Open Letter to the Citizens of Oakland From the Oakland Police Officers Association; Interview w/ Union
“Hi I’m calling up to verify something you posted on your web si- ”
“Are you getting a lot of calls ask-”
“You don’t know how many times I’ve said that in the last few minutes.”
Here’s the letter:
We represent the 645 police officers who work hard every day to protect the citizens of Oakland. We, too, are the 99% fighting for better working conditions, fair treatment and the ability to provide a living for our children and families. We are severely understaffed with many City beats remaining unprotected by police during the day and evening hours.
As your police officers, we are confused.
On Tuesday, October 25th, we were ordered by Mayor Quan to clear out the encampments at Frank Ogawa Plaza and to keep protesters out of the Plaza. We performed the job that the Mayor’s Administration asked us to do, being fully aware that past protests in Oakland have resulted in rioting, violence and destruction of property.
Then, on Wednesday, October 26th, the Mayor allowed protesters back in – to camp out at the very place they were evacuated from the day before.
To add to the confusion, the Administration issued a memo on Friday, October 28th to all City workers in support of the “Stop Work” strike scheduled for Wednesday, giving all employees, except for police officers, permission to take the day off.
That’s hundreds of City workers encouraged to take off work to participate in the protest against “the establishment.” But aren’t the Mayor and her Administration part of the establishment they are paying City employees to protest? Is it the City’s intention to have City employees on both sides of a skirmish line?
It is all very confusing to us.
Meanwhile, a message has been sent to all police officers: Everyone, including those who have the day off, must show up for work on Wednesday. This is also being paid for by Oakland taxpayers. Last week’s events alone cost Oakland taxpayers over $1 million.
The Mayor and her Administration are beefing up police presence for Wednesday’s work strike they are encouraging and even “staffing,” spending hundreds of thousands of taxpayer dollars for additional police presence – at a time when the Mayor is also asking Oakland residents to vote on an $80 parcel tax to bail out the City’s failing finances.
All of these mixed messages are confusing.
We love Oakland and just want to do our jobs to protect Oakland residents. We respectfully ask the citizens of Oakland to join us in demanding that our City officials, including Mayor Quan, make sound decisions and take responsibility for these decisions. Oakland is struggling – we need real leaders NOW who will step up and lead – not send mixed messages. Thank you for listening.
Update 4:20 p.m. KQED’s Mina Kim interviewed Sgt. Dom Arotzarena of the Oakland Police Officer’s Association about the letter the organization sent out today. Edited transcript:
What is the point of releasing this letter?
That we’re not far from the 99% of the people of the Occupy Wall Street movement. We want to support their cause and allow them to peacefully protest. It seems like we’ve been placed in a position that maybe we’re part of the system or part of the problem and that’s not the case.I want people to know that on Oct 25, police officers were following orders. We’ve been placed in a bad spot by our own city by allowing city employees to participate in the strike against Oakland tomorrow and at the same time telling police officers they have to cancel their days off and come into work that day.
We’re being told to clear out a park and then three days later, it’s like we were never there…
How does this put you in a difficult position?
You’re telling part of your employees to join in the protest and you’re telling the other part not to. We’re getting an unfair shake being looked on as oppressors. We’re being unfairly made scapegoats for a lot of stuff that’s happening.
What are you hoping your open letter will do?
We want support from our citizens. You hear from a small percentage of people who constantly criticize us. We want to hear from the citizens who support us. We know there’s a lot of support for us here in town.
We feel there’s confusing orders that have been given from the mayor’s office. We want the city to get on track and make decisions and take responsibility for the decision they make. There has been some responsibility taken at the mayor’s level; at the same time there’s confusing messages. We’re being told to clear out a park and then three days later, it’s like we were never there, we’re back to where we were.
We’re part of this community, we’re part of the 99%, we want support form the community we serve. This letter was for them.
I know the business community is struggling in the city hall area. The protest is not hurting Wall Street, it’s hurting our city.