Moms 4 Housing, supporters who were arrested won’t be charged; deputies' tactics under fire

The members of Moms 4 Housing who were arrested after illegally living in an Oakland home will not be charged they learned on Thursday. 

Misty Cross, Tolani King, along with two supporters, were briefly jailed last month on charges of resisting arrest when Alameda County sheriff's deputies attempted to remove them from the home they were squatting in. The activist group said they found on from Alameda County district attorney's office that all charges have been dropped. 

Meanwhile, Oakland is moving toward a new policy on how police use equipment such as tear gas, battering rams, and sniper rifles, like the ones used during the eviction.  

Police watchdogs have long complained the department is too "militarized." 

Thursday evening, the Oakland Police Commission heard from one of the homeless mothers who occupied a vacant Oakland house until their court-ordered eviction last month. 

"It caused us a lot of trauma," said Dominque Walker of Moms 4 Housing, describing the riot-clad deputies, SWAT, and armored Bearcat vehicles that descended on the house.  

"There were robots, there were drones, battering rams and tanks, there were AR-15's, for moms and babies," said Walker. 

The Alameda County Sheriff's Office, which carries out court-ordered evictions, owns four Bearcats. The Oakland Police Department has one. 

Many law enforcement agencies say nothing surpasses the vehicle for protecting officers- and the public- amid gunfire. But watchdog groups say Oakland's criteria for deploying the Bearcat is murky.

Instead of critical incidents, they believe it's used to intimidate.  

"The department rolls this out about twice a week in East Oakland," said Rashida Grinage, of the Coalition for Police Accountability. 

"They look like an occupying army in a neighborhood, it's just overkill."

Critics point to the shooting death two years ago, of a homeless man who had a gun but was passed out in a West Oakland yard. Oakland officers used the Bearcat as a perch to open fire. 

"To have someone who is not even conscious being fired on is not defensible," said Grinage. 

A draft resolution by the Police Commission would require police to create a "use policy" on militaristic equipment, and provide annual data on how it is used, and the outcomes.

"To begin with, I think there's a lack of trust in the community," said Oakland City Council member Noel Gallo.

As chairman of the city's public safety committee, Gallo believes there must be a balance between restraint and crime fighting.  

"Do I need to have tanks moving up and down the street?" he posed. 

"We have all the respect for law enforcement but in terms of the tools that are used, there's a great debate going on." 

OPD data obtained by 2-Investigates shows Oakland rolls out its Bearcat twice as often as San Francisco. 

A decision on Oakland reforms is expected within the next few months, resting with the full City Council.