Activists Call on Police Union to Apologize for Disrespecting Dellums

By J. Douglas Allen-Taylor
Thursday April 16, 2009 - 07:11:00 PM

An ad hoc group of Oakland community leaders and activists demanded on Tuesday that the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) police union apologize for its role in preventing Oakland Mayor Ron Dellums from speaking at the joint funeral of the four Oakland police officers killed in the March 21 MacArthur Boulevard shootings. 

“The exclusion of Oakland’s mayor was more than a disrespectful affront to the mayor himself, it was an act of insubordination to Oakland’s governing body, and a back-handed slap in the face to all of the citizens of Oakland who pay the generous salaries of the members of the Oakland Police Department,” Oakland business leader Geoffrey Pete told a Tuesday afternoon press conference at Frank Ogawa Plaza in front of Oakland’s City Hall. 

Pete said that “excluding the voice of Oakland’s mayor from the funeral of the fallen officers deprived Oakland citizens of their official voice at this event, making our presence, our prayers and our condolences appear to be expendable.” 

Pete also said that in the future, the Oakland City Council make it mandatory practice that the city’s elected mayor be allowed to “speak at any public event where public funds are used to sponsor such an event.” 

Oakland Police Officers Mark Dunakin, John Hege, Dan Sakai and Erv Romans were all shot and killed by Oakland resident Lovelle Mixon during two separate March 21 shooting incidents in the vicinity of MacArthur Boulevard and 74th Avenue. Mixon was also killed in an exchange of gunfire with police. 

While various newspaper accounts of the massive March 27 Oracle Arena joint police funeral services for the four fallen officers attributed the request to keep Dellums from speaking to various family members of the officers, none of the family members themselves have come out publicly to confirm, and Oakland city officials have said that the request for Dellums to keep silent was handled through the OPOA. 

The joint funeral was paid for in part by OPOA and in part by the City of Oakland. 

At Tuesday’s press conference, PUEBLO Director Rashidah Grinage, a longtime monitor of Oakland police activities, called it “entirely inappropriate” and “insensitive” for police officials to “sanction the disrespect of the mayor.” 

And Oakland small business owner and Neighborhood Watch block captain Lynette Neidhardt read from a recent San Francisco Chronicle op-ed in which she said, in part, that Oakland residents are “tired of the potshots taken at the mayor by a Chronicle columnist; parts of the Police Officers Association who don’t want reform; and politicians who have been trying to run for mayor for the last four years by politically shooting down the elected mayor. To these individuals we say: Please get on board and be part of the solution. The mayor is accomplishing a lot and we can’t let pettiness torpedo his efforts.” 

A group of some 35 community leaders and activists attended the press event in agreement with the call for an OPOA apology, among them former Alameda County School Board Member Gay Plair Cobb, political activist Pamela Drake, East Bay MUD Board Member Bill Patterson, and Nation of Islam Minister Keith Muhammad.