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Why doesn’t the Oakland Police Department fight back?


We all know that the Oakland Police Department is under attack. There are defunders, like Carroll Fife and Nikki Fortunato Bas, who seem to dominate the City Council. There are abolishers, who want to do away with OPD completely. There are extremists like Cat Brooks and her Anti Police-Terror Project “that seeks…to eradicate police terror in communities of color.” There are media who routinely interview Fife, Bas and Brooks anytime they need a good anti-police quote for a story. And there is the average citizen, who has little time to study the issues but who somehow feels that OPD is vaguely “racist” and must be reined in.

That is a formidable opposition. But what has OPD done to fight back? Their jobs and the very existence of a functional police department in Oakland are on the line, but for some reason, the department is strangely silent in defending themselves. For people who are supposed to be strong, OPD has been as neutered as a cut kitten.

When’s the last time you heard anyone from OPD look the public in the face and tell them the truth: “We are here to protect you. We are not the racists and terrorists Cat Brooks says we are.” Have you heard Chief Armstrong defend his own department? Have you heard from Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association? True, he occasionally sends out a statement against defunding, but no one reads it. Have you seen rallies by rank-and-file OPD cops telling stories of their fallen brothers and sisters, and explaining how they endanger themselves every single day so that we, the people, are safe?

No, no and no. The police are not fighting back against the assault upon them. They remain strangely muted and castrated. They have a strong case to make to the public, or at least to that part of the public that is not hopelessly prejudiced against them. But they are not making that case.

The situation in Austin, Texas could hardly be more different. Although it is as liberal a city as Oakland, Austin’s cops and their friends have formed a coalition, “Save Austin Now,” that includes city council members, Democratic and Republican leaders, police union members, physicians and gun control activists. They hold press conferences that are widely viewed in the Austin area. The group plans to put a measure on next November’s ballot demanding adequate police funding, and it looks like it will pass.

If Austin can do it, so can Oakland. Our Coalition for a Better Oakland strongly supports the Oakland Police Department, but I am mystified by their passivity in the face of the onslaught against them. Our Coalition stands ready to assist OPD in educating the public, in telling cops’ stories, in presenting statistics that belie the allegations of the Fife-Bas-Brooks anti-police complex. We’re doing our best here on our website and on social media. But where is OPD? Why are they afraid to stand their ground and fight back?

(I posted this today on the website of the Coalition for a Better Oakland.)

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