'Tsunami of cases:' Oakland agency receives complaints against police

People in Oakland protest the death of George Floyd.

The Oakland Police Commission's investigative agency has been inundated with complaints about police conduct since the protests over George Floyd's death, according to the agency's executive director. 

With more than 45 complaints recently filed about the Oakland police, more staff is needed at the civilian-led Community Police Review Agency to examine the allegations, Executive Director John Alden said. The 45 complaints represents roughly a 50% increase over the agency's annual caseload, he said. 

"By our standards at CPRA, this is a tsunami of cases," said Alden, "We’re simply not staffed to handle an increase of this magnitude, but state law provides an unforgiving, firm one-year deadline to complete such cases. We’re talking to other city leaders about securing funding for temporary staff for this purpose."

Complaints began pouring in after May 29, when protests were held in Oakland, and throughout the world, to denounce systemic racism and police brutality.

A 22-year-old woman was hit by a specialty impact munition by Oakland police (left) and Jennifer Li also said she was hit by projectiles (right)

Several protesters have complained to KTVU, the Oakland Police Commission and in a federal lawsuit that they were injured with specialty impact munitions and tear gas while expressing their free speech. 

Oakland police at first responded that there were those in the crowd who were violent and officers were within policy to deploy the crowd control tools. However, Deputy Chief Leronne Amstrong has since acknowledged that the department needs to review its tactics to see if they were legal.

Have a bad interaction with Oakland police? Here's who to contact

The agency's current budget is $4.5 million a year. 

Alden said he'd need five investigators to be able to adequately complete all the cases on his plate. That's an additional $800,000.

KTVU reached out to the city's councilmembers to see if they'd support such funding.

Only Councilwoman Nikki Fortunato Bas responded.

She wholeheartedly supports the idea.

In fact, in her proposal to the city to reallocate $25 million from the police department, Bas has already earmarked a potential $800,000 to add five investigators to Alden's budget. 

Among the other suggestions in her proposal, Bas would like to spend $1.5 million on a mental health services pilot; about $3.5 million for homeless services; $2.5 million to create school-site based violence prevention and crisis intervention teams; and $5 million to hire community ambassadors to provide event safety, conflict resolution, mediation, and public education instead of traditional police officers. 

Bas' proposal will be discussed Tuesday at a special city council meeting revolving around the mid-cycle budget. 

Lisa Fernandez is a reporter for KTVU. Email Lisa at lisa.fernandez@foxtv.com or call her at 510-874-0139. Or follow her on Twitter @ljfernandez