OAKLAND CITY COUNCIL | After over nine hours of public testimony reaching into the early morning hours, the Oakland City Council approved a controversial consulting contract including noted law enforcement expert William Bratton.
Despite over 200 speakers, nearly all in opposition of the Bratton contract, the council voted to approve the $250,000 consulting contract, 7-1, with only Councilmember Desley Brooks in opposition. The council also unanimously approved a package of resolutions to add civilian employees to the city’s crime lab and a 90-day plan to add 10 Alameda County sheriff’s deputies to the force. The meeting adjourned at 2:51 a.m, Wednesday and featured over five hours of debate on the Bratton contract alone.
However, the tenor of the normally raucous council chambers was for the most part polite and attentive, but as the clock neared midnight, streams of public speakers laid invective at Council President Pat Kernighan and the state of its police department in similar fashion as last week’s contentious public safety committee.
With Oakland Police Chief assuring the council the results of the consulting contract would be “inclusive and transparent,” it was Brooks who poked a series of holes in the proposed contract, while also admonishing her colleagues for not actually reading the document.
“We are feeding into the politics of fear,” said Brooks, who added she was troubled by some council members at last week’s public safety meeting who “pass something that had not read.” Brooks also questioned documents showing Bratton would only come to Oakland in three times in six months, according to schedule not provided to public.
Jordan also could not answer query made by Brooks over how much of the $250,000 contract would be paid to Bratton. Most shocking, Brooks read into the record a line from the contract that appeared offensive and divisive to the segments of the community, specifically, one plan for the rich in the Oakland Hills and one for the poor in other parts of the city. “There is a strategy for the hills and one for the flatlands,” Brooks said.
Oakland Mayor Jean Quan said she strongly support the Bratton contract and added, “Sometimes you need an outside eye.”
Kernighan, who at times, amid the cacophony of protesters in chambers, lost control of the room to a certain extent, that some council members, especially Lynette Gibson McElhaney put the onus on themselves to bring order, said she fully supported the chief’s plan. “I firmly believe there is a legitimate role for police,” said Kernighan. “We understand police need to be operating properly within the Constitution.”
To assuage much fear and anger from the public, Councilmember Dan Kalb motioned to add three sentences to the resolution strengthening the council’s opposition to racial profiling and make constitutional policing a top priority.
Councilmember Noel Gallo, at nearly 2 a.m., forcefully defending the contract, even as the renewed energy to the chambers also awoke the few left in attendance that rained catcalls on him. “We’re losing too many children, neighbors, grandmas to crime,” he said. “I can’t sit here any longer debating the terminology. I’m going to support my police chief. I’m not an expert. I’m going to rely on the police chief and his staff.”
Clearly, losing stamina, McElhaney said she was placing her trust in Jordan to make the necessary changes to the department before saying, “The OPD is in need of a fixin’.
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