By JR Valrey, The Minister of Information
Many know Ms. Regina Jackson, as the director of the East Oakland Youth Development Center in deep East Oakland, but these same people do not know that she has another very important post in the town, as the chair of the Oakland Police Commission, the civilian disciplinary oversight body over the Oakland Police Department.
With major police scandals over the recent decades like the “The Riders”, the unjustified police murder of Gary King Jr, the brutalization of the Oscar Grant rebellion rebels, the shooting in the head of a Occupy Oakland activist with a tear gas canister, the Celeste Guap case, where a number of OPD and other local law enforcement officers sex trafficked and molested a local teenaged girl, and more; the Oakland Police Department has proven, to the public, that they are an unruly mafia with badges, whose actions have to be regularly scrutinized.
Ms. Regina Jackson and the Oakland Police Commission are dedicated to trying to tame Oakland’s legalized super-gang, the Oakland Police Department. Here is the chair of the Oakland Police Commission, in her own words talking about some of the police related news of the day. Check her out.
JR Valrey: When did you join the Police Commission in Oakland? What is the process behind becoming a commissioner in Oakland?
Regina Jackson: I was seated in December 2017, alongside all the commissioners as the first Police Commission in Oakland. This commission became reality as a result of Measure LL, which was voted for, overwhelmingly (83% by Oakland voters) in November 2016.
There is an application to apply for commissioner with several attachments. Then there are interviews. For the selection committee, these interviews are public. As a mayoral appointee, my interview was private.
JR Valrey: Why did you want to become a police commissioner?
Regina Jackson: As a community leader, I know that no matter how successful youth are in training for excellence, that once they exit the East Oakland Youth Development Center’s protective bubble, they may come in contact with the police. Given my experience in leadership, program design, and policy making, I figured that my skills might be helpful to assist in oversight, creating cultural change, updating policies, and building community trust.
JR Valrey: What is your job as a police commissioner? And does your position have the ability to fire and indict police officers? What other penalties can you inflict?
Regina Jackson: My job as police commissioner is to attend meetings twice a month, serve on ad hoc committees to review and create or update policies, to understand the police protocols and procedures in order to help design or redesign improvements, and finally when necessary to deliver discipline; this happens when the police chief and director of community police review agency cannot agree to discipline, for officers. 3 commissioners must serve on each discipline committee. The Oakland Police Commission is one of the most powerful in the country. We have the power to terminate the police chief with cause, and to determine discipline. I served on the discipline committee which saw the termination of 5 officers, in the Pawlik case; he was armed and unresponsive when he was killed by OPD, in 2018.
JR Valrey: What do you think about Oakland’s Mayor Libby Schaff bringing the HighWay Patrol onto the streets of Oakland?
Regina Jackson: My concern for CHP’s assistance is that they should abide by OPD policies and protocols. We have seen with Alameda County through mutual aid support, that they come in with methods and equipment that we do not use, and they may also not align with OPD rules and regulations. If CHP can align and respect OPD processes, then perhaps they can be helpful, otherwise I am not in support of their presence.
JR Valrey: Can you give a brief history of how OPD got into federal conservatorship, and explain whether or not you feel the Oakland Police have done enough to get out of it, under its current leadership?
Regina Jackson: Almost 19 years ago there was a case called “The Riders”, where some OPD officers were accused, and found guilty of planting evidence, and beating up citizens. Due to this horrific series of actions, the plaintiffs’ attorneys won their case, to have federal oversight. The current police chief, Leronne Armstrong has been working on the 52 required tasks, for about 5 years. I believe that he takes these tasks seriously, and is increasing the discipline and protocols for the oversight of his officers. Recently down to 3 tasks, some of which are already in partial compliance, we are hopeful to exit federal conservatorship, within the next year or so. If OPD can be consistent in their execution of these tasks and reporting, that will be the determination of whether OPD has done enough to get out of it. I do believe that Police Chief Armstrong can get us out of federal oversight. He is committed to it.
JR Valrey: What are your views on the “Defund the Police” movement in Oakland?
Regina Jackson: Everyone has their own opinions about the defund movement. Having lived in Oakland for more than 50 years, and having worked for East Oakland Youth Development Center in the deep east for 27 years, where the majority of crimes occur, I hear firsthand about the fear of our families, and how they want the police to catch the criminals that prey on our underserved neighborhoods. While I am not for over policing, and arresting our way out of problems, I do believe that we still need police for the most egregious crime. I wholeheartedly believe in violence prevention, and believe that it’s “a both and proposition”, for police to respond to crime and youth prevention programs, like the EOYDC, to reduce the propensity for crime.
JR Valrey: What exactly happened with the Oakland Police Department’s budget, was it increased like the mayor wanted or decreased like some of the City Council wanted? How do you feel about the decision?
Regina Jackson: It is well documented that the department’s budget practices have been overdue for needed reforms, and I think Oakland city leaders took a number of important first steps to start the process, but there is more work ahead. The commission itself held a multi meeting hearing to address the budget which was more than we are obligated to do, under the charter. As a community leader serving as Chair of the Police Commission, I am glad that the public conversation is centered on innovative and community focused programming, specifically targeted at violence prevention. The Commission serves as a people’s forum, so we’ve heard since our inception that the most underserved communities, in Oakland, are the most vulnerable to the uptick in gun related homicides. Our own commissioners have hailed from these communities. The vast majority of Oaklanders expect that this department will ensure sworn officers respond to, and prevent gun related homicides.
Ultimately the department lost $17 million, to the department of violence prevention, however their actual dollars were up from the year before. I feel that there isn’t an all or nothing decision, it’s a “both and”. We need police to fight crime, and we need violence prevention programs to reduce violence. Maybe one day we won’t need police, but that day has not yet arrived.
JR Valrey: What are the stats on police misconduct in Oakland pre-pandemic vs. today?
Regina Jackson: I need to follow up to get accurate information. The pandemic has blurred so many things.
JR Valrey: How do you feel about Oscar Grant’s family trying to charge officer Toni Pirone with murder, 11 years after the murder of Oscar Grant?
Regina Jackson: I read aloud Officer Pirone’s actions during a commission meeting, as documented in the Oscar Grant case. I was apoplectic, and personally believe that Pirone should be charged as his words and actions were heinous. As a matter of fact, the Commission unanimously approved a resolution to demand that DA O’Malley call for Pirone to be charged.
JR Valrey: What do you think about DA O’Malley claiming to not pursue the murder charges against Pirone because of how expensive the case would be?
Regina Jackson: How much does justice cost? We should seek justice at all costs- irregardless of circumstance or dollar amount.
JR Valrey: With you being in your last year of running the East Oakland Youth Development Center as the director, do you fear for the lives of the youth that you work with, now or before you became a commissioner? Please explain why?
Regina Jackson: I always fear for the lives of youth, which is why we attempt to give them tools and resources to keep them safe. Many of our young people have engaged with officers during “living room kinds of meetings”, and I believe that conversations between the two are incredibly helpful to building community trust. Some youth have attended Commission meetings, to further participate in the process.
Ultimately I think we are beginning to see a better understanding on the part of officers if they take time to engage, explain and demonstrate emotional intelligence; this will go a long way toward mutual respect. For youth, this is a major step toward respect, and perhaps reliance as well.
JR Valrey: If people would like to become a police commissioner what should they do? If people want to observe one of your police commission meetings, how do they do that?
Regina Jackson: So glad you asked. If people want to observe or participate in police commission meetings, they need to only access the zoom link, either via the City of Oakland postings, or on the Police Commission’s Twitter handle @OakPolicecomm.
As for the commission process, there are two ways in; the selection committee and through mayoral appointment. The selection committee, which is made up of residents, reviews and interviews all applicants. The mayor manages a similar process of review. Selection committee process is accessible as their work is done through public meetings. The mayor and selection committee reviews and makes recommendations by presenting to the Oakland City Council.
Overall, I am encouraged that this chief of police will continue to demonstrate a sophisticated understanding of what police reform requires of department leadership. The department is focused on de-escalation and new approaches to addressing crime. As we emerge from this pandemic, I expect that the department will be one of the post pandemic success stories, leading this city into its next chapter.