The Status Quo Cannot Continue

Statement from Councilmember Dan Kalb - June 6, 2020

It’s been nearly 30 years since the Rodney King beating opened the eyes of many in White America to the all too common practice of police brutality toward persons of color—particularly African Americans. Unarmed black men are still living every day in most major cities with the heightened risk of being abused or killed at the hands of law enforcement.The killing of George Floyd was yet another modern-day lynching by those tasked with protecting the citizenry.

Dan & Staff at protest

I share in the outrage that so many in our community are expressing. I and two of my staff marched along with an estimated 15,000 peaceful and passionate residents—including thousands of high school age youth—to express support for the victims of violence by those in positions of authority. I continue to urge our residents to express their righteous passion, frustration and pain with respect for each other and for the spaces and places of our beloved town.

Kalb at protest

While peaceful and passionate demonstrations have a long and proud history in Oakland, they can and occasionally have devolved into vandalism, destruction and looting—often targeted at our local businesses. We know that only a relatively small number use demonstrations as a cover for criminal behavior. These vandals and looters seem bent on destruction or self-gain, and they distract from the focus on the vital issue at hand—the need to stop the abuse and killings of unarmed black men, particularly by those tasked with protecting us from harm.

Protest crowd

We must make sure our Police Commission has the tools necessary to provide effective oversight of OPD when it comes to police misconduct, use of force policies and adherence to the principles of constitutional policing. Additionally, I am already working on legislation to prohibit the lateral hiring of sworn officers with past records of serious misconduct, and to ban the use of chokeholds in Oakland.

That said, police accountability and effective discipline must not be at odds with having a well-staffed and well-trained police force that does what we expect peace officers to do—namely, respond to 911 calls in a timely manner, investigate and solve serious and violent crimes, and be visible in the community in a way that promotes trust and confidence.

My efforts as a Councilmember show that those needs do not have to be in conflict. I have consistently advocated for a well-resourced police department while also proudly authoring the ballot measure that created a strong citizen oversight body—the Oakland Police Commission. Both are vital to ensure the protection of our communities.

For a little over two years, our civilian Police Commission has provided greater oversight of OPD in terms of police discipline and adherence to the principles of constitutional policing—including compliance with the federal court’s Negotiated Settlement Agreement (NSA). But there is more work to do.

The status quo cannot continue. We must stop the abuse and killing of unarmed black men and women around the country by law enforcement officers. I will not rest in the comfort of my privilege. I will continue to advocate for appropriate police response regardless of race as we seek equal justice under the law.