In a new plateau in the PC agenda, a move critics are calling a “travesty,” the city of Oakland, California, is encouraging former convicts to apply for positions on the city’s new police oversight commission.
A notice posted on the city’s website advertising the open commission slots reads: “Must be an Oakland resident. Must be at least 18 years old. Formerly incarcerated individuals encouraged to apply.”
What’s more, the voter-approved measure that created the commission prohibits current and former Oakland police officers, as well as police union employees, from serving.
Jeff Roorda, a retired police officer and four-term Missouri state representative, said this move borders on insulting.
“It’s a travesty, but it’s not surprising in the era we’re living in,” he told WND. “Cops aren’t afraid of oversight, but is it really oversight when you’re putting the convicts that these guys are sworn to protect us against in charge of telling them what they’ve done right and wrong?”
Roorda, who wrote the book “The War on Police: How the Ferguson Effect is Making America Unsafe,” said Oakland’s decision is part of the war on police. He said anti-police bias is likely to be a problem for any former inmates appointed to the commission.
“That bias is quite different when you’re talking about cops analyzing the situations that other cops find themselves in versus looking at it through the eyes of a criminal, a convicted criminal,” the former officer said. “It’s one thing to have people providing oversight that can relate to the very difficult job that police officers do and understand the challenges they face, versus somebody tainted by the fact that they had to pay a price for their misdeeds.”
Veteran journalist and author Cheryl Chumley, who wrote the book “Police State USA,” nevertheless said Oakland’s effort to recruit ex-cons to oversee the police sounds like a bad idea.
“Former police need not apply – but former inmates should? Tell me that doesn’t reek of an agenda, and a misplaced one at that,” Chumley told WND. “Given the majority of inmates in America’s prison systems are black and minorities, you don’t have to be a prophet to predict where this is headed – right down a path of Black Lives Matter-type revenge on police.
“It sounds like the city’s looking for commission members who are akin to former U.S. Attorney General Eric Holder – individuals who will put skin color at the top of the checklist and mete out policing policies and recommendations based on personal assumptions about race.”
Roorda, on the other hand, does not think race is a major factor in the case.
“Everybody that’s been behind bars thinks that they were wronged by the system, but we’ve got to start at a place where you have confidence in the system in order to improve it, and if you just don’t believe the system can work at all, which is the way ex-cons see it, then how do you address the problems that might exist in law enforcement?” he reasoned.
Independent writer, producer and WND columnist Jack Cashill said Oakland is the wrong place to put ex-cons in charge of police oversight due to the city’s tense recent history of police-community relations. It was only eight years ago, on New Year’s Day 2009, that a BART police officer fatally shot Oscar Grant III, a young unarmed black man believed to be involved in a fight on a train. The officer claimed he thought he was using his taser gun, not his handgun.
“In a saner environment, there might be some logic to putting ex-cons on a police oversight commission, but Oakland is no one’s idea of a sane environment,” Cashill told WND. “A few years back, city residents howled for the head of a cop who made an honest mistake in the shooting death of a young black troublemaker [Grant] at the Fruitvale BART Station. They made a movie about the young man and sent the cop to prison. In Oakland, this is a bad idea.”
The commission’s nine members and two alternates will be selected by the mayor and an eight-member civilian selection panel. Tal Klement, a deputy public defender serving on the civilian selection panel, said encouraging former convicts to apply is in the spirit of the ballot initiative the created the oversight commission.
“Part of the measure itself said they were looking for people who had experienced police contact, and obviously if you are formally incarcerated, you have experienced police conduct and potential misconduct as well,” Klement said, according to the San Francisco Chronicle.
Chumley, however, rejects that notion.
“Seeking out felons to fill the slots of a police commission is just offensive,” she opined. “It’s a slap in the face to law and order – to the police who work hard to root out crime on a daily basis. The slap especially stings when it comes to the ‘No Police Need Apply’ sign that’s hung alongside the application ad. The message is: Criminals, not cops, know best how to police. And that’s simply ridiculous.
“Former convicts can weigh in any time on how the police are doing. It’s called a telephone, and they can pick it up and call their city representatives, their city departments, their city law enforcement officials, and provide feedback, both positive and negative. They don’t need to be given a special reach-out – and they certainly don’t need to be put in a position of authority or influence, where they actually have occasion to influence how policing is conducted.”