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The Father of Oakland’s “Reimaging Public Safety Task Force” has a new idea: “Abolishing the police”

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Anand Subramanium is the managing director of a social justice organization, Policy Link. He was co-facilitator of Oakland’s Reimagining Public Safety Task Force, the City Council’s infamous study group that has been associated with slashing the Oakland Police Department’s budget by up to 50%.

Subramanium and Policy Link have come out with a webinar that should scare the bejesus out of everyone concerned about crime and public safety. “Policing Can’t Be Reformed. Why Defunding and Abolishing is the Common-Sense Approach” is the title.

It’s a long webinar, some 90 minutes in length, and I’ll have more to say about it in future posts. But for now, I want to start with something that actually surprised me: Subramanium takes the basic tenets of modern police reform he once championed in Oakland and now alleges that none of them actually work.

Here are some of his claims:

Body cams should be rejected because they raise “privacy concerns.” Now, communities of color and police reformers have been demanding body cameras for years, only to be opposed by cops and their unions. But finally, police departments—under enormous pressure—have yielded, and begun providing their cops with cameras. That’s a good thing, right? Not so, according to Subramanium. His group doesn’t like body cams because a criminal suspect’s “privacy” might be violated. So throw away those body cams.

Ditto for Tasers. For years, cop reformers demanded that police use Tasers instead of guns to control non-compliant suspects. Now, Subramanium complains that Tasers “can be lethal.” So throw away the Tasers.

Nor does Subramanium think much of community policing. The police reform crowd has been demanding community policing for a long time, under the theory (which seems true to me) that if cops get to know residents, and vice versa, relationships of trust will more easily be built. But here’s Subramanium complaining that community policing is “vague,” only “PR,” and has somehow “tokenized” people of color. So throw away community policing.

Subramanium is even against so-called “bias training” for cops, which is designed to prevent them from racial profiling by making them aware of their own internal prejudices. Look: bias training, provided by psychologists and others, has become a gold standard of police education. The Oakland Police Department trains its officers in this way, and so do most other big city departments. But Subramanium is against such training. Why? It’s “unproven” and “easily ignored,” he argues. So throw away bias training.

How about “reform-minded police chiefs”? This, too, has been a demand by police reformers. We have one here in Oakland, LeRonne Armstrong, who has proven his willingness to work closely with police reformers. But Subramanium says “reform-minded police chiefs” don’t do any good, because their positions are “political,” because of “police unions,” and because the “entrenched culture” of police departments thwarts them in their efforts.

To learn all this, you might think Subramanium is some kind of rightwing militia type. Body cams don’t work. Tasers don’t work. Community policing doesn’t work. Bias training doesn’t work. Reform-minded police chiefs don’t work. In fact, according to him, nothing relating to current methods of police reform works.

And since nothing works, Subramanium demands the complete “Abolishing” (his word) of police departments! Not just partial defunding. Not just letting social workers handle mental cases and letting cops fight violent crime. Complete defunding leading to abolishing police departments is what Subramanium and his Policy Link group want.

Why didn’t Subramanium tell Oakland that when he was steering the Reimagining group? Why did he hide his radical plans?

Well, to paraphrase Churchill, Subramanium had, at least, a policy, albeit a very wrong, incoherent and dangerous one. I can hardly believe anyone could possibly think abolishing the police is sane, especially in Oakland, where violent crime is at its highest level in a decade.

But actually, the anti-cop rhetoric being hurled at cops may be resulting in something Subramanium and his Abolishing crowd want. Chief Armstrong reported yesterday that ten (10) officers have left OPD in the last three weeks, plunging the department to its lowest staffing level in six years. Maybe that’s Subramanium’s secret strategy: Make policing so odious for cops that they quit.

As for you, oh Average Oaklander, where does all this leave you? Not to worry. When you’re mugged, you can always call a social worker where a computer voice tells you you’re No. 17 in line, with an expected wait time of 127 minutes, during which you can choose to listen to a variety of music, or none at all.


With fire season here, it’s time to move the tents away from the inner city

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This morning’s San Francisco Chronicle has yet another front-page story on the fire danger posed by homeless encampments in Oakland.

The number of fires in RVs and tents is soaring, even as the Oakland Fire Department says it is “extremely concerned” by the “fire risks for the unhoused…the surrounding area, and the firefighters.” Indeed, with fire season already here, all Oaklanders should worry about an out-of-control fire that could take out an entire neighborhood.

Meanwhile, Oakland officials and pro-homeless nonprofits continue to dither. The Mayor and the City Council have no solutions. They continue to kick the can down the road, as they have for the last six years as the homelessness crisis has ravaged Oakland. Tiny cabins, solar panels, RV camps, social workers, tinkering with the police department’s budget—the rhetoric coming from the pro-homeless community is endless. But these are not solutions. They are meant merely to distract us. “We’re doing our best,” says City Council members Rebecca Kaplan. “But we have to do better.”

Then do it. There is an obvious solution to the tent camps: Relocate them all to areas where they pose no threat to the surrounding community. There are vast swaths of public lands available that, far from neighborhoods, would provide safe and clean harbor for every tent dweller in Oakland. The 400-acre Oakland Army Base has been decommissioned for more than two decades. Why not establish a vast tent community there, with all the amenities the homeless need (water, plumbing, electricity, garbage collection, social services)?

The Coalition for a Better Oakland believes that all campers should be offered the opportunity to be relocated to such tent cities, where finally they could establish real communities and work side-by-side with nonprofits and the city for permanent solutions. It would be a win-win-win situation: for homeless people, for beleaguered city officials, and for the harassed people of Oakland. If the city is not prepared to take such an obviously logical step, then let Mayor Schaaf, Ms. Kaplan and the other ditherers tell us why not.


Welcome to the Coalition for a Better Oakland!

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The Coalition for a Better Oakland is the name of a political action group I have co-founded with a few colleagues. Our goals are twofold: to end the blight of homeless encampments that are polluting our parks, underpasses and sidewalks, and to support the Oakland Police Department, which is embattled on all sides, fighting a record surge of crime and at the same time having to deal with the insanity of the “defund the police” crowd.

For the last several years I’ve felt increasingly isolated in my city. Could I be the only one worried about these twin issues of cops and camps, which after all are interrelated? During the pandemic, I turned to social media, especially nextdoor.com, to share my thoughts. I discovered that I was not alone. Many others felt the same way I did. I then found myself being censored and blocked from nextdoor.com. My political views, apparently, were at odds with those of the anonymous censors who can throw someone off the platform with no warning, no explanation, and no right of appeal. I began to see the connections between the censors at nextdoor.com and the various radical groups who seemed to have such an outsized influence at City Hall. Both were not interested in anyone’s views except their own. Both indulged in what we now call “cancel culture.” It was all very discouraging.

I have now abandoned nextdoor.com and will not return. (Their latest salvo into cancel culture was to inform users that the term “Black Lives Matter” is acceptable, but that “White Lives Matter” and “Blue Lives Matter” will be cause for expulsion.) But before I abandoned that dreadful platform I met (in the digital sense) a group of like-minded men and women and it is with them that I have started the Coalition for a Better Oakland. The exciting news is that, after months of delay, we will launch our website this Monday; and I will certainly share it here with you. We hope to become a political force in the city. We want to endorse candidates in future elections, and we want to influence the debate in the City Council, the Police Commission and in the City Manager’s office. For too long the radicals on the extreme left have been the ones to dominate meetings, hold demonstrations and intimidate politicians, including our Mayor, Libby Schaaf, into positions they clearly are uncomfortable with, but feel compelled to accept. We believe that we—the Coalition—represent the thinking of a majority of Oaklanders, most of whom are too busy getting on with their lives to be able to spend time on the computer researching issues or showing up at City Council meetings. We want to inspire that majority, rally them to our side, and tell the current crop of Oakland leaders that their day is done.

One of the things I, in particular, have had to do is protect our young Coalition from being a Trojan horse for rightwing extremists. When you’re supportive of the cops, and when you’re saying that homeless people do not have the right to set up tents wherever they want, you tend to open yourself to the charge of being a white supremacist trumper. I am a lifelong Democrat—everyone who knows my blog knows that since September 2016, I did everything in my power to take Trump and his Republican Party down. I fail to see why a moderately-progressive liberal like me cannot at the same time be a strong cop supporter. How did Democrats allow Republicans to own the issue of crime and policing? I don’t know, but it’s time we reseized the initiative.

And by the way, I’m convinced that the reason Democrats lost so many seats in the Congress during the last election, despite Biden’s victory, is precisely because of the stupid “defund the police” movement. The American people hate it, they’re afraid of it, and they find the people arguing in favor of it distasteful and irrational. My own feeling is that the reaction against the “defund” movement has already set in. Fewer and fewer politicians are using the phrase. As a political slogan, it’s easily the dumbest I’ve heard in my life. Yet here in Oakland, ambitious politicians still insist on 50% cuts to OPD’s budget—even though the local media is telling us that the neighborhoods most impacted by crime want more cops on the beat, not fewer. It strikes me that the people who are most insistent on “defunding” are (a) politicians who don’t give a damn about anything except power and (b) well-off white suburbanites who are appeasing their own guilt.

Well, I wanted to share this news of the Coalition for a Better Oakland with you. On Monday (barring some unexpected glitch) I’ll be able to give you the link, including sign-up information.

Have a great weekend!


MANIFESTO: Encampments, a blight on our city

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One of the compelling reasons we launched the Coalition for a Better Oakland is because we believe something must be done about the proliferation of homeless encampments in the town we love.

We recognize and acknowledge that the causes of homelessness and many and complex. We sympathize with our unhoused sisters and brothers, and would like to work with the city to find solutions to the current catastrophe. But our common-sense point of view, which we believe is widely shared by Oaklanders, is not being heard in the councils of government. In fact, it is being repressed.

Mayor Libby Schaaf seriously dropped the ball when she was first elected, back in 2015. Already at that time, camps were proliferating. Many people asked Mayor Schaaf and the City Council to begin managing the camps, instead of allowing them to spread in an uncontrolled manner.

What did Mayor Schaaf do?

In glowing rhetoric, she talked about “a bold new plan” to reduce homelessness, but it was always in the vaguest terms, with no practical solutions.

She assured homeless people that if they moved to Oakland, they would find housing, medical treatment, and other services.

She told homeless people Oakland would “treat them with compassion.”

When San Francisco, Berkeley and San Jose began efforts to manage the spread of camps, Schaaf assured the Bay Area’s homeless population Oakland would “shelter all residents.”

She even suggested that Oaklanders “open their houses to homeless people,” although she herself, she explained, had no room for any in her house.

With rhetoric like that, no wonder homeless people flocked to Oakland. They heard that they would be taken care of. They heard that they would be received with open arms. They heard they might even be able to live with the mayor! And they believed these things. But they were not told the truth. There was no plan, no money, no conceivable way to give them what they needed. Libby Schaaf was just making it all up.

Thus, by October, 2020, when the camp situation became so unbearable that even the most liberal Oaklanders were begging government to do something about it, the City Council, under enormous pressure, finally acted. With Schaaf’s strong support, they passed, unanimously, a resolution limiting tents to certain restricted areas, and prohibiting them everywhere else, including parks.

Schaaf promised that the new regulations would begin to be enforced in January, 2021. But guess what? Nothing happened. The City Council wouldn’t even abide by its own rules. Our parks remain overrun. Underpasses, rights-of-way along BART lines, intersections and miles of streets are lined with encampments and the piles of junk associated with them. (Take a look at Frontage Road, in West Oakland.) And, as the public has tragically seen, fires at encampments are burning down cultural centers, museums and businesses. With fire season just around the corner, that is a serious concern.

Why did Schaaf make unrealistic and unachievable promises to homeless people? It was cruel to invite them to Oakland. Everyone knew, or should have known, the city was in no shape to care for them. Maybe Schaaf was speaking out of truly idealistic motives. Maybe she was pandering to, or intimidated by, the screaming demands of the small but vocal minority of radical pro-homeless activists. Maybe she just wasn’t thinking clearly.

WHERE DOES THIS LEAVE US?

To answer this, we have to backtrack a few years and consider what Schaaf could and should have done when she took office. She should have announced that the city intended to manage the camps in a way that was both compassionate to the homeless and reasonable to the people of Oakland.

But she didn’t.

She should have made it clear that public parks, like Mosswood and Lakeside, were off limits for tents.

But she didn’t.

She should have created sanctioned places where homeless people could legally put up their tents.

But she didn’t.

She should have told the truth to homeless people: Don’t come to Oakland! We can’t take care of you; we don’t have the money.

But she didn’t.

She should have taken on the pro-homeless crowd and told them that they had no idea how to govern and that their demands for free housing, food, medical care and job training for 4,500 homeless people, possibly for life, were insane and would bankrupt Oakland.

But she didn’t.

SO WHAT’S THE ANSWER?

We here at the Coalition for a Better Oakland know this: A city that loses control of its streets is in trouble. We strongly support the City Council’s Oct. 2020 policy that restricted encampments to “low sensitivity” areas. That decision was—as Schaaf herself said—“a compassionate response to an unacceptable condition.” If camps were located in manageable areas, like parts of the Port, the former Oakland Army Base and other conglomerate areas to be identified, services could be provided more efficiently to homeless constituents. Campers themselves would be relieved of the constant threat of street sweeps, knowing that they could safely remain in approved areas. Their legitimate security concerns could more easily be addressed. Such a policy would be a win-win for everyone.

But Schaaf knuckled under to the activists. The City Council drifted further into radical, unrealistic politics after the November elections. And every day, the situation grows more dire.

Look: this issue is neither Democratic nor Republican, neither rightwing nor leftwing, but common sense. The Coalition for a Better Oakland is nonpartisan. We Oaklanders are hard-working, tax-paying, compassionate, and politically savvy. We deserve parks where kids can play—parks that have not been desecrated. We deserve a city where cultural centers and museums and small businesses are not burned down. We deserve streets where we can walk in safety and not dodge human excrement, rotting garbage, passed-out bodies, and hypodermic needles. We want to see our leaders do the job they were elected to do and manage these camps. It can be done—it should be done—it is legal—and it is morally right.


In Oakland, things are even worse than you thought

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The hottest story in the Bay Area right now is that of the Oakland Chinatown liquor store owner who saw a woman being mugged on the street, grabbed his gun (for which he had a permit), rushed outside, and tried to protect her.

The store owner, whose name isn’t being released, fired four shots into the air, as the elderly Chinese woman who was being mugged fell to the sidewalk. Her assailants fled, presumably frightened by the gunshots.

You might think this store owner is a hero. I certainly do. But according to the Oakland Police Department (OPD), he’s a criminal. They have arrested him, on a count of felony assault with a gun, and last I heard, he’s in jail. The muggers, of course, are nowhere to be found, and are presumably free to re-mug other innocent victims.

Oakland Chinatown is appalled, as well they should be. The tightly-knit little community has been under assault from outside thugs who know that the cops don’t care if they rob a store or mug an old person. Indeed, everybody in Oakland understands that Mayor Libby Schaaf has instructed the police chief to stand down on street crime. OPD barely responds anymore to calls from citizens. You almost never see a cop in Oakland. Morale among the force is said to be at an all-time low. I hear reliably that scores of Oakland cops are looking to get out, to work someplace less hostile to them. Even as the crime rate soars, a good part of the citizenry hates cops and is demanding that the already pillaged OPD budget be cut another 50%.

That idea is the brainchild of far-left City Council members. They have formed a so-called “Reimagining Public Safety Task Force” whose other recommendations are remarkably dangerous and stupid. Among these are:

  • Eliminating the use of OPD’s helicopter because it “bothers” certain people
  • Eliminating all military titles (Sergeant, Lieutenant) and replacing with “civilian” titles
  • Eliminating standard blue uniforms in favor of “plain clothing” in order to “increase racial equity”
  • Allowing community-based activists to vet police academy participants
  • Hire “those struggling with alcohol and drug issues” and “people with developmental disorders” in a “new department” within OPD to respond to 911 calls
  • Compel all officers to “undergo community sensitivity training”
  • Budget millions of dollars for a “youth-led decision making” process within OPD so that youth can “give input” to the police in a way that “ensures equitable outcomes”
  • Hire homeless people “to guide City Council’s response to the housing crisis”

Well, there’s a total of 144 recommendations, so I clearly don’t have the space to list them all. None of the recommendations, let it be noted, calls for increasing OPD’s understaffed officer count, or for actually arresting criminals. Suffice it to say that this “reimagining” is the stuff of fantasy, ideology and recklessness. When Oakland is paying “youth” and “homeless people” to run the police department, we’re in deep trouble.

Another rumor making the rounds is that the City of Oakland is paying homeless people $200 whenever their tent burns down, and is giving them a $100 gift card at Whole Foods. I can’t vouch for this story’s veracity. But knowing Oakland government, it sounds plausible: the city is paying homeless people to be arsonists.

Oaklanders like to think of themselves as a welcoming people. The city is one of the most diverse in the world, in terms of its racial, ethnic and cultural background, and that’s one of the things we residents celebrate. The downside of this welcoming attitude, though, is that the far left has twisted it into a ridiculous satire of political correctness. A notorious example of this occurred some years ago, when Schaaf announced that Oakland welcomed “our unhoused brothers and sisters” after Berkeley, San Jose and San Francisco got tough on encampments. When that message went out, our unhoused brethren flocked to Oakland. The onslaught got worse when the word went out in the homeless community that Oakland would also provide people with free housing, food and medical services. The result was predictable: the city is overwhelmed with encampments. Block-long piles of rubbish are strewn everywhere. Human feces stains the sidewalks and park benches. Deranged people roam the streets day and night, screaming at passersby, and there’s no one to call: the cops will not interfere because they don’t want to get caught in an “incident” that sees ambulance-chasing “civil rights lawyers” suing them for “brutality.”

Is there a relationship between the thuggery Chinatown has been seeing and Oakland’s welcoming attitude to homeless people? Absolutely. The twin phenomena both are byproducts of the prevailing “social justice” philosophy pervading Oakland political circles. Cops were just forbidden by the new Chief from touching suspects, even violent ones who are resisting arrest. (How’s that going to work out?) I hear through friends in close contact with OPD that officers are quitting in droves, transferring to other cities where cops aren’t loathed and prevented from doing their jobs. If you go into stores like CVS or Target, you see criminals loading bags with shoplifted stuff. They don’t even try to hide what they’re doing, they just browse the shelves like everyone else, take what they want, and walk out unmolested. The staff sees it all, but they’ve been instructed to do nothing—certainly not to call the police, who wouldn’t come even if they were summoned. When I talk to friends on the street who are super-lefties and I ask what they think of this widespread theft (or “re-appropriation,” in the language of the left), they say they have no problem with it. “The big chain stores are insured,” they say. “And besides, when people are poor, that’s what they do.”

This is what I call the entitlement of criminality. The left complained all the time about Trump being a pampered, entitled white man, but they can’t see the beam in their own eye. They’re blind to the entitlement on the left—“whatever we do and say in the name of disenfranchised people of color is correct.” If you object in any way, you’re a racist.

Living in Oakland, one has the feeling of general breakdown. It’s a terrible, sad thing to see, and those of us who have to live here have no option but to oppose it, as futile as that may often seem.


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