Cops dislike civilian review. Not because we’re anti-civilian, but how can a commission provide useful oversight for all parties involved when they only understand one side of the issue?

People who’ve never worked patrol, stared down career criminals, and chased lifelong offenders through the urban obstacle course on the streets cannot realistically come to adequate conclusions about policing. Even the courts recognize the importance of training and experience when officers make judgment calls. Yet civilians impaneled on oversight commissions sit in judgment without either.

Can you imagine a group of cops providing oversight on a medical review board? It’s ludicrous, but that’s what we have as commissions are formed to “police the police.”

Unfortunately, there are occasions when an agency has relinquished its’ right to police itself, and the community responds.

That occurred in Oakland, California Tuesday. Voters overwhelmingly approved a Civilian Police Commission—led by citizens—to oversee the Oakland Police Department, according to NBC Bay Area news report.

On Election Day, 82% of voters approved “Measure LL” to establish the civilian police commission, which will have the authority to: Investigate police misconduct; hire and fire the chief of police—and impose discipline upon officers, among other powers.

While many fine officers in Oakland should not be tarred and feathered with the corruption, there have been enough soiled reputations to justify oversight, like it or not.

June 25, 2016 headline news:

  • Four police chiefs in 10 days
  • Twenty-eight police officers with allegations involving a teenage prostitute—the daughter of a police dispatcher
  • Five police departments ensnared in controversy
  • Two suicides related to scandals

This is the volatile mix that has led to a sexual misconduct scandal of epic proportions in and around Oakland.

If that weren’t enough, it all happened while the Oakland Police Department was already under the watch of a federal monitor and compliance director.

June 27, 2016 headline news:

The scandal is growing. At this point, dozens of careers are on the line. Officers, sergeants, and captains are under investigation for having sex with a young prostitute; several incidents when she was underage.

ABC 7 reported, “Even though her mother holds a good job as an Oakland police dispatcher, Celeste was exposed to drugs and prostitution growing up in Richmond, and then decided to hit the streets herself.”

September 8, 2016 headline news:

  • Four police officers in Oakland, California, have been fired for involvement in a department-wide sex scandal
  • An additional seven officers were suspended without pay, and another is receiving counseling

The details linked in each piece are so salacious they should make any LEO angry that people in our profession tarnished the badge in this manner.

This is a painful story. LET is unapologetically pro-law enforcement. We would like to report that the Oakland Police Department is getting the short end of the stick with this vote. But there has apparently been a vacuum in leadership within this organization, and the citizens have declared “enough already.”

The problems did not begin this year, nor were they restricted to the police department. The way city leaders handled the Occupy Oakland movement in 2011 were counter-productive to order and authority. Perhaps this led to the systemic malfeasance we have recently witnessed with police misconduct?

Ethics are vital in the business of law enforcement. When violated, every slope is slippery and there are branches sure to rake the face of those sliding toward self-destruction.

For the ethical officers in service for Oakland PD, we stand with you.

While a nationwide search for a permanent chief of police is being conducted, the Oakland Police Department is under the management of Oakland City Administrator Sabrina Landreth and Acting Assistant Chief David Downing. We wish them well as they have a difficult city to police and apparent challenges before them. Hopefully new leadership will steer the organization to a better future.