Protest over shooting shuts down council meeting

(KGO)
September 19, 2012 9:32:48 PM PDT
A heated City Council meeting in Oakland is prompting officials to talk about changing the way the public sessions are conducted. That was on the minds of city leaders who spoke to the 166th recruit academy at police headquarters Wednesday.

Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan, Mayor Jean Quan and City Administrator Deanna Santana addressed the 166th recruit academy at police headquarters Wednesday. There is a push to add officers to a department that has been hit hard by layoffs and deep cuts to the budget.

New recruits will enter a department that seems to be taking hits from all sides: the public, the federal government and city budget restraints. But Jordan says he tells every officer if making a difference isn't in your blood, do not wear the uniform.

"You should know that we are looking at other measures we can take for the City Council to continue moving forward with its business," Quan said.

There wasn't much business conducted at Tuesday night's City Council meeting. The anger and frustration aimed at the city's leaders was palpable. Protesters filled the small chamber and demanded answers about the shooting of 18-year-old Alan Blueford, killed by an Oakland police officer last May. Things were so heated, the meeting was cut short and city officials are considering changes to the format.

"We need to look at redesigning how the council meetings will be held and the time that we can anticipate large crowds that come with the intent of disrupting the meeting," Santana said.

Exactly how city leaders would do that, Santana was not prepared to say. She would only offer that the current model would be reviewed. But that isn't only thing getting a closer look. Blueford's parents came to the meeting requesting the release of a police report about the killing of their son, a report they believed the chief would deliver to them personally.

Jordan, who is named in a lawsuit filed by the family, says he and the department have nothing to hide.

"I initially said that I would release the report, that was my intention, but after talking with investigators I decide that we could not release the report and that was a miscommunication on my part," Jordan said.

Oakland attorney John Burris is representing the Blueford family and says he understands that his clients want answers, but the City Council is neither able nor qualified to give them.

"We have filed a lawsuit and we expect to get all documents in the normal course of events," he said.

While this case and the threat of a federal takeover due police misconduct hang over the heads of city officials, they were quick to point out their successes. City leaders welcomed the 166th recruit academy and displayed mug shots of men they've recently arrested and suspect of playing a role in a string of violent street robberies. Oakland officers have taken more than 560 firearms off of the street so far this year.

The number of officers working Oakland city streets has fallen to its lowest level in more than 10 years. There are 631 active officers; the next graduating class of cadets is expected to add 40 to their ranks, but it will not happen until 2013.

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