Oakland Police Racism Toward Blacks Uncovered In 2016, 2017 Studies, But What Has Been Done About It?

News Oakland Oakland Politics

A study released in July of 2017 focused on information drawn from Oakland Police body cameras and determined that Oakland Police Officers behaved “less respectfully” toward blacks than other racial and etbic groups. Basically, it’s called “racism”, which is defined as “prejudice, discrimination, or antagonism directed against someone of a different race based on the belief that one’s own race is superior.”

And then another study of Oakland Police Officers in 2016, this one from Stanford, concluded, as reported by PBS’ Jackie Judd “Researchers at nearby Stanford University spent two years analyzing vast amounts of data, field reports from 28,000 stops officers made on the streets and roads during a 13-month period, and body-cam video from 2,000 of those encounters. They expected to find about 7,800 stops of African-Americans. In fact, there were more than double, almost 17,000 stops. What surprised everyone involved even more was the huge gap in handcuffing.”

According to researcher Rebecca Hetey as told to PBS’ Judd “We found a significant pattern of racial disparities in who was stopped, in who was handcuffed, in who was searched, and in who was arrested. Even when we took out stops that resulted in arrests, we found that one in four black men, for example, were handcuffed, compared to one in 15 white men. ”

Still, nothing has been done to stop the pattern of racism uncovered in those research projects. How many of these studes do we need before real, significant change happens?

One may believe that these differences have to do with economics and class, right? Not according to Ms. Hetey, who told PBS’s Jackie Judd last year “More importantly, these disparities remained significant after we took into account a wide range of factors that we would expect to influence police decision-making, like crime rate, like neighborhood demographics.” Later, she added “Even when we took out stops that resulted in arrests, we found that one in four black men, for example, were handcuffed, compared to one in 15 white men.”

While its true that one silver lining in all of this can be that Oakland, itself, had its police department studied for racist tendencies, given the response of the former police chief Sean Whent, who said in the same PBS report that “Racial profiling, in and of itself, obviously is prohibited by our policy. I mean, it would be a misconduct issue. The fact that people are impacted by implicit bias, that’s a different issue. I don’t know how I could credibly say that, no, no racial profiling is ever — ever occurs here, although what I don’t believe necessarily is that these findings show that there’s systemic racial profiling going on. I just think it’s much more complex than that.”

If the former Oakland Police Chief can’t call out racism for what it is, and then stop it, and the current Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick wasn’t brought in to deal with racism, but as a kind of balm against the anger around the Oakland Police Sex Scandal, how can we say OPD has improved in this area? Absent the installation of a true program to remove racist Oakland police actions, we can’t.

That said, Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf has stated she’s determined to rid the police department of this problem: “I believe that, at the end of my term, people will be able to say that this city really grappled honestly with some very difficult issues, like race, like oppression, like class differences.” she told PBS.

But the reality shows a different picture. If you want a taste of the fact that the problem is still with us, just watch the exchange between Oakland community leaders and Oakland police representatives during a screening of the documentary “The Force”, held earlier this year and featured on Zennie62 on YouTube.

Or ask this: when a black person, like myself, is stopped by the Oakland police, do they always run the license to check for a record, and do they do this for white people, too? How often is someone white just given a warning and let go without running their license for a background check? And, does the justice system work to make sure that blacks who have been legally cleared of any accusation of wrong-doing in a case, have their record accurately reflect that, or does the wrong information that the person committed a crime just sit on the law enforcement computers unchanged? I can say no because it’s happened to me (though not by OPD and was cleared up) and to others – but according to these studies, it happens to way too many black folks in Oakland. It has to stop. Now.

There is a law enforcement system that has grown off the process of jailing black men, and the idea that because you’re black and male you had to do something wrong – and many times using a process that’s slanted toward illegally charging them with a crime: racial profilling in what police do is supposed to be illegal and against policy, but it’s done. Shouldn’t we erase all of the police records of not just black men, but people who have been victimized by Oakland Police and law enforcement racism both in treatment and in record-keeping? It’s past time we did.

Stay tuned.