What is Oakland’s Measure S1? Saa’un Bell, Howard Dyckoff, and Natalie Orenstein explain

Measure S1 is one of four Oakland ballot measures in this year’s election. The ballot measure would essentially give the city’s Police Commission more power and more independence. A city commission is a small citizen advisory board that typically is made up of appointed volunteers. They bring issues of concern and policy recommendations from the community to city officials.

The Police Commission was created by voters in 2016. It oversees Oakland Police Department’s policies and practices and the review agency that investigates community complaints of police misconduct. Ultimately, the Police Commission has the power to discipline and even fire police officers. 

Measure S1, if passed, would change the commission by giving the commission a full-time paid staff person with more power to inspect the police department, and allow the commission to hire its own independent lawyers who don’t work for the City. 

This measure has the support of Mayor Libby Schaaf, the police union, and the city council. Critics say more must be done to change policing in Oakland, but it would be a start if the police commission is truly unbiased.

Reporting by Oakland Voices correspondent Saa’un Bell, Howard Dyckoff, and The Oaklandside’s Natalie Orenstein. Videos shot and edited by Lauren Richardson and produced by Momo Chang (Oakland Voices) and Jacob Simas (The Oaklandside).

Oakland Voices and The Oaklandside co-reported and produced video explainers about Oakland’s four 2020 ballot measures.

TRANSCRIPT:

Saa’un Bell: What’s up Oakland, I’m Saa’un Bell, a correspondent with Oakland Voices. 

Natalie Orenstein: And I’m Natalie Orenstein, a reporter with The Oaklandside.

SB: On November 3rd, Oakland voters will decide whether to approve Measure S1.

NO: Right. The ballot measure would essentially give the city’s Police Commission more power and more independence. 

SB: Really quick, if you don’t know what a city commission is, it’s a small citizen advisory board that typically is made up of appointed volunteers. They bring issues of concern and policy recommendations from the community to city officials.

NO: So what does Oakland’s Police Commission do exactly? 

SB: That commission was created by voters in 2016. It oversees OPD’s policies and practices and the review agency that investigates community complaints of police misconduct. Ultimately, the Police Commission has the power to discipline and even fire police officers. 

NO: Ok, So how would Measure S1 change the commission?

SB: Here’s how: 

1) It would give the commission a full-time paid staff person with more power to inspect OPD.

2) It would allow the commission to hire its own independent lawyers who don’t work for the City. 

My Oakland Voices colleague Howard Dyckoff spoke to Councilmember Dan Kalb, who helped write the measure, and Jose Dorado, a current Police Commission member. Both said the new independent inspector is the critical change here, since that position is currently held by a police officer.

NO: And supporters also say Measure S1 would put the Police Commission in a better position to monitor OPD once it’s no longer under federal oversight. Remember, the department has been monitored by the federal government since a police misconduct scandal almost two decades ago.

SB: So Natalie, other than Dan Kalb, who’s supporting Measure S1?

NO: Well, the full City Council supports the measure, and so does Mayor Libby Schaaf. So do several social-justice organizations, like the Coalition for Police Accountability, which helped write the measure. And in a surprise move, the Oakland police officers union actually endorsed the measure too — even though it would strengthen the commission’s oversight of OPD. 

SB: That’s very interesting, so no group has filed an official statement opposing Measure S1? 

NO: No, but that doesn’t mean the commission has no critics. After police chief Anne Kirkpatrick was fired this spring, she called the commission “out of control,” and she sued the city in response. She’s alleging she was fired in retaliation for bringing attention to abuses of power by the police commission. 

SB: Yikes, Natalie, well regardless of what happens with Measure S1, the residents I spoke with said more needs to be done to reexamine the role of the police in Oakland, beyond just the commission. Racquel, an 18-year-old who participated in the George Floyd protests and is getting ready to vote for the first time, told me that a stronger Police Commission makes sense — but only if it’s truly unbiased. And Robert, a community organizer, told me he’s supportive but skeptical. Like many activists, he’s more interested in structural reforms, like defunding the police.

NO: Ok, got it, so Measure S1 is just one aspect of a larger conversation in Oakland around policing. Thanks, Saa’un.

SB: Yep, thank you Natalie.

Howard Dyckoff: Hi, I’m Howard D., a correspondent with Oakland Voices. We hope you’ve found this video informative. If you’d like to learn more about voting and this year’s local races, you can find more Oakland election coverage at oaklandside.org and at oaklandvoices.us. And remember, election day is November 3rd.

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Saa’un Bell is a Philippine-born, first-generation Black Californian by way of Greenville, Alabama. She grew up in East Long Beach and has lived in Oakland for the last 10 years. She is an organizer, writer, creator, and a novice hatmaker.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie grew up in Berkeley and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.

Howard Dyckoff has lived in Oakland for over 40 years and has been involved with many community groups, including Oakland Digital and Oakland Local, Block by Block, the East Oakland Boxing Association (EOBA), and CBE. A New York transplant, Howard attended Laney College, where he wrote for the Laney Tower newspaper and was elected editor He has served as the Berkeley Free Clinic’s Outreach Coordinator, and also worked as an information technology professional at Chevron, Sybase, and Wells Fargo. Howard has been a regular contributor to Oakland Local and online publications such as TechTarget and Linux Gazette. He currently does event photography around the Bay Area.

Lauren Janelle Richardson, an East Oakland resident and founder of BypassTV, is a multi-tiered media producer who specializes in capturing stories through video, photography, journalism, and audio productions. She also is a legal apprentice, studying under an attorney, in preparation to take the CA State Bar without going to law school.

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