ground on projects faster.

Cutting Head Start: Due to a reduction in a federal grant award, Oakland's Head Start program will be cut by $390,000 per year. The city will lose four Head Start instructors. The Eastmont Child Development Center, which currently serves 32 children, will also be closed.

Cutting Shotspotter: A planned expansion of Oakland's gunshot detection surveillance system called Shotspotter would be cancelled under Schaaf's plan.

3 percent increase for homeless services: Oakland currently has about $7 million in grant funded programs to assist its homeless residents. Schaaf wants to add $250,000, or an increase of 3 percent.

Oakland also has $62 million in new funds that can be spend on infrastructure thanks to Measure KK. Schaaf's “Capital Improvement Program" budget, which includes Measure KK money and another $58 million, proposes the following:

Fire stations: The CIP would include money to design two new fire stations and make critical upgrades to several existing stations.

Head Start centers: The Brookfield and Arroyo Viejo Head Start centers would get $375,000 in upgrades each.

Libraries: The West Oakland, Asian, and Brookfield libraries would split about $2 million and the main library would get another $2 million.

Streets: Schaaf wants to spend $62 million on Oakland's streets over the next two years, including projects for cars, bikes, and pedestrians.

No affordable housing: Notably absent in Schaaf's Capital Improvement Plan is investment in affordable housing. Although the CIP anticipates $35 million in affordable housing programs, the only specific housing-related expenditure would be a $275,000 upgrade of the Henry Robinson Center's air conditioner. The center serves homeless adults, many who live in the camps downtown and in West Oakland.


Correction: the original version of this story stated that the salaries for the additional 50 officers that will be hired by the additional police academy are not funded in future years. In fact, their salaries are in OPD's budget

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