A community news source for residents of the HarriOak neighborhood in Oakland, CA.

Tuesday, July 28, 2009

Call for Police Transparency

Thomas Peele, the lone investigative reporter left in the East Bay for the Media News newspaper conglomerate, wrote a column this week calling for more police transparency in the tragic killing of four Oakland police officers in March.
Peele requested -- and was denied -- the 911 tapes and dispatcher broadcasts about the shootings. These are public records and in police shootings in other areas of the country they have revealed horrible errors and needless mistakes -- made by the police themselves.
As Peele points out, the public deserves to know how it was possible for two highly trained SWAT sergeants to be killed while arresting a gunman known to be extremely dangerous. It's a good question, and one that was lost in outpouring of grief surrounding the deaths.
Acting Police Chief Howard Jordan, wants his officers to view the "media" -- the handful of reporters and bloggers who care about accountable government in Oakland -- as the enemy.
In a written message, Jordan said officers should "seek the confidence of those who are willing to help and guide us as opposed to those — the media — who seek to hurt us and discredit us to the public we are sworn to serve."
The problem with that approach is that it puts the officers, who already risk getting killed on the streets, in even greater danger due to the possible incompetence of their own department.
If everyone acted appropriately, Jordan should release the tapes. And if, as it is more likely, an error, a miscalculation, a miscommunication or negligence contributed to the killings, OPD owes it to its officers to disclose that fact publicly.

Photo courtesy of Thomas Hawk

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