The public’s confidence regarding the level and sufficiency of service provided by the Oakland Police Department has seriously diminished over the past year. Neighborhoods have expressed concerns about increased levels of crime, slow police response to calls for service, and insufficient numbers of police officers on the streets. While there have been a number of highly publicized “projects,” “details,” and “programs” to address these issues and reduce crime they have, by and large, been unsuccessful in providing the long-term systemic relief necessary to restore quality of life in many of our neighborhoods. This is partially due to the fact that none of these programs, details, or projects addresses the deep-rooted problems that exist within the Oakland Police Department. The Black Elected Officials of the East Bay believe that we can no longer ignore these problems and simply settle for expedient ineffective measures. We believe that many of these issues can be addressed through the re-negotiation process of the labor contract with the city and the Police Officers’ union.

The contract between the city of Oakland and the Oakland Police Officers’ Union expired in June of this year. Consequently, over the past several months the city and the union have begun the process of renegotiating a new contract. Typically these negotiations have taken place in closed sessions outside the public view. While we understand that negotiations cannot take place in public we believe that the public’s safety is too important an issue to continue with business as usual. We believe a clear message can, and should, be sent to the negotiators regarding the public’s desires relative to this contract. Specifically, we want the negotiations to recognize the problems within the Oakland Police Department, assess them honestly, and take decisive actions necessary to address them so that public confidence can be restored and public safety can once again be the paramount goal of the negotiations and the ultimate contract.

To that end, the Black Elected Officials of the East Bay are hosting a forum on September 20, 2006, in the Council Chambers at City Hall. The forum will take place from 5:00 to 9:00 pm. The purpose of the forum is to provide the public with information so that you will better understand the problems currently confronting the Oakland Police Department, and to provide an explanation of contractual barriers that impact “on the ground” police services. Armed with this information we can insist upon appropriate contract language to address these problems.

We want you, the public, to be an active participant in this process. This four-part series of informational articles — also being published in the Oakland Post and The Globe — will share key provisions of the existing contract. We will review these provisions and their impact on the delivery of services to the public. We would also like your participation and attendance at the Forum on September 20th. If you have any questions or require additional information please contact me at

Editor’s note: This is part 1 of a series that includes: