Oakland Mayor responds to criticism of police recruit policy

Oakland Mayor Libby Schaaf responded to criticism Sunday that the police department has routinely asked recruits if they were victims of sexual assault. The question appears on a form that’s been in use for the last seven years but was published Sunday by the San Francisco Chronicle.

On the form, applicants are asked to give the department authorization to access information about their financial past, criminal history and “including if [they] have been a victim of sexual assault.”

KTVU consulted with legal expert Paula Canny, who said asking applicants to disclose such information is legally questionable. “There's a strong argument that it is illegal,” Canny said. “Because the penal code and the government code have provisions in it that were enacted to protect the identity of sexual assault victims. Also, it's a horrible idea and unnecessary. I mean, can you think of any other job that asks if you've been a victim of a sex assault?”

The Oakland police did not respond to a request for comment but told the Chronicle they ask the question because they want to review all police reports in which an applicant may appear. The department also said being a victim of a sexual assault would have no bearing on whether an applicant was hired.

Late Sunday, Mayor Schaaf released the following statement:

“Today I ordered the immediate removal of a waiver where OPD applicants authorize the release of confidential records, including those that would disclose whether they are victims of sexual assault. Additionally, I directed the department to partner with the Oakland Police Commission to conduct a top-to-bottom review of the department’s recruitment and hiring process to ensure no other barriers discourage the hiring of women or minority applicants. Sexual assault survivors have persevered through trauma, and their resilience is a character quality we respect, honor, and welcome in Oakland.”