Monday, March 23, 2009

A Tragic Weekend in Oakland

A commentator below asks for a thread on the shooting of four Oakland Police officers by a parolee over the weekend.

Undoubtedly views will vary. "How outraged would we be," someone will ask in the comments, "if the police had killed three parolees this weekend?" "Why is it that we suddenly care" they will ask, "when an officer dies?"

Those kinds of questions miss the the point. Four public servants left their homes fully expecting to return at the end of the day, and they did not. Granting credence to anger and frustration with our law enforcement system, this is still a tragedy. My thoughts and condolences go to to the people whose their friends, husbands, and fathers were taken from them last weekend.


Anonymous Anonymous said...

I'm sure we will see the same kind of moral outrage we saw when an officer (likely by accident) killed the passenger at a BART station. Totally sure the people of Oakland will show the same moral outrage about four law enforcement officers being gunned down over a parolees' traffic stop. Absolutely sure.

Oh, wait, this is the Bay Area. Nevermind.

3/23/2009 11:13 AM  
Blogger Matt said...

11:13, are you trying to be ironic? Because this is neither the proper time nor the place for that.

3/23/2009 11:16 AM  
Blogger Toney said...

The outrage wasn't over the mere death of the man, but rather the lack of justice. People are vengeful. Deal with it.

This guy had a swat team sent after him. The disproportionate responses might be explained by the differing level of malice between the two acts, but the fact is that it took weeks for a warrant to come out for the cop, and about 11 minutes for a swat team to gun down the parolee.

Everybody feels terrible about the deaths of the policemen. And I suspect if the only response to the shooter was to put him on "leave of absence with pay", then there would be the same moral outrage.

3/23/2009 11:23 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I live a bit past downtown Oakland, so I often take the bus to Berkeley when I need to meet people or go to campus. During the two trips I took yesterday (thankfully not to the library), people on the bus were saying things like, "They shot 3 unarmed people last year--they're getting what they deserve," and "I don't like that they've been shot, but they shouldn't have shot Oscar Grant."

The imputed guilt thing really is stunning sometimes. Guilt doesn't just attach to a few cops or even all of BART PD when they fuck up, but it spreads to Oakland PD and its SWAT team and motorcops, whose connections with BART or Oscar Grant were probably nil.

I know this shouldn't be surprising. But I think I'm feeling more hopelessness than surprise.

3/23/2009 11:30 AM  
Blogger McWho said...

There were people jeering the crime scene were the first two motorcycle cops were shot during a routine traffic stop. Jeering. Balance your first-thought protection of the Oakland population for just one second.

There were riots about a parolee getting shot in a BART station (and NOT by the Oakland PD, I might add). Perhaps we should be just as angry that police get killed by citizens, as citizens getting killed by police.

Toney: The BART PD officer was charged with Murder. So spare me the "there was no justice" bullshit. We have four cops getting killed by a man wanted on a parole violation (for assault weapons-related crimes) and you feel that a SWAT team was "disproportionate"? Really? Do you think that the police should have sent a SWAT team after an officer that shot the man during the BART episode? What do you propose so that we may appease the cop-hating Oakland population?

And you wonder why Oakland has trouble hiring Officers.

3/23/2009 12:39 PM  
Blogger Toney said...

McWho -

Fortunately, even the typically moronic anonymous commenters are smart enough to realize how stupid your remarks are.

The murder charge took many days to come down. In the meantime, the cop was on paid-leave; this was the perceived lack of justice. When he was charged, the riots stopped. Sure, the two may not be related. But it's equally likely that I have a live dove in my pants.

The fact is, when a cop wrongs someone, there is very little recourse for that person to pursue. Because of the nature of police enforcement, courts give wide swaths of leeway to police, police oversight committees are chaired by retired police, and police seldom get disciplined past a couple of weeks off (usually with pay).

Historically, this lack of accountability has targeted minorities, the poor, youth, people with Raiders jackets, etc. So yeah, when a cop shoots and kills a guy laying on his face, and it takes 2 weeks for a warrant to be issued, I can understand people being upset. There was no accountability gap in the current situation... the guy was dead an hour later.

What do you expect people to riot about in the present situation? That the whole thing happened? That's not what people take to the streets about. Protests happen because of some ongoing thing that people disagree with. In the present case, the terrible act is over; the only option anyone has is to mourn. In the BART shooting, until the warrant came out, people were pissed at what they thought was injustice.

Of course, there's no excusing the "they got what they deserved comments". Let's face it: this was an ugly, hateful, awful thing that happened. And if you think I'm a cop-hater, then I think you're an idiot. Though I may think that anyway.

3/23/2009 12:58 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

Protests happen because of some ongoing thing that people disagree with.

Clearly, you don't live in Berkeley.

3/23/2009 1:00 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

Toney, if you want to have an informed discussion about this topic at some point, feel free to post something other than inflammatory comments more appropriate for a Rage Against The Machine concert bathroom stall than a thread relating to the recent tragedy.

I am not going to debate someone that begins by calling my position moronic. Someone else can take over if they desire.

I am only going to add that this latest tragedy hits home for me in a way that you do not understand. That is fine. I heard about the shooting because my parents were involved in a conference call with the Oakland PD when it happened. My mother was in tears, because we have close friends in the department, and didn't know if they had died. So when you make personal attacks, please consider that you may have stepped into a pile of shit much deeper than your ivory tower comments against law enforcement.

Until you can grow up, good sir, have a pleasant break.

3/23/2009 1:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's a horrible tragedy that the 4 officers were killed. Absolutely senseless.

Still, it's incredibly meaningful that people were jeering their deaths. It goes to show what people in Oakland think about their PD. It's no accident that the OPD has the reputation they do - they totally earned it. I've had two limited interactions with the OPD, and both times I was scared shitless. They're arrogant, corrupt thugs who think and act like they're above the law.

3/23/2009 1:25 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I could say that Oakland residents are all violent drug-dealing thugs, and it would be just as much an over generalization as your post, 1:25.

Cops are people. Try to imagine working in a city where a significant portion of the population wants to kill you. Maybe you would have a slightly different approach when pulling people over for speeding.

3/23/2009 1:34 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Are they really corrupt?

3/23/2009 1:35 PM  
Blogger tj said...

Wow- no reason to be an asshat, Toney.

We usually like to keep things civil on N&B. I've had plenty of disagreements with Armen or Patrick (read: lots!), but I've kept it about the merits.

ESPECIALLY given your positions are so similar: (1) this was sad; (2) people who believe these cops "got what was coming to them" are pathetic, disgusting people; and (3) there can be no comparison between this tragedy and the BART one.

PS: is "asshat" one or two words?

3/23/2009 1:48 PM  
Anonymous Warren said...

That people were jeering at the police officers' deaths is not a reflection on the reputation of OPD; it's a reflection on the people doing the jeering.

3/23/2009 2:15 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toney - your position here is ridiculous.

The BART cop should have been more careful, but there is a good chance he meant to grab his taser, not his handgun. They are shaped pretty much the same way, and in the heat of the moment, it's likely the cop made a mistake.

This was a parolee who shot and killed two officers at a traffic stop. You really think sending a team of highly-trained officers after an armed and obviously dangerous man might have been unwarranted? People like you are so out of touch - they make Berkeley the laughing stock it often is.

Four officers gunned down vs. one maybe innocent BART passenger, likely shot by mistake. I fail to see why the cops matter less. Personality/power trip issues or not.

And jeering? Are you kidding me? People march when one kid gets slain in a horrible situation, but celebrate law enforcement personnel getting killed. Go on about your "injustice" and keep making everyone believe they're somehow a victim. I hope you have the honor of moving to Oakland and seeing what a utopia that gives you.

3/23/2009 2:18 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Tj--thank you. There is nothing accomplished by calling each other stupid. I think we can all agree that KILLING is wrong. That cheering over someone else's death is wrong.

We know nothing about the cops that got killed. May be they were corrupt, but may be they were NOT! Same way that a teen in an oversized jacket may, after all, be just a kid WITHOUT any drugs on him. Generalizations do not work. I know nothing about people who died. And until I learn that they took bribes and beat suspects, I am going to assume they were decent people (the naive trusting human I am...)

Let us also remember that some people working at a police department come from the same community (i.e. Oakland). That their families also wait for them every day. This police force is not a bunch of aliens imposed upon Oakland from outer space.

Also, Tony, just a thought as to "people are vengeful--deal with it"--my family was abroad after the September 11 attack, and saw people cheering that incident. Saw people say "that is what the US deserves." Did they have a reason to be angry at the U.S.? Yes. But was it disgusting to see them cheer about a tragedy? Absolutley.

McWho--I understand your background. But you know that some cops really are scumbags. Being powerless in front of cops sucks. Having a family member detained and beaten without a good reason sucks. Turning to the police at a hard time and seeing them not do anything about it, sucks as well. That is how people get ANGRY at their police.

Finally, if this blog is to have any meaning whatsoever, lets keep insults out of it. PLEASE.

3/23/2009 2:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


I don't think so. People don't normally gather to jeer at crime scenes. People jeered the murdered OPD officers because people hate the OPD. Accurately or not, OPD is distrusted and has a horrible reputation in parts of Oakland. Surely jeering at a murder scene is repulsive, but it definitely reveals how people view the OPD.

3/23/2009 2:26 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

1) This shooting was a tragedy.
2) So was Oscar Grant's death.

3) Cop's accept that a part of their job is risk to life and limb. This does not make it less tragic when a cop is gunned down
4) Citizens are not asked to accept that there is a risk that a cop will shoot them while they are on the floor. In fact, citizens are asked to believe that the police will keep them safe.

5) The response here was swift and forceful, and rightly so.
6) The response in the Oscar Grant case was slow and guarded.

7) In the police shootings, the effective police response removes the need for protests. Our social institutions are working.
8) In the Oscar Grant shooting, the lack of a quick response creates frustration. (Although, I think the violent protests were wrong and counterproductive)

But it should not be hard to understand people's general frustration. Most rational people accept the need for police power and authority. We accept the need for a swift response when a police officer is threatened. We are happy when the police protect us and our property.
But we get unhappy when we feel as though the institution has become disconnected from the people it serves. And then if we feel as though a police officer who committed a crime is being protected by other officers, we get very very angry.

So let's be clear on this. No one should condone the deaths of these officers. But to demand the same public outrage over these shootings as the Oscar Grant shooting displays a complete lack of empathy with the frustration the public is feeling. And to expect citizens to separate officers by police department ignores the real world. Are they also expected to differentiate by precinct, patrol group?

McWho: I am sorry if this incident hit too close to home. The jeering and mocking of these deaths was completely wrong. But can you maybe see that something else must be seriously wrong when people feel a sick sense of twisted justice when innocent officers get gunned down?

3/23/2009 2:26 PM  
Blogger Toney said...

Geez, you go to Costco to get a hot dog, and things blow up.

TJ: you're absolutely right. We're 99.3% in agreement, which is why the .7% stands out so much.

2:26: thank you for summarizing things so neatly. You're exactly correct.

2:18: dumbest thing I've heard all week (though it is only Monday). I don't think the SWAT response was unwarranted, and never said that. My point was that the discrepancy between the responses (SWAT team vs. paid leave) is what spurs the riots and jeering. Are they justified? Obviously not. But does it pay to try to understand public sentiment, no matter how ugly? Yes. The rest of your comment justifies the first sentence of my 12:58 response. I hope you never reproduce.

1:25: LOL. Actual dumbest thing I've heard all week.

2:22: Way to bring 9/11 into this. And yes, it is always disgusting to see people cheering death.

McWho: I didn't call you moronic. I called the anonymous commenters moronic (and justifiably so). I called your remarks stupid. I wouldn't bother posting here if people didn't call me stupid after everything I say. Regardless of how close to home this hits (and I am truly, truly sorry that it does), the two situations are barely comparable at all, and so to expect the same level of public response is nonsensical.

Suggesting that police get away with more than they should isn't limited to Rage lyrics. What if instead of a cop shooting a guy at the BART station accidentally, it was just a regular guy? If they got in all on video, do you think it would take two weeks to arrest the shooter? Obviously not. There is a disparity here that when combined with historical police injustice, like it or not, people don't agree with.

This isn't an ivory tower, Berkeley-only thought process. This is an attempt to understand why people are so ugly. It doesn't justify their jeering, but it doesn't cheapen the lives of the police officers either. It was an awful thing that happened, and I will never agree that anyone deserves what happened here.

3/23/2009 3:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"McWho: I am sorry if this incident hit too close to home. The jeering and mocking of these deaths was completely wrong. But can you maybe see that something else must be seriously wrong when people feel a sick sense of twisted justice when innocent officers get gunned down?"

I don't pay attention to these kinds of arguments any more than the ones that suggest America is to blame for September 11th. Just because some idiots cheered that abroad doesn't mean the innocents deserved to die. That someone would equate random people working in the twin towers as symbols of American oppression is as lunatic as people blaming random traffic cops for Oscar Grant / perceived OPD brutality.

3/23/2009 3:13 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

We should all remember that Toney lives in Davis - now that's an ivory tower.

3/23/2009 3:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I don't think anyone's asking people to differentiate between members of an organization that they just generally distrust (however salubrious the effect of that may be). But when people say that "they got what they deserved," it would be a little less hateful to direct that toward the people who were actually involved in the BART shooting, rather than people who weren't involved at all.

To generalize "cops" in the way we've seen bears a striking resemblance to other horribles that need not be named.

3/23/2009 3:19 PM  
Blogger Armen said...

Toney, care to explain why you think investigations of an officer involved shooting should proceed in the same manner as a civilian shooting? This is an assumption that underlies your initial posts and becomes more explicit in your last post.

3/23/2009 3:29 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That someone would equate random people working in the twin towers as symbols of American oppression is as lunatic as people blaming random traffic cops for Oscar Grant / perceived OPD brutality.

You know whats even more "lunatic"? Not even trying to understand the motivations of others. You don't have to excuse people's conduct to understand where their anger and frustration comes from. Just because they want to act like morons, does not mean you have to as well

3/23/2009 3:35 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Wow. I really can't believe this discussion is happening. Like, we're really doing this! We're really taking a terrible tragedy that JUST HAPPENED, involving REAL PEOPLE, with families and pets, who DIED, who were MURDERED, in fact, and turning it into a debate about the corruption of OPD? Way to justify every stupid thing anyone has ever said about Berkeley.

Call me an oversensitive pansy, but this ain't the time or place. No amount of corruption in a department justifies the senseless murder of three individuals, and the D.A.'s response to Oscar Grant (which, McWho correctly points out, resulted in a murder charge) doesn't even come close. Of course, someone will respond that I'm making a straw man argument, and no one here has suggested the murders were justified. Sorry, but the implication is there. By even suggesting that OPD's reputation caused this, we are acknowledging that such an act could have a rational cause, instead of condemning it for what it is: a senseless, depraved, and unconscionable act of idiocy and cowardice.

3/23/2009 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

"What if instead of a cop shooting a guy at the BART station accidentally, it was just a regular guy? If they got in all on video, do you think it would take two weeks to arrest the shooter? Obviously not. There is a disparity here that when combined with historical police injustice, like it or not, people don't agree with."

That disparity is there for a reason. Plenty of reasons, actually. It makes sense to me to have a presumption of appropriate conduct. Deferring to the officer of course doesn't mean that they are beyond scrutiny, and I'm definitely not implying that the BART shooter was right. But, assuming that an officer-involved shooting was not a malicious crime makes sense to me. (If it doesn't to you, then I'm not sure what role you think law enforcement actually plays in our society.)

It also seems to make sense to think that waiting to arrest the BART shooter wasn't a gross injustice. I wouldn't assume that an officer was a flight risk. After all, it wasn't just some random guy on the street. If charges were going to be filed, they'd arrest him, just like they did. Two weeks to file murder charges isn't a huge delay if you know a thing about the criminal justice system. Arresting him during the investigation would not have been about justice, (and I think we all know it), it would have been politics.

Toney, I'm not going after you personally here. Mainly because you've been pretty ambiguous about whether you "like it, or not". I get that as a practical matter some Oakland citizens think of the OPD very, very negatively. But if we're talking about what is and isn't right, people blindly lashing out at the system isn't a factor. It makes sense that these two situations were dealt with differently by OPD. It also makes sense that people would react differently, I get that, but we shouldn't blindly justify those differences.

3/23/2009 3:36 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Toney, ad hominem attacks are below you. By resorting to them, you only lower the respect others have for you.

3/23/2009 4:11 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

it's all pretty simple. criminals don't like cops and vice versa. why is there any surprise at the incident and the subsequent reactions by other criminals?

3/23/2009 4:22 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

4:11 - I don't think ad hominem attacks are below Toney. They seem right in his wheelhouse: "I didn't call you moronic. I called the anonymous commenters moronic (and justifiably so). I called your remarks stupid."

3/23/2009 5:37 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Cry me an f'ing river. Like you said, acting as though anyone believes that these officers deserved it is a straw man argument. There is no "implication" unless you are looking for one. Not a single person implied that the officers' murders was justified or even related to the killing of Oscar Grant. What people did imply was that the (probably unjustified) lack of sympathy from the public at large might have to do with their (unjustified or not) distrust and anger at the police department. These are completely separate positions. Please don't equate them.

3/23/2009 6:17 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Please only use "an" before a word beginning with a vowel. Cry me a[] f'ing river.

3/23/2009 7:06 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

That is not the correct rule. We use "an" before a word that starts with a vowel OR a vowel-like sound, usually an unheard "h." You'd say "I'll be back in AN hour." We use "a" for words that start with consonants or consonant-like sounds. Usually that comes up with the letter "u." You'd say "a uniform." "F'ing" sounds like "effing" so "an" is correct.

3/23/2009 7:12 PM  
Blogger Patrick said...

7:12, I'm drinking cold beer and eating BBQ port on Durant Street. Stop by -- the next few are on me!

3/23/2009 7:14 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Oh it also comes up when "o" makes a "w" sound like "An anonymous grammar critique should be *A* one-time thing."

3/23/2009 7:14 PM  
Blogger Matt said...

So long as we don't have to start talking about an history of shootings in Oakland, I won't have to injure anyone.

3/23/2009 7:23 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Wow 7:06. Looks like you got burned. I guess that's a risk you run when you act like a douche. Maybe we will cry you an f'ing river.

3/23/2009 7:30 PM  
Blogger Toney said...

Toney, ad hominem attacks are below you. By resorting to them, you only lower the respect others have for you.

I wouldn't have to resort to them if I wasn't so right at all the time. :)

3/23/2009 7:55 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Worst N&B comment thread of the year.

This should be put down now.

3/24/2009 2:38 AM  
Blogger Patrick said...

Yeah. In the original post I highlighted one way a commentator could be a fool, but it looks like I fell far short of covering the waterfront.

3/24/2009 6:53 AM  
Blogger Dan said...


3/24/2009 10:59 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

It's basically Toney's fault, for being such a dumbass.

3/24/2009 12:29 PM  
Blogger Toney said...

Meh, I never claimed I wasn't a dumbass.

Having said that, this is a blog, and is for discussion. I definitely don't apologize for trying to learn from an incredibly tragic situation. It might sound callous, but if we only gave our condolences, we would miss the lesson in this, which would only add to the tragedy. The only way to prevent something like this from happening in the future is to try to understand why it happened in the first place.

This thread went off base because people suggest that it was actually the OPD's fault, or that this situation is comparable to the BART shooting. Both are perspectives that warrant discussion, but take away from the issue at hand.

3/24/2009 12:53 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

WTF Toney, where in your comments did you try to learn something from the situation? You're the one that took the conversation off base. How did you expect no one to call you on it?

3/24/2009 2:00 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Sorry pal, couldn't disagree with you more on this.

"The only way to prevent something like this from happening in the future is to try to understand why it happened in the first place."

I find that sentence utterly absurd and a little offensive, and you can see my previous post for the reason.

3/24/2009 2:00 PM  
Blogger Toney said...

Dan, I read your previous post, and I think a fair summary is: people here are suggesting that the OPD's corruption caused/justified this, and this is wrong.

Feel free to point out where I implied this. Every point I made was trying to explain the differences in public response between the BART shooting and this situation, which was the subject matter of the very first post on this thread.

You can't ignore the disparity in public response. But you can try to understand it. I completely agree that there is no rational basis for the murders at hand, and I pointed out how terrible they were in every post I've made. I don't think there's any potential for discussion on the shooting itself. People's reactions to it are where the discussion lies, as ten of the first 15 posts indicate. Just because this discussion is happening doesn't detract from the tragedy of the situation. The only thing that comes close to the ugliness of the shooting is some of the public response to it.

3/24/2009 2:24 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

Fair enough. Your last post said "the only way to try to prevent something like this from happening..." I interpreted that to mean the murder of police officers, not the public's response. If all you meant was the latter, then I don't disagree.

I do regret, however, that this lunatic probably hoped to provoke exactly the discussion we're having, and I feel slightly dirty about accomodating him.

Maybe that's irrational, but it's how I feel.

3/24/2009 5:54 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

I am pretty sure it was just a violent criminal who had an outstanding warrant. That criminal felt his best way out was to shoot police and run.

I doubt he had any greater socio-economic views he was trying to express.

3/24/2009 7:18 PM  
Blogger Dan said...

I'll admit to being less than well informed about this, but I heard they got an anonymous 911 call, and then the shootings happened when they showed up. This suggested to me it was a vendetta against OPD.

3/24/2009 10:04 PM  
Blogger McWho said...

I'm not sure where you got that, but the shooting occurred during a routine traffic stop. The guy was just a felon that knew his time was up when they pulled him over.

"Mixon was wanted on a no-bail warrant for violating his parole when Sgt. Mark Dunakin, 40, and Officer John Hege, 41, both on motorcycles, stopped a 1995 Buick sedan in east Oakland, police said. The driver opened fire, killing Dunakin and gravely wounding Hege, Oakland police spokesman Jeff Thomason said."

3/24/2009 10:21 PM  
Anonymous Warren said...

He was also linked to several unsolved rapes the past few months, according to latest reports

3/25/2009 9:35 AM  
Blogger Dan said...

Ah, well that's what you get from taking someone's word for it. I feel like an idiot. Ignore me.

3/25/2009 12:12 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I am 60 years old and lived through the civil rights movement. I was thrilled when Obama won the election. My bubble burst last Saturday.

I grew up in a small, white town where everybody loved and knew the police.

I went off to be a hippie in 1968 and had two black children. I now know the dark side of police work.

For example . . . One day, I dropped my son off at his apartment in Berkeley. A policeman pulled me over. I said, "How can I help you officer?" He said, "I just wanted to know if that black man was bothering you." "I said, "As a matter of fact he has been high maintenance since the moment he was born. He is my son." The policeman gave me a ticket and drove off. He said nothing but was obviously embarrassed.

I was on welfare for 12 years before I went back to Cal and got my degree. I have seen it all.

Mixon was just another angry black man ready to explode. We should all ask ourselves why.

I also want to know why the policemen did not evacuate the building of innocent bystanders before they stormed.

I think it was like Katrina. When poor black people are involved those in charge get careless.

I am praying for the 5 people who died and for something to be done about this systemic problem.

Susan Peabody

3/26/2009 4:29 PM  

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