If you haven’t already heard, the civilian oversight board in Oakland, California has fired the police chief. This is something that has not only shocked the police community, but police unions and supporters around the country as well. We now know without a doubt that these oversight boards can and will just remove officers on a whim. We have been told that the main goal of these boards is to handle complaints and recommend discipline, but now we are seeing the true extent of their power and will as they exert their control by firing a police chief without cause.
The background case that has made the police chief the target of the firing was the controversial 2018 shooting of Joshua Pawlik. According to the reports Joshua was lying on the ground and had his hand on a pistol when he was shot. In the same article, the commission rejected its own findings of the investigative arm. Officers have a clear right to defend themselves when a weapon is present, and we all know that it only takes a split second when you are talking about life and death. By the way the commission was acting in this situation, they might have preferred that the officers were shot first before the suspect was
The next big issue was there is a report that Oakland’s police chief, Anne Kirkpatrick, refused to grant special favors to members of the police commission. It states that she did not want to reimburse towing fees for commissioner Ginale Harris. If these rumors are true- this is a very bad look for the police commission in Oakland. The people who sit on these boards should not use their power to try and get out of their own towing fees. The commission had no real cause to terminate her. They cited years of “backsliding” reforms and a lack of transparency, but the evidence that this was a political move makes us believe that the commission had other motives and stepped far outside their rightful lane.
The president of the Oakland Police Union was against the firing as well. He states that he is worried about how the firing of Kirkpatrick will affect future police chiefs. And he is right. We must ask ourselves why any police officer would want to take on this stressful and life-threatening role when they could be fired on any given Thursday. The commission has set a dangerous precedent: the next chief of police should expect to grant personal favors to the members of the police commission in order to keep their job.
In conclusion, this has been a very sad event for the city of Oakland’s police department. This shows that this oversight board is a biased oversight board, bent on extorting the police chief and the department itself and using their positions of power for their own gain. These boards are the real problems for our police department. Our officers cannot do their jobs properly if they constantly have to worry about being fired by the civilian review board. This needs to stop. This incident shows that we need to reform these oversight boards to prevent them from using their power to fire cops without viable cause.
Update: We recently learned that the city council is looking to increase the powers of the oversight commission. This is an interesting turn of events, especially with the recent firing of the police chief by the oversight commission.
The city council president is planning a resolution to give the commission the power to no longer include mayoral appointees, gain the power to propose changes to any police policy, prevent city administrators from investigating commissioners and immediately review findings and discipline in all cases of serious police misconduct. This proposal is essentially giving the commission almost complete control over the police department. The biggest change is the preventing investigations into the commissioners. That is the most dangerous part of the entire proposal. Without any investigations into the activities of the commissioners, they could become corrupt.
Another concerning action of the Oakland Police Commission is the fact that they are taking advice from the Anti-Police Terror Network. This shows that anti police organizations are influencing police oversight boards. These organizations are causing problems for police throughout the country. Now they are also influencing the Oakland Oversight Commission.
The Oakland Police Department will have some dark days ahead. This attempt to give the Oakland Police Commission further power over police and shield them from city investigators is a very dangerous territory. Some of the city council members who do support the commission have reservations about increasing the commission’s power at this time. Only time will tell if the city council will vote to increase the power of the police commission in Oakland.
Police Oversight Boards should be unbiased towards police officers and include vetting procedures for any potential members. When in doubt, oversight boards should defer to officer internal reviews and actions. Read more here.