OAKLAND — With two decades of federal oversight likely extending next week, new data shows the Oakland Police Department’s efforts to diversify its ranks are falling significantly short.
A recent internal survey found that nearly half of female officers on the department said they had personally experienced harassment or discrimination. The same number of respondents, 45%, said they had witnessed others being harassed or discriminated against, and nearly a third of those officers said it happened “often” or “very often”.
More than half of those officers, meanwhile, said they are unhappy with how well women are represented at OPD.
The survey, published last month, is part of the “30×30 pledge” that police departments across the country have taken internally to reach 30% female academy recruits by 2030.
Only 14% of OPD officers identified as female last year, though that is still a percentage point higher than the national average in 2021. And they occupy only 10.5% of current leadership positions.
“It’s a cliché, but (OPD) is a good-old-boys club,” said Cat Brooks, an organizer of the Anti Police-Terror Project. “Besides being a racist institution, it’s one that stems from patriarchal violence between white men.”
The results of the investigation, conducted late last year by OPD’s internal accountability office, were made public by the city ahead of a hearing next week, where Judge William Orrick is expected to review federal oversight of the contentious department, which has a slew of tests. experienced will expand. of police chiefs over the past ten years.
“The Department is seeking to increase the number of sworn female ranks overall, as well as the representation of women in supervisory and commanding roles,” the city’s pre-hearing reads.
Diversity within the OPD ranks has been a concern since a settlement in the notorious Riders violence cases — including issues of racial profiling — first brought the department under scrutiny 20 years ago.
Civil rights lawyers for the plaintiffs in the Riders’ case have defended the case. So are the city’s political leaders, who often tout the diversity of officers as a beneficial alternative to more radical measures, such as major cuts in government spending on police budgets.
OPD had once set out to regain local control, but those hopes were dashed in January when the cover-up of a hit-and-run by a police sergeant came to light. The debacle eventually led to the firing of Chief LeRonne Armstrong.
It was the latest in a string of scandals to hit OPD in recent years. Others included a cop-run Instagram account with racist and misogynistic posts and the sexual exploitation of a teenager by a group of East Bay police officers — several of whom were Oakland police officers.
In all these cases, the officers directly responsible were men.
“The department continues its strategic outreach efforts to attract and actively recruit officers who reflect Oakland’s diversity, racial and otherwise, and who reside in or have meaningful ties to the (city),” the joint statement reads.
Other survey responses from female officers are slightly more positive about OPD. In response to the statement “I feel respected by my supervisors,” about 57% agreed, 13% were neutral, and 31% disagreed.
The majority of respondents said they felt satisfied or “neutral” with the department’s representation of “racial and ethnic minorities”. About 37% of sworn female OPD officers are “Hispanic or Latino”, 27% are White, 22% are Black, and 9% are Asian.
“While some numbers are reassuring, others are deeply troubling,” said Jim Chanin, the attorney who helped litigate the Riders settlement throughout OPD’s federal oversight.
“I am not surprised that there is still discrimination and harassment; that’s one of the reasons police in general can’t get women,” Chanin added. “But it’s not like the ’80s and ’90s, where I had a lot of sexual harassment cases — it was horrible back then.”