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Oakland Police should investigate riot, not BART

Yesterday, Mayor Dellums announced that the Oakland Police Department would investigate the killing of Oscar Grant III by a BART police officer on a BART platform. There is no reason the Oakland PD should undertake such an investigation. Mr. Grant, a resident of Hayward, was arrested because of his involvement in a fight that began in San Francisco. A regional police officer unjustifiably killed him. Though the arrest and killing happened at the Fruitvale BART station, within the boundaries of the City of Oakland, the Oakland police department is not involved and has no jurisdiction over the BART system. Alameda County District Attorney Tom Orloff is responsible for prosecuting the responsible officer, Johannes Mehserle. Mr. Orloff works not for Oakland, but for the entire County, and is uninterested in prosecuting Oakland homicides. Many are angry at the Bay Area Rapid Transit System, but Oakland is only one of many cities in the four-county BART district, and a glance at the ward map will reveal that it is not well-represented on the board.

Just as vandalizing Creative African Braids and the charming shops along 17th Street is not justice, holding Oakland responsible for the actions of a regional body that happens to be headquartered in a Lake Merritt high-rise is unfair. Mayor Dellums has proposed using scarce Oakland Police Department resources to investigate the incident, yet their most recent high-profile projects have been scandalous, including the Chauncey Bailey and Acorn Gang investigations. And what is there to investigate? We all know that Mr. Mehserle killed Mr. Grant. With what to charge him is the prosecutor’s decision. Instead of investigating the BART Police, the OPD should investigate their own response to Wednesday night’s riots, especially how fewer than one hundred vandals were able to terrorize a large residential neighborhood.

Within the dense Lake Merritt Apartment District, at least one car was set afire, dozens of cars were damaged, and residents were prevented by police from returning to their homes. An officer gave extraordinarily unsafe directions to Uptown to a friend, who wisely took refuge in a bar until past midnight. The Oakland Police, as Fox Theater developer Phil Tagami implied, were poorly prepared for the riot and handled the situation badly. The Oakland Police Department, far from acting as an independent investigator of the BART Police, should investigate its own handling of a protest that may not have needed to become so destructive.

Posted in bart, california, dellums, downtown, oakland, opd, san francisco, transportation.

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14 Responses

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  1. V Smoothe says

    I found Tagami’s comments on the riot extremely disturbing. The suggestion that the terrifying events of Wednesday night were not only acceptable, but should be expected, is completely out of line. As for his contention that this happens “all the time” elsewhere – can someone please tell me the last time you couldn’t walk around downtown San Francisco without seeing cars on fire?

  2. dto510 says

    What Mr. Tagami meant is that protests are expected, but that the police should be prepared to prevent them from turning into a riot. SF often hosts big angry protests, but cars don’t get torched because the police are able to control the crowds.

  3. V Smoothe says

    I honestly have no idea how you’re reading it that way. Tagami’s quote in the paper, and his nearly identical statement on this video both seem to pretty clearly state that he sees this kind of violence and destruction as tolerable. In the video, he goes on to laud the City’s response to the riot.

  4. dto510 says

    I agree with Mr. Tagami that the DTO, as a growing urban center, needs to “get used to” large-scale protests. The OPD should get used to them by adopting sophisticated crowd control tactics that take account of the DTO’s geography. But I guess I am the one saying that the police were unprepared and did a bad job, he was just saying they should have seen it coming.

  5. V Smoothe says

    Well, I certainly agree that the situation could have been handled better. When I got off work on Wednesday night, the police were blocking Broadway, and pushed me on to Franklin to walk home. On Franklin, there were no police visible, just groups of marauding hoodlums, kids jumping up and down on top of windshields, cars aflame, and trash cans strewn all over the street. Why was that allowed to happen with dozens of police one block away?

  6. Ken O says

    I fully agree with your assessment and recommendation. OPD was understaffed and disoriented. I saw them running in full riot gear but it was ineffectual and did not keep out-of-towners from rioting in MY neighborhood, the uptown district.

    SFPD handles riots and protests better due to more money and experience.

  7. Ken O says

    On the other hand, they did finally secure Broadway between 20th and 14th streets, but it took too long, and they were using kid gloves. (although, understandably, but too much mayhem was enabled this way.)

    Do Oaklanders finally agree now that OPD is understaffed and undertrained?

  8. disinter says

    Riots? There should be a revolution going on! Pigs are murdering innocent people almost daily. It is time to revolt!

  9. Lake Merritt Runner says

    Really? “Pigs are murdering innocent people almost daily”? Were there more than 360 police killings in the Bay Area last year? And all of the victims were innocent?

  10. len raphael says

    why didn’t opd call on san leandro and berkeley for mutual assistance? was tucker trying to save money, face, or just bad judgement?

    police depts in those cities were expecting to be called by oakland but the call apparently never came.

  11. girldujour says

    I couldn’t agree with you more.

    Watching the riots live was unbelievable — as if it was planned “entertainment” for the evening.

    What the hell are people thinking? Is this all about getting press???

  12. disinter says

    Cop Punches Woman In Face Four Times During Arrest For Riding A Bike

  13. dto510 says

    OMG! At least that wasn’t in Oakland.

  14. dto510 says

    It was really shocking (and scary) to watch these kids running wild in the DTO without effective police protection for residents or businesses.

    In today’s State of the City speech, Mayor Dellums responded to this blog by saying that ordering the OPD to investigate the Grant killing was his only card, and he played it, and clearly it was responsible for the DA charging Mehserle four days later. He did not ask for the OPD to investigate their ineptitude.