“The mayor is (also) culpable,” said Grinage.
By Ken A. Epstein
There is growing frustration between local advocates of police accountability and City Administrator Deanna Santana, who they say is foot-dragging and purposely confusing the issues involved in implementing a City Council decision to turn over intake of complaints against police to civilians.
Approved by the City Council, the handover of the intake of complaints from police to civilians was supposed to begin in January. But Santana said she could not make the transfer until October, citing insufficient staff, need to confer with the Oakland Police Officers Association (OPOA) and other issues.
Santana further angered community activists this week at a City Council committee meeting when she raised new complications and modifications of the civilian intake plan, which they say are contrary to what the council has told her to do.
“Ms. Santana uses as many words as possible as to be confusing as humanly possible. This is a deliberate strategy, but it isn’t going over well, and it won’t work,” said Rashidah Grinage, executive director of PUEBLO, which has been working for years to increase police accountability to the community.
Santana said at Tuesday’s Community and Economic Development (CED) committee that one of the issues was the need to develop a form for civilian intake workers to use that was in line with the form currently used by OPD’s Internal Affairs.
“The Civilian Police Review Board (CPRB) and Internal Affairs have used the same form for 10 years,” said Grinage. “She says she needs time to develop the same form, but the form already exists and is on the city’s website to download.
“The fact that she can make such startlingly inaccurate statements is shocking.”
Defending herself Tuesday a Special Public Safety committee meeting Santana said, “I feel compelled to represent myself professionally and to ensure the accuracy of the record.”
She said the process of implementing the civilianization of complaint intake was slowed down because the federal compliance director who oversees the police department was supposed to begin in January but was not appointed until March.
“We did receive his approval of no objections as of April 30,” she said.
Further, Santana said at the Public Safety Committee meeting that, based on her talks with the compliance director, it would take about 18 months to hire and train civilian intake workers, who would be trained in-house by Internal Affairs staff.
In addition, she said, after training they might be housed at Internal Affairs. The positions will be “based initially in OPD,” and eventually it will be decided “where these positions will transfer or whether they will stay in the (police department),” Santana said.
“We strongly object to the training of intake workers by Internal Affairs,” said Grinage in an interview with the Post. “Why would the city hire people to be trained by people who have been proven deficient? The whole idea is to improve the intake process.”
“And why would you house civilian intake workers at Internal Affairs? That’s not what the council voted for.
There are a numbers of reports that when residents tried to file complaints with Internal Affairs in the past, they were actively discouraged – contacted and pressured to withdraw their complaints.
The problem, said Grinage, is that Santana is protecting the OPOA. “They are fearful of losing control of the complaint process.”
“They’re trying to avoid losing the ability to discourage people who file complaints,” she said. “God knows how many complaints will be filed if they lose control of the process – all this is designed to keep control of the process.”
Grinage added that Mayor Jean Quan has to accept responsibility for Santana’s actions.
“The mayor is culpable here,” she said. “The mayor knows full well what’s going on and has refused to do anything about it. She is the supervisor of the city administrator, and she’s complicit, either intentionally or otherwise.”