Letters for the Week of February 18, 2015 

Readers sound off on OPD's traffic stop data, privacy and the best way to curb driving.

"OPD Still Appears to be Targeting Blacks," News, 2/4

There's No Evidence

The statistics on racial profiling in the article make irrelevant comparisons. What counts is this: How does the percentage of people stopped who are black compare with the percentage of perpetrators of street crimes who are black? If they are roughly the same, there is no evidence of racial profiling. The subject is street crime. Police on patrol do not make stops for "crime in the suites" — white collar crime. If investigators of fraud, bribery, and financial misdealing mostly go after white perpetrators, can the latter complain that they are victims of racial profiling?

Charlie Pine, Oakland

Whites Get Away With Crimes

There are a variety of questions that can be asked and crunched out of the numbers. Sure, you could ask who commits the most street crime, but in reality you could never answer that question. Why? Because lots of crimes on the street go unreported. Lots of people who commit "street crimes" will never once in their life get stopped by a cop, let alone arrested.

What I am interested in is that of the 16 percent of black folk arrested for these stops, what the distribution of offenses for which people are arrested is. Why? Because if black people are getting arrested for things like drugs, alcohol, or any other thing that we know lots of white people do, too, then I would propose that this may be an example of why our justice system has an overrepresentation of black people. Anecdotally, all of my white friends smoke pot, grow pot, many (not all) take E sometimes, as well as 'shrooms, acid, speed, and coke. They all have been drunk in public and most have driven under the influence at least once in their young and silly days. None of my white friends have ever been arrested for any reason (except civil disobedience, which I won't count because we were let go and never had to go to court for it).

But imagine if white people got stopped or pulled over at the same rate as black people — and dealt with being searched as often as it has happened to me in my life, although I don't do shit but disobedience. Chances are some of them would have gotten caught with contraband at some point in time. Now presuming that cops didn't think to themselves, "Look, you look like a nice guy, with a cool job, with a future — so, I'm taking your shit and letting you off with a warning," (as I have heard about and have witnessed happen for them on occasion) but, instead, the cops actually arrested them for it — if this shit happened — my question is, would we still have the stark racial disparities for arrests or "street crime?"

We cannot presume from the information that is available that black people commit more "street crime" than other folks. All we can say is that we are arrested for it more often than others. The real question is, do these disproportionate stops lead to police making far greater opportunity to find black people with contraband or doing something wrong — and decrease the chances of finding one of my white friends doing something illegal?

Joe Jackson, Oakland

"Oakland Poised to Lead the Way in Protecting Privacy," Opinion, 2/4

We Need These Policies Now

The OPD, CHP, DEA, NSA, etc. are all going to use electronic surveillance whether we want them or not, but without the laws on the books to curb their abuses we will be outgunned whenever we try to rein them in. Without the proposed laws, we won't even know what the abuses are.

The Oakland City Council did a 180-degree turn when it went from almost unanimous enthusiastic support of the Domain Awareness Center (DAC) to stopping further development outside the Port of Oakland. Much of that was due to the united front against the DAC by a broad group of residents. But a chunk was from the realization by the council that the DAC was going to be a very costly, never-ending, custom software project. Sometime in the not-so-distant future, urban surveillance systems like the DAC will become almost canned software/hardware systems for much lower cost. The temptation at that point for a tech cure to crime will be irresistible to elected officials. We need laws on the books and adequately funded checks and balances in place now.

Len Raphael, Oakland

These Policies Ensure Transparency

The only good DAC is a dead DAC. But these policies will help keep another DAC-like entity or Stingray-like device from being used against the residents of Oakland without a full and open public airing, unlike how the DAC came to be.

JP Massar, Berkeley

"The Governor Has No Clothes," Seven Days, 2/4

Shut Down Diablo Canyon!

Jerry Brown needs to lead the way in shutting California's last, aging, unsafe nuclear power plant, Diablo Canyon, which sits near thirteen earthquake faults in a tsunami zone. The Nuclear Regulatory Commission's chief safety inspector at Diablo, Michael Peck, recommended closing the plant in 2013 until it can be made safe. So why isn't the California Public Utilities Commission immediately calling for the plant to be closed? Young Governor Brown promised to prevent Diablo from being licensed, so what happened? That scary nuke is our Fukushima waiting to happen. Governor Brown, do the right thing and protect the citizens of California. Shut Diablo now!


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