The top of Oakland City Hall visible above a city office building, all framed by the bright blue sky.
Oakland City Hall. Credit: Darwin BondGraham

This evening, the Oakland Police Commission is expected to seat two new members: Karely Ordaz, who previously served as an alternate commissioner, and former city councilmember Wilson Riles, Jr. These commissioners will replace Tyfahra Milele and David Jordan, whose terms expired on Monday.

There is also a significant personnel change happening on the obscure but important panel that selects new police commissioners. 

On Friday morning, The Oaklandside learned that Jim Chanin, a civil rights attorney, has stepped down from the Police Commission Selection Panel. The panel selects about half of the seven-member police commission, and it recently picked Ordaz and Riles to take their seats.

Chanin, who has been on the panel for six years, said he tried to leave last year but Council President Nikki Fortunato Bas couldn’t find anyone to replace him, so he stayed on.

“I began seeking a new appointee to fill the District 2 seat on the Police Commission Selection Panel in early 2022,” Bas said. “At that time, Mr. Chanin agreed to continue to serve as a holdover for up to a year, while I searched for a new appointee, to help ensure the Selection Panel could continue its important work.”

Bas said she had three candidates who couldn’t make the commitment. Yesterday, she appointed David Kakishiba to replace Chanin. Kakishiba is the executive director of the East Bay Asian Youth Center. Last year he ran for a seat on the board of the Oakland Unified School District.

Some former commissioners claim they ousted Chanin

Some of Chanin’s critics are taking credit for his departure from the selection panel. Former Police Commissioner Brenda Harbin-Forte claimed Friday in a press release that Bas was forced to remove Chanin because of a lawsuit filed by Milele, Jordan, and another former commissioner, Ginale Harris.

The trio sued Chanin and the city of Oakland in July, shortly before the selection panel decided to not reappoint Milele and Jordan for another term. The lawsuit accused Chanin of trying to block them from reappointment because they allegedly threatened his financial interests. 

Chanin was co-counsel in the lawsuit that resulted in the Oakland Police Department being placed under federal oversight in 2003, and he still receives attorney’s fees as the city continues to reform OPD. The former commissioners argue that this arrangement gave Chanin a financial motive to block police reform and sabotage anyone who was effectively helping OPD complete its federal oversight. 

Chanin has called the allegations “insulting,” and said Milele, Jordan, Harris, and Harbin-Forte have misrepresented how much he is paid for his work helping OPD comply with the federal reform program.

The press release, which was shared by Harbin-Forte and attorney Ann Kariuki, said the former commissioners “scored a significant victory” by forcing Bas to remove Chanin.

“As Oakland grapples with its current rampant crime crisis, it is vital that the city’s leadership roles, such as those on the Police Commission which will recommend the next police chief, be held by individuals who prioritize the safety and well-being of the community above all else,” Harbin-Forte and Kariuki said in their press statement.

In August, the Alameda Superior Court judge overseeing the ex-commissioners’ lawsuit refused to remove Chanin from the panel or stop Milele and Jordan from being replaced on the commission. 

Asked for proof that the litigation forced Bas’ decision, Milele cited an email from the city attorney. She said the parties have been in negotiations for a settlement. 

In the email, the City Attorney’s Office told Milele, Jordan, and Harris on Thursday that Chanin had left the panel, making one of the requests in their lawsuit—his removal—moot. 

Bas said the lawsuit played no role in her decision to appoint a replacement for Chanin. Chanin said the assertion that he left because of the lawsuit is false.

“I was the last person from the original selection panel, it was definitely time for me to go,” Chanin said. “But it had nothing to do with their lawsuit.”

Eli Wolfe reports on City Hall for The Oaklandside. He was previously a senior reporter for San José Spotlight, where he had a beat covering Santa Clara County’s government and transportation. He also worked as an investigative reporter for the Pasadena-based newsroom FairWarning, where he covered labor, consumer protection and transportation issues. He started his journalism career as a freelancer based out of Berkeley. Eli’s stories have appeared in The Atlantic,, Salon, the San Francisco Chronicle, and elsewhere. Eli graduated from UC Santa Cruz and grew up in San Francisco.

Before joining The Oaklandside as News Editor, Darwin BondGraham was a freelance investigative reporter covering police and prosecutorial misconduct. He has reported on gun violence for The Guardian and was a staff writer for the East Bay Express. He holds a doctorate in sociology from UC Santa Barbara and was the co-recipient of the George Polk Award for local reporting in 2017. He is also the co-author of The Riders Come Out at Night, a book examining the Oakland Police Department's history of corruption and reform.