Oakland committee votes to sever ties between police and ICE

- Oakland’s Public Safety Committee on Tuesday voted to terminate agreements between the police department and Immigration and Customs Enforcement, following a unanimous recommendation from the city's Privacy Advisory Commission.

The issue moves to the full council tentatively on July 18. 

The Privacy Commission concluded that the presence of ICE was causing trauma to the community, that ICE's revised policies under the Trump Administration clearly conflict with Oakland's status as a sanctuary city and that existing ICE-OPD agreements provided no demonstrated successes or benefits, according to Brian Hofer, chair of the privacy commission.

“The consensus among law enforcement experts is that if local police departments assist ICE with their mass deportation actions, immigrant communities will lose their trust in their local police departments,” OPAC commissioner Saied Karamooz said in a statement. “Consequently, they will be reluctant to report crime or assist with investigations, negatively impacting public safety for all."

Councilwoman Rebecca Kaplan, who sponsored the resolution, told KTVU she is very worried that ICE agents are going after people who are not violent criminals and are even victims of crimes.

In Santa Cruz, police there said in April that they will no offer agents from Homeland Security a desk in the department, after they felt burned following a gang- and drug-bust that also rounded up people based on their immigration status, the Santa Cruz Sentinel reported.

Oakland police told the privacy commission that officers haven't conducted any joint operations with ICE under the agreement, according to the East Bay Express. OPD also insists that its policy is to never enforce immigration laws, and that any possible joint operations with ICE are to combat international drug and human trafficking and other serious felonies.

OPAC began investigating the status of the city of Oakland agreements with federal law enforcement in March of 2017. But the city's 2016 ICE agreement, which allowed for the deputization of Oakland police officers as ICE agents, did not emerge until June of 2017 when police analyst Tim Birch told the commission that he and many other OPD staff, including the new police chief, were unaware of the 2016 ICE agreement. The agreement was forged under President Barack Obama, when many weren't as concerned about the potential mass deportation of immigrants.

The committee will also consider a civil rights ordinance brought by Councilwoman Lynette Gibson-McElhaney that would require all other law enforcement agreements including those with the FBI and US Marshals to abide by all city of Oakland policies, including sanctuary city legislation.

The civil rights ordinance ensures that all other federal law enforcement agreements, including the FBI Joint Terrorism Task Force, must comply with the California Constitution and all Oakland municipal policy, including Oakland’s status as a sanctuary city, that all new agreements or amendments to existing agreements must be brought to the Privacy Commission for a public hearing, and a report must be issued annually on all activities and made accessible to the public. The ordinance is modeled on a similar one executed in 2012 in the City and County of San Francisco. San Francisco suspended its participation in the Joint Terrorism Task Force in February of 2017.

In addition, this week Alameda County is considering forming a working group to draft an ordinance to curb secret surveillance throughout the country by requiring use policies and surveillance impact reports prior to equipment acquisition and use and annual audit reports. The transparency ordinance, sponsored by Richard Valle, is modeled on the Santa Clara County surveillance transparency ordinance enacted last June and the city of Oakland ordinance unanimously recommended by the Public Safety committee on May 9. A statewide surveillance transparency ordinance (SB-21) is currently being considered by the California State Assembly in Sacramento.

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