Oakland Bills Makes Their Way Through State Legislature

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Tuesday June 05, 2007

SB1019 Peace Officer Records (Sen. Gloria Romero)  

Passed the Senate on a 21-10 vote on Monday and now goes to the assembly. 

Among other things, this bill intends to restore open Community Police Relations Board complaint hearings against officers that were closed in such cities as Oakland and Berkeley by the State Supreme Court’s recent Copley Press, Inc. v. The Superior Court of San Diego County ruling. The bill would also provide expanded access to the public about officers who have been formally complained against. 

Last week, in order to pick up support from legislators on the fence, the bill was amended on the floor of the Senate to limit the amount of information about police records to be revealed to the public. In addition, the legislation picked up key support in Oakland with endorsements from both Mayor Ron Dellums and Chief of Police Wayne Tucker. 

On Saturday, with passage of the measure by the Senate still in doubt, Rashidah Grinage of Oakland’s PUEBLO organization, one of the groups leading the lobbying effort for SB1019, sent an email to supporters saying that the legislation still needed to pick up votes. 

“We need at least three [more] Senators to vote ‘YES’ this week on SB 1019,” Grinage wrote. “We’re that close to getting the bill through the Senate and on to the Assembly … This bill may come up for a vote as early as Monday or Tuesday! We could lose by a single vote, so we must make every effort to avoid that…. This is our opportunity to overturn that terrible Copley ruling that has placed police behind a curtain, shielded from public scrutiny!” 

Originally, the bill allowed any government entity employing peace officers to restore public hearings and the release of information on citizen complaints and other personnel investigations against peace officers that were in effect in that government entity prior to the Copley ruling. 

The amendments expand those provisions in some way, saying that a government entity could allow disciplinary hearings or release of police disciplinary information that were in effect not only in that government entity but in any government entity in California prior to the Copley ruling. Thus, if Berkeley allowed more access to disciplinary hearings than Oakland prior to Copley, for example, Oakland would be able to follow the Berkeley example if SB1019 is passed. 

But the amendments also allow police departments to restrict the release of disciplinary information if the police chief makes one of several determinations, including a finding that the release of the information might jeopardize the safety of the police officer. 

Meanwhile, the Oakland mayor’s office sent out a release this week announcing Dellums’ and Tucker’s support. 

“This bill will allow cities to, once again, hold public hearings on officer misconduct when appropriate and also protect the privacy of police officers accused of misconduct,” Dellums said in a prepared release. 

And Tucker added that, “I am pleased to be able to support SB1019 as it returns the open hearing process to pre-Copley conditions. SB1019 reflects what the residents of the City of Oakland want—open government.” 

Local progressives had been lobbying hard for the support of Dellums, who had been publicly silent on SB1019 up until this point. 


AB45 Oakland Unified School District Return to Local Control (Assemblymember Sandré Swanson) 

A bill that supporters hope will speed up return to local control of the Oakland Unified School District passed the Assembly Appropriations Committee on Thursday on a 12-5 partisan vote, with committee Democrats in support and committee Republicans in opposition. AB45, which previously passed the Assembly Education Committee, now goes to the full Assembly this week for consideration. 

In a prepared statement the bill’s author, Assemblymember Sandré Swanson (D-Oakland), said, “I am extremely encouraged by the giant step forward that AB45 took today.… When passed, AB45 will move us out of the debate over who will manage the school board and back to what is really at stake: our children’s education.” 

The bill makes changes in the original 2002 OUSD state takeover legislation, taking away the discretion of the State Superintendent to return local control of the Oakland schools and putting it solely in the hands of the Fiscal Crisis Management Assistance Team (FCMAT). It has the support of State Senator Don Perata, who authored the original SB39 takeover legislation, but is opposed by State Superintendent of Public Instruction Jack O’Connell, who currently runs the Oakland schools. 

Without Republican support, the bill needs the signature of Governor Arnold Schwarzenegger to become law. Swanson is apparently still unsure about Schwarzenegger’s support. At a Friday evening meeting at the Oakland Unified School District administrative headquarters, Swanson asked the audience to send emails to Senator Perata thanking him for his support for the bill, but pointedly asked them to send emails to the governor asking him to sign it when it reaches his desk. 


SB67 Sideshow Car Confiscation Bill (Sen. Don Perata) 

A renewal of previous legislation aimed specifically at Oakland sideshows that allows cars to be towed and confiscated for 30 days solely on the word of a police officer that the car was being used in “sideshow activity.” 

After passing the Senate in mid-April, the bill was held at the desk of the Assembly speaker for a month while committees worked exclusively on bills written by Assemblymembers, and referred to the Assembly Transportation Committee on May 17. The committee holds its next hearing June 11, but SB67 has not yet been scheduled to be heard on that date.