Ex-City Councilman and ex-City Hall aide picked for Oakland Police Commission

The selection panel for the Oakland Police Commission on Wednesday recommended two people — a former city councilman who won a large payout against police and an executive of the Unity Council in Fruitvale — to sit on the powerful body vested with overseeing reform of the police department.

Karely Ordaz and Wilson Riles, the ex-city councilman, were nominated to fill two vacancies on the Commission and are expected to start in October. 

The two nominations come at a tumultuous time for the Police Commission and at a time when the panel itself is being sued.

Ordaz currently serves as an alternate commissioner on the Commission and was appointed to the position by former Mayor Libby Schaaf. Ordaz served as a special assistant to Schaaf during her tenure. Ordaz also serves as the chief of staff for the Unity Council, a Fruitvale non-profit that promotes social equity and business development. 

Riles served on Oakland City Council from 1979 to 1992 and won a $360,000 lawsuit against the City in 2022 when Riles alleged a 2019 arrest for obstructing a public officer and battery of a police officer was racially motivated. 

They will replace current chair Tyfahra Milele and vice chair David Jordan.

Current chair Milele, vice chair Jordan and former commissioner Ginale Harris filed a temporary restraining order this week to stop the selection committee from proceeding, but that request was denied. 

A new hearing on the matter was rescheduled for Aug. 15, but it's unclear if it will have any effect on the selection.

Milele, Jordan and Harris are also suing Jim Chanin, a civil rights attorney who sits on the selection panel and, alongside attorney John Burris, sued OPD in the early 2000s which resulted in the current federal oversight. 

The suit alleges that Chanin has a conflict of interest in his role on the selection committee and claims he has a vested interest in keeping the federal oversight because it earns Chanin money. 

In a previous interview, Chanin told KTVU that he is "perplexed" at this lawsuit because he voted for all the commissioners now suing him, although he did not vote for Milele for a second term. He also said he doesn’t decide when federal oversight ends, that decision is in the hands of the independent monitor, Robert Warsaw. 

There is no set date for City Council to approve the pair, but in the past City Council has never overruled the selection panel's recommendation.

One spot remains vacant on the seven-member commission, which will eventually be filled by Mayor Sheng Thao. The vacant spot comes after Thao removed Judge Brenda Harbin-Forte who was appointed to the position by former Mayor Libby Schaaf.

In a statement to the selection panel, Ordaz highlighted her time in City Hall, her work with the Oakland Police Department and her role as a community advocate as reasons why she should be selected for the commissioner role.  

"I grew up in East and Deep East Oakland and understand firsthand the public safety challenges in the city as well as the history of police misconduct and abuse," Ordaz wrote.

Riles has lived in Oakland for more than 50 years and worked as a teacher and principal in Oakland schools. Riles also highlighted his 10-plus years on City Council where he helped decide policy and budgets for OPD, among other issues. He also served on a task force in 1992 that helped create community policing reforms.

"The 1992 taskforce that I chaired was able to agree on an understanding and create legislation that the City Council passed unanimously. Oakland’s ‘community policing’ program is still functioning to this day," Riles wrote in a statement to the selection panel.