OAKLAND (KPIX 5) — The city of Oakland is looking to hire ex-convicts to oversee the Oakland Police Department.

It’s all part of a measure approved by voters in November.

But Barry Donelan, president of the Oakland Police Officers’ Association said, “I was pretty disgusted. I thought the whole thing was distasteful.”

That was Donelan’s reaction to a posting on the city’s website that said, “encouraging former convicts to apply for the city’s new nine member commission to oversee police.”

Donelan said, “It’s an effort, obviously, to ensure that folks who are convicted criminals are overseeing public safety in the city of Oakland.”

The call for a commission — which will have a hand in everything from disciplining the city’s 767 cops to the hiring and firing of the police chief — was overwhelmingly backed  by voters in November.

But Donelan says the voters weren’t told that former felons might be part of the deal.

“This is a bait and switch,” Donelan said.

Not so, says Tal Klement, one of eight panelists who will make the commission picks.

“It’s unfortunate. As the police department, they should be welcoming the viewpoint and participation of all members of the city of Oakland and that includes people with criminal backgrounds,” Klement said.

But to encourage it?

Klement said, “That’s the population that has had the most contact with police and the measure itself asks for communities that have had frequent contact with police.”

The commissioners won’t have to undergo criminal background checks either.

Klement said, “The panel decided that if we were going to encourage formerly incarcerated people to apply, a criminal background check would discourage them.”

One group that is banned from applying to the commission are former Oakland police officers, like Greg Patterson who served 23 years of the force.

“Anyone who would be on a commission should have a lot more experience with police work,” Patterson said.

The application period closes at the end of June.

Comments (2)
  1. Formerly incarcerated people who have served their time are citizens of this country. They aren’t sub-human. Some learn from their experiences and go on to have rewarding productive lives. Some don’t. Just like some police officers do a good job, and some don’t. You don’t exclude any category of people from a citizens commission wholesale. Hands-on experience with the criminal justice system from all sides is what needs to be present on a commission that is making recommendations on criminal justice.

  2. I notice that most bailiffs and other court personnel – including a lot of judges – tend to treat accused or convicted criminals and also their friends and families with open contempt. These court personnel are beyond rude, using any excuse to ban loved ones of the accused from his/her court hearing, which also deprives the accused of witnesses to what went on at court that day. It’s too bad the sheriff’s department and the courts aren’t overseen by a commission including those most familiar with their actions, because courts need massive reform as well.