OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — Starting immediately, if Oakland police officers come across any unlawful parties, they have to report them to their commanders and the special events unit.
The new policy aims to prevent another Ghost Ship fire.
“This directive clarifies for officers who they are to contact and what types of dangerous situations they are supposed to be looking out for,” said Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf.
Oakland police had responded to calls at the warehouse many times before the fire that killed 36 people. Cell phone footage shows officers even went inside, but they never contacted code enforcement or city inspectors.
Mayor Schaaf says the new policy will save lives.
“We clearly see opportunities to improve the coordination and communication among the different departments,” she said.
Last week, the Assistant Police Chief asked officers to report illegal parties and warehouses but the city administrator quickly rescinded that order. This latest order took out the word “warehouses.”
Some believe this was in response to the pressure from the artist community, who said if officers report on illegal warehouses and the landlords kick them out, they’ll be homeless.
“We cannot and will not turn a blind eye to immediate life safety risks,” said Schaff. “But we are also very cognizant of the housing crisis. So we also don’t want to compromise housing security.”
The mayor would not clarify if that means officers won’t report on illegal warehouses
Critics say the policy doesn’t go far enough. They say the problem isn’t just illegal parties. People living in unsafe warehouses can also be dangerous.
On the other hand, artists worry even reporting on illegal parties can lead to their evictions.
“It’s good the city is concerned,” said Matt Hummel of the Oakland Warehouse Coality. “But we have to make sure the city isn’t using it as a way to crack down on the landlords.”
The mayor wouldn’t give specifics, but says the city will continue to work on a comprehensive policy that will address illegal parties and the housing situation.