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Measure S1 is one of four local measures on the Oakland ballot this year. If approved, it would strengthen and increase the independence of the city’s Police Commission, the appointed committee that oversees the Oakland Police Department. In the following video discussion and transcript, Oaklandside reporter Natalie Orenstein and Oakland Voices correspondent Saa’un Bell talk about the details and share what they’ve heard from community members about the initiative.

Video filmed and edited by Lauren Richardson

Saa’un Bell: What’s up Oakland, I’m Saa’un Bell, a correspondent with Oakland Voices. 

Natalie Orenstein: And I’m Natalie Orenstein, a reporter with The Oaklandside.

SB: On November 3rd, Oakland voters will decide whether to approve Measure S1.

NO: Right. The ballot measure would essentially give the city’s Police Commission more power and more independence.

SB: Really quick, if you don’t know what a city commission is, it’s a small citizen advisory board that typically is made up of appointed volunteers. They bring issues of concern and policy recommendations from the community to city officials.

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District coverage: D1 | D3 | D5 | D7

Oakland ballot measures: Y (school bond), RR (higher dumping and blight fines), QQ (youth school board vote), S1 (stronger Police Commission)

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NO: So what does Oakland’s Police Commission do exactly?

SB: The commission was created by voters in 2016. It oversees OPD’s policies and practices and the review agency that investigates community complaints of police misconduct. Ultimately, the Police Commission has the power to discipline and even fire police officers.

NO: Ok, so how would Measure S1 change the commission?

SB: Here’s how: First, it would give the commission a full-time paid staff person with more power to inspect OPD. Second, it would allow the commission to hire its own independent lawyers who don’t work for the city. 

My Oakland Voices colleague Howard Dyckoff spoke to Councilmember Dan Kalb, who helped write the measure, and Jose Dorado, a current Police Commission member. Both said the new independent inspector is the critical change here—since that position is currently held by a police officer.

NO: And supporters also say Measure S1 would put the Police Commission in a better position to monitor OPD once it’s no longer under federal oversight. Remember, the department has been monitored by the federal government since a police misconduct scandal almost two decades ago.

SB: So Natalie, other than Dan Kalb, who’s supporting Measure S1?

NO: Well, the full City Council supports the measure, and so does Mayor Libby Schaaf. So do several social-justice organizations, like the Coalition for Police Accountability, which helped write the measure. And in a surprise move, the Oakland police officers union actually endorsed the measure too—even though it would strengthen the commission’s oversight of OPD.

SB: That’s very interesting, so no group has filed an official statement opposing Measure S1?

NO: No, but that doesn’t mean the commission has no critics. After police chief Anne Kirkpatrick was fired this spring, she called the commission “out of control,” and she sued the city in response. She’s alleging she was fired in retaliation for bringing attention to abuses of power by the Police Commission.

SB: Yikes, Natalie. Well, regardless of what happens with Measure S1, the residents I spoke with said more needs to be done to reexamine the role of the police in Oakland, beyond just the commission. 

Racquel, an 18-year-old who participated in the George Floyd protests and is getting ready to vote for the first time, told me that a stronger Police Commission makes sense — but only if it’s truly unbiased. And Robert, a community organizer, told me he’s supportive but skeptical. Like many activists, he’s more interested in structural reforms, like defunding the police.

NO: Ok got it, so Measure S1 is just one aspect of a larger conversation in Oakland around policing. Thanks Saa’un.

SB: Yep, thank you Natalie.

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Saa’un P. Bell

Saa’un Bell is a Philippine-born, first-generation Black Californian by way of Greenville, Alabama. She grew up in East Long Beach and has lived in Oakland for the last 10 years. She is an organizer, writer, creator, and a novice hatmaker.

Natalie Orenstein covers housing and homelessness for The Oaklandside. She was previously on staff at Berkeleyside, where her extensive reporting on the legacy of school desegregation received recognition from the Society of Professional Journalists NorCal and the Education Writers Association. Natalie’s reporting has also appeared in The J Weekly, The San Francisco Chronicle and elsewhere, and she’s written about public policy for a number of research institutes and think tanks. Natalie grew up in Berkeley and has only left her beloved East Bay once, to attend Pomona College.

Lauren Richardson

Lauren Janelle Richardson, an East Oakland resident & founder of BypassTV, is a multi-tiered media producer that specializes in capturing stories through video, photography, journalism and audio productions. She also is a legal apprentice.