Following a series of major police scandals last year, the city of Oakland is turning to ex-cons for its new police oversight commission.

Opd Violence

Eric Thayer/Getty ImagesA protester is tased and detained by police during a rally for International Worker’s Day on May 1, 2012 in Oakland.

The city of Oakland, California is encouraging people who have been incarcerated to join their new police commission, an organization that will provide oversight for the Oakland Police Department, reports the San Francisco Chronicle.

The city has created this commission in response to a series of scandals that rocked the Oakland police department last year, and caused the department to lose three different police chiefs in the span of nine days before going entirely under civilian control.

These scandals began with an enormous prostitution affair, wherein a ring of Oakland officers were discovered to have been having sex with an underage prostitute whose mother worked as a 911 dispatcher within the department.

The scandal resulted in the firing of four officers, and the resignation of Police Chief Sean Whent, who, along with his wife, helped to cover up the crimes his officers were committing, as well as the possibility of criminal charges being brought against as many as 28 OPD officers.

Whent was then replaced by Police Chief Ben Fairow, who stepped down after only five days due to the emergence of past marital infidelity.

The Oakland Police Department was then hit with another scandal not long after, when a two-year Stanford University study revealed enormous amounts of racial bias in the department.

At the same time, racist texts sent by OPD officers were discovered by an internal investigation. This second scandal led to the resignation of interim Police Chief Paul Figueroa, who had replaced Fairow.

Due to these scandals, Oakland politicians felt the need for civilian oversight of the department. And ex-convicts certainly have more experience with the justice system than other civilians, making them a good fit for the job, according to the city of Oakland.

As committee selection panel member Tal Klement told the San Francisco Chronicle, “Part of the measure itself said they were looking for people who had experienced police contact, and obviously if you are formally incarcerated, you have experienced police conduct and potential misconduct as well.”


Next, check out this profile of a police dog that was fired for being too friendly. Then, see how people in Oakland are improving their own communities, like one artist who is making tiny houses for the homeless.

Gabe Paoletti
Gabe is a New York City-based writer and an Editorial Intern at All That Is Interesting.
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