Oakland Public Safety Committee Unanimously Supports Law Protecting Against FBI Overreach

Law Now Heads to Full Council for Vote

Yesterday evening, Oakland reaffirmed its commitment to protecting all of Oakland’s community members by taking the next step towards enacting a law that would require Oakland police officers to follow state and local law and policy when working on federal task forces such as the FBI’s Joint Terrorism Task Force (“JTTF”).

On July 11th, the Oakland Public Safety Committee unanimously decided to forward the “Ordinance for Transparency for City Participation with Federal Surveillance Activities” to the City Council, with the recommendation that the Council adopt it. If enacted, this law will ensure that Oakland Police Department (“OPD”) officers assigned to federal task forces (such as the JTTF) follow state and local laws, rather than looser and highly problematic federal guidelines that has led to the widespread surveillance and harassment of Arab, Middle Eastern, Muslim, and South Asian communities. This would give Oakland greater control over its own officers and resources.

The law, sponsored by Councilmember McElhaney, came to the Committee after the Oakland Privacy Advisory Commission voted to unanimously endorse it in March. At the March hearing, Oakland Police Chief Anne Kirkpatrick conveyed her strong support for the law through a representative.

“The threat posed to Oakland communities by the Trump administration is real and immediate; they have been very clear about their intentions to profile us, surveil us, and ban us,” said Christina Sinha, National Security and Civil Rights Staff Attorney and Program Manager at Advancing Justice-Asian Law Caucus. “Now more than ever, we rely on our local governments to shield us from federal abuses and overreach, and we are grateful that Oakland is working to do precisely that.”

“Hundreds of Oakland residents have been targeted by the FBI based on their faith or country of origin,” said Sameena Usman, government relations coordinator for the Council on American-Islamic Relations, San Francisco Bay Area. “This Ordinance will ensure that Oakland police will follow state and local law rather than federal policies that are far less protective of civil and immigrant rights.”

“With such a clear difference in values between the Trump Administration and Oakland, enactment of this ordinance is necessary to ensure that Oakland police perform according to our higher standards, not the feds. The additional transparency required by this law will help guide informed decision making, and provide comfort to the community as to our participation with these task forces,“ said Brian Hofer, chair of Oakland’s Privacy Advisory Commission.

During the same hearing, the Committee also unanimously supported a resolution that would end Oakland’s existing agreement with Immigration and Customs Enforcement (“ICE”), which allows OPD officers to also act as federal immigration agents. Both the law and the resolution will now go before the full City Council for a vote.