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Oakland City Council pushes to increase citizen police commission power days after chief firing

ABC 7 San Francisco logo ABC 7 San Francisco 2/27/2020 KGO
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Barely a week after a controversial decision by a citizen police commission to fire Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick, there's a plan in the works to greatly increase the power of that commission, and further separate it from city administration.

It comes in the form of a resolution set to go before the Oakland City Council Rules Committee.

In her parting words to the police commission that voted to fire her, former Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick said she believes the powers of the citizen panel should be reigned in.

"This model in Oakland needs to be repealed and replaced," said Kirkpatrick in a lengthy interview Monday. "I think everyone is surprised at the power because they're not elected. The city council is really the representative of the community."

The police commission voted unanimously in a closed door meeting on Feb. 20 to fire Kirkpatrick with two years remaining on her five year contract. The move had to be approved by Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf, who said she agreed but that it was a "personally difficult" decision.

RELATED: Fired Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick levels accusations at Mayor Libby Schaaf, police commission

Several city council members told ABC7 News they were left completely out of the loop.

But City Council president Rebecca Kaplan is proposing the police commission be given even more power, in the form of a resolution expected before the Rules Committee Thursday.

"What this measure does is loosen the grip of the administration and more fully empower the commission to do the job that we elected them to do," said Cat Brooks with the Anti-Police Terror Network, a group that advises the police commission.

In Kaplan's proposed resolution, the commission would no longer include mayoral appointees, gain the power to propose changes to any police policy, prevent city administrators from investigating commissioners and immediately review findings and discipline in all cases of serious police misconduct.

Kaplan told ABC7News, the rules around the firing of chiefs would not change.

RELATED: Oakland City Councilmember reacts to Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick's firing

"The timing is absolutely wrong, said Councilman Noel Gallo, who supports the commission, but not the move to increase its powers so soon after Kirkpatrick's firing.

"For me at the end of the day with any commission, committee, any action in this city, the city council should be at the end held responsible," said Gallo.

"It is important, as we look at the events over the past week that we assess how we move forward in the future," said District 6 Council Member Loren Taylor.

"And what additional checks and balances might need to be in place for future circumstances."

One day after his union gave Kirkpatrick an emotional sendoff, the president of the Oakland Police Officers Association used much stronger language.

RELATED: Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick out after commission votes unanimously to fire her

"Chaos and uncertainty reigns as unelected and unaccountable commissioners make a decisions that negatively impact the lives of Oaklanders," said Barry Donelan.

"Then along comes the president of the city council and she writes up a ballot measure not to fix the problems but throws gasoline on the raging fire that is the public safety crisis that is Oakland."

The rules committee was set to consider Kaplan's resolution at its regular meeting tomorrow, but that meeting has been cancelled due to a lack is a quorum. The next meeting is set for Thursday March 5 at 10:45 a.m. at Oakland City Hall.

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