Oakland City Council Weighs Forming Independent Police Commission

Beset by an ongoing sex scandal and investigation into racist tweets at the Oakland Police Department, the city council is weighing whether to form an independent police commission to oversee the rank and file — and even have the power to fire the chief.

The "Police Commission Charter Amendment Measure" by Councilmen Dan Kalb and Noel Gallo is up for a vote at Tuesday night’s council meeting. If approved, it will go before voters in November. The amendment also seeks a community police review agency and a process for police discipline.

"Whereas some important progress has been made...public perception persists that the department and the city do not adequately hold its officers accountable for misconduct," the proposed charter amendment reads.

San Francisco and Los Angeles have similar police commissions.

“I strongly believe that this is what’s needed in Oakland — a body that the citizens feel they can go to,” Gallo told the San Francisco Chronicle.

But the idea has prompted fierce opposition from the Oakland Police Officers’ Association, whose president told the Chronicle it would violate a union contract that the council unanimously approved in November. Some community activists also say the commission’s powers wouldn’t go far enough.

The seven-member commission that Kalb and Gallo are proposing would replace the Citizens’ Police Review Board, a civilian-run body created in 1980 to investigate complaints and make disciplinary recommendations to the city administrator. The body would be empowered to fire the police chief for cause, if five members vote to do so.

Multiple investigations are underway at the Oakland Police Department, where officers have been accused of having inappropriate and illegal sex with a young woman, and for sending racist texts to each other within the department. The results of those investigations have not been completed.

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