Measure S1

Police Commission

Charter Amendment

Expands the powers of the Oakland Police Commission and the Community Police Review Agency, and creates an Office of Inspector General. 

Modifies and expands the powers of the Oakland Police Commission and the Community Police Review Agency, and creates an Office of Inspector General. 

No Recommendation
 

What the Measure Would Do

Measure S1 would amend the City Charter to make a number of changes to duties and powers of the Oakland Police Commission and the Community Police Review Agency (CPRA), which conducts investigations into misconduct by officers of the Oakland Police Department. It is a follow-up to 2016 Measure LL, which established the Police Commission, and is intended both to address some of the confusion created by Measure LL and to create more independence for the Police Commission.  

First, the measure would establish the Police Commission as a body independent of the city administration and allow the commission to hire its own attorneys. The commission could require that the chief of police respond to its requests for information. Measure S1 would also clarify that the commission cannot issue subpoenas for city employees who are not police officers. 

Second, Measure S1 would extend the time when the CPRA must complete its investigations from 180 days to 250 days. It would also allow the CPRA to hire its own attorneys. The measure also clarifies that CPRA staff are authorized to access Police Department policies, records related to sworn officers and disciplinary history. Additionally, it would place the director of the CPRA under the Police Commission instead of the city administrator. 

Finally, Measure S1 would create an independent Office of Inspector General (OIG) to review cases of police misconduct and the CPRA’s investigations and provide reports to the Police Commission and the Oakland City Council. The Police Commission would hire and oversee the inspector general. The OIG would also oversee the city’s compliance with requirements of the settlement agreement for a prior lawsuit (see the Backstory section).

Many of the costs associated with Measure S1 have already been budgeted by the city for the current fiscal year. The cost of hiring one lawyer to support the CPRA has already been budgeted, as well as the cost of hiring the OIG and two other staff for that office. However, adding a second lawyer for the CPRA and lawyers for the Police Commission is estimated to add between $266,000 and $316,000 annually. 

The Backstory

In 2016, voters approved Measure LL, which created an independent Oakland Police Commission, to oversee the Police Department’s policies, and a Community Police Review Agency, to investigate officer misconduct. In many ways, Measure LL was the culmination of years of effort to reform the Oakland Police Department. In 2000, a former police officer alleged that four veteran officers had planted evidence, made false arrests, falsified reports and used excessive force in dozens of cases. The allegations resulted in a federal civil rights lawsuit (Allen, et al. v. City of Oakland, known as the Riders case) and a negotiated settlement. The Police Department continues to be overseen by a federal monitor on improvements mandated by the settlement, including training and supervision, identifying inappropriate behavior by police officers and increasing the public's access to the complaint process. Despite the oversight of the federal monitor, officers have since been charged with harassment, illegally obtaining warrants and suppressing evidence of misconduct. In 2016, a group of police officers was accused of sexually assaulting and trafficking a teenager.1 Shortly thereafter, Measure LL was overwhelmingly passed to create the Oakland Police Commission and an oversight body devoted to investigations of misconduct. 

Under Measure LL, the Police Commission reviews department policies, proposes amendments to policies, reviews the annual budget and issues subpoenas in investigations. The commission consists of seven members, three appointed by the mayor and four chosen from a pool of applicants by a nine-member selection panel. (The selection panel consists of one member appointed by each city councilmember and one by the mayor.) Both the mayor’s appointees and the selection panel’s appointees must be approved by the City Council. The Police Commission also oversees the CPRA, which was created to investigate cases of police misconduct and recommend discipline. The head of the CPRA reports to the city administrator.  

Measure LL has proven to be unclear on several points, including whether the Police Commission can hire its own lawyers and what department records CPRA staff are allowed to access. Additionally, Measure LL authorized the creation of an Office of Inspector General but did not specify who the inspector general should report to, while the City Charter specifies that all city employees report to the city administrator. This has resulted in confusion and delayed the hiring of the position.

The lack of clarity has contributed to conflict between agencies. The current commission and the city administrator have had a tense relationship, while commissioners repeatedly clashed with former Chief of Police Anne Kirkpatrick. In 2019, the Police Commission, with the support of the mayor, fired Chief Kirkpatrick without cause.2 In May 2020, the city auditor released a report on the commission and the CPRA that raised a number of concerns about commissioners’ conduct and the lack of clarity around roles, and recommended several city charter and code changes.3 Measure S1 addresses some of the challenges described in the audit (particularly around the effectiveness of the CPRA) but does not include the recommended charter changes. 

This measure was placed on the ballot by a unanimous vote of the Oakland City Council. As a charter amendment, it requires a simple majority (50% plus one vote) to pass. 

Equity Impacts

The criminal justice system has profound impacts on communities of color in California, particularly Black men. In 2017, 28.5% of the state’s male prisoners were Black, despite making up just 5.6% of the male residents.4 Communities of color are overrepresented in traffic stops, arrest rates, police use of force and death in custody. Measure LL and the creation of Oakland Police Commission and Community Police Review Agency were the result of activism to address these disproportionate impacts in Oakland. Should this measure pass, it could better equip CPRA and the commission to investigate misconduct, alter policies and, over time, build trust between the department and Oakland’s communities of color. 

Pros

  • Measure S1 would give the CPRA more access to Police Department records, which would likely allow it to conduct better and more efficient investigations.
  • Creating an Office of Inspector General to oversee the city’s compliance with a prior settlement agreement would help the city emerge from decades of federal monitoring. 
  • By allowing the CPRA and Police Commission to hire attorneys directly, Measure S1 would allow for more independent and efficient investigations. 

Cons

  • Oakland’s chief of police jointly reports to the mayor, the Police Commission the city administrator and the federally appointed monitor. This measure misses an opportunity to better clarify the reporting structure and establish clearer accountability, and in turn, a more effective working relationship with this position. 
  • The commission has taken on a number of departmental administrative matters in its first several years that distract from its core mission to review and amend police department policies. Measure S1 misses an opportunity to clarify the commission’s mandate, which could help focus efforts on the highest priority oversight issues. 

SPUR's Recommendation

Effective oversight is sorely needed to build trust in the Oakland Police Department. This measure would allow the CPRA to conduct better investigations and would establish a truly independent Office of Inspector General to move the city beyond a troubled chapter of federal oversight. On the other hand, Measure S1 doesn’t address some of the larger structural challenges that could prevent the Police Commission from effectively serving in its role. In its first two years, the Police Commission has experienced challenges in defining the scope of its work and in building effective internal structures and working relationships with city partners. Despite the improvements that Measure S1 would bring, SPUR is concerned that the Police Commission’s role is overly scoped and inadequately supported. It is unclear that the additional authority and independence provided by Measure S1 will solve these challenges. SPUR has been supportive of increased oversight in public safety and of efforts that build transparency and trust. However, the Board of Directors was divided and could not reach a 60% majority to either support or oppose this measure. 

No Recommendation on OAK Measure S1 - Police Commission
Footnotes 

1. NPR, “Oakland to Pay 19-Year-Old Nearly $1 Million in Police Scandal Settlement,” 2017, https://www.npr.org/sections/thetwo-way/2017/06/01/531056653/oakland-to-...

2. The City Charter allows the Police Commission to fire the chief of police without cause, if they have the consent of the mayor. The former chief has since filed a lawsuit against the city for wrongful termination. 

3. Performance Audit of the Oakland Police Commission and Community Police Review Agency, 2020, https://www.oaklandauditor.com/wp-content/uploads/2020/06/060120_Performance-Audit_Police-Commission-CPRA_FINAL-REPORT.pdf

4. Public Policy Institute of California, “California’s Prison Population,” 2019, https://www.ppic.org/publication/californias-prison-population/#:~:text=In%202017%2C%20the%20year%20of,which%20is%20422%20per%20100%2C000.

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