City of Oakland Moves To Terminate ICE Agreement With Police Department

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Photo Credit: Pixabay
Photo Credit: Pixabay

Public Safety Committee Votes This Week on ICE Resolution and Civil Rights Ordinance

Oakland, CA- This week the Public Safety committee of the Oakland City Council will consider a resolution from at-large representative Rebecca Kaplan to terminate agreements between the Oakland Police Department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE), following a unanimous recommendation from the City’s Privacy Advisory Commission (OPAC).

The Privacy Commission concluded that the presence of ICE was causing trauma to the community, that ICE’s revised policies under the Trump Administration clearly conflict with Oakland’s status as a Sanctuary City and that existing ICE-OPD agreements provided no demonstrated successes or benefits.

Saied Karamooz, an OPAC commissioner and former Oakland mayoral candidate commented “The consensus among law enforcement experts is that if local police departments assist ICE with their mass deportation actions, immigrant communities will lose their trust in their local police departments. Consequently, they will be reluctant to report crime or assist with investigations, negatively impacting public safety for all.”

OPAC began investigating the status of the City of Oakland agreements with federal law enforcement in March of 2017. But the City’s 2016 ICE agreement, which allowed for the deputization of Oakland police officers as ICE agents, did not emerge until June of 2017 when OPD analyst Tim Birch told the commission that he and many other OPD staff, including the new police chief, were unaware of the 2016 ICE agreement. “I just sit here and apologize all night,” Birch said, during the June 1 OPAC meeting.

The committee will also consider a civil rights ordinance brought by District 3 representative Lynette Gibson-McElhaney that would require all other law enforcement agreements including those with the FBI and U.S Marshals to abide by all City of Oakland policies, including Sanctuary City legislation.

The civil rights ordinance ensures that all other federal law enforcement agreements, including the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force (JTTF), must comply with the California Constitution and all Oakland municipal policy, including Oakland’s status as a Sanctuary City, that all new agreements or amendments to existing agreements must be brought to the Privacy Commission for a public hearing, and a report must be issued annually on all activities and made accessible to the public. The ordinance is modeled on a similar one executed in 2012 in the City and County of San Francisco. San Francisco suspended its participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Force in February of 2017.

OPAC chair Brian Hofer commented: “Statements made by Trump and his cabinet members, and his executive orders targeting sanctuary cities and immigrants, make it more critical than ever that we ensure the safety of our community from unlawful and inhumane targeting. Hate and fear of others are not Oakland values. By adopting Councilmembers Kaplan and McElhaney’s respective proposals, Oakland can make clear its position: Oakland is truly a place of refuge, and all are welcome here.” 

Alameda County will consider forming a working group to draft an ordinance to curb secret surveillance throughout the country by requiring use policies and surveillance impact reports prior to equipment acquisition and use and annual audit reports. The transparency ordinance is modeled on the Santa Clara County surveillance transparency ordinance enacted in June of 2016 and the City of Oakland ordinance unanimously recommended by the Public Safety committee on May 9, 2017. A statewide surveillance transparency ordinance (SB-21) is currently being considered by the California State Assembly in Sacramento. District 2 Supervisor Richard Valle is sponsoring the Alameda County ordinance.

Local organizer Reem Suleiman, a campaign manager at SumOfUs and OPA commissioner commented on the proposal to develop a transparency ordinance for the County: “These are common-sense protections that are long-overdue. In this day and age, our lives are becoming less and less private. Civil liberties/ privacy protections should never be an afterthought when the government acquires new surveillance technology.  I hope to see this ordinance become a model for cities and counties across the country.” 

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