Forum on officer-involved shootings held

December 11, 2008 8:00:30 PM PST
Some Oakland neighbors are gathering at City Hall for a meeting with the Citizen Police Review Board. They're angry about the department's record on fatal police shootings. Too often, they say, officers are opening fire on unarmed suspects.

"Andrew meant a lot to us," said Sonya Wahnee.

Wahnee's son, Andrew Moppin-Buckskin, was one of five people killed by Oakland Police last year. At 20-years-old he was shot on New Year's Eve. Officers said it looked like he was reaching for a gun in his waistband. They found out later he was unarmed.

"We don't have answers," said Wahnee.

However, this grieving mother may get some answers soon. Following a series of high-profile officer-involved shootings this year and last, the city's Citizen Police Review Board will hold a forum on the issue at Oakland City Hall. Wahnee wants to hear what police brass have to say.

"It's not because the officers are doing anything wrong. It's because when we make contact with those people or those suspects they escalate the use of force," said Lt. Jeff Thomason, from the Oakland Police Department.

In the last two years, Oakland's officer-involved shooting rate has far surpassed other Bay Area police departments. While Oakland had five police fatal police shootings last year and six this year, San Francisco-- about twice the size of Oakland-- had two last year and one this year. Richmond-- with about half as many residents as Oakland-- had just one.

Oakland Police also shot, but did not kill, ten others since 2007. Thomason says other numbers tell a different story.

"With the thousands and thousands of contacts that we have with the public every year, only a small percentage of those end up in officer involved shootings," said Lt. Thomason.

Community organizer Rashidah Grinage called for the Thursday night meeting.

"If you don't hold the police accountable for their behavior, then this is what happens," said Grinage.

Wahnee is looking for different results.

"I just hope that the meeting tonight will help bring down the killings form the police department so if it happens again, I hope they don't have to go through what we've been through," said Wahnee.

Emotions may run high at the meeting. Wahnee says it will be the first time she's had any dialogue with the Oakland Police Department since her son was killed nearly a year ago.


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