After an order was given, rescinded, and then re-issued last week by Oakland's assistant police chief David Downing, Oakland Police officers are now being instructed to report all unpermitted events and gatherings that they observe on their beat patrols up the chain of command, marking the first apparent policy change in the department in following the deadly Ghost Ship fire. As the Chronicle reports, the confusion about the first order Downing issued, which was rescinded by City Hall, had to do with wording about illegal warehouse dwellings the revised order specifies only unpermitted parties, and not "warehouses" or "raves," as requiring a report.
The new directive comes shortly after the release of city documents that show that the OPD and the Oakland Fire Department had both visited the Ghost Ship space on multiple occasions and likely knew of the hazardous conditions inside. This also comes two weeks after city officials forced out 21 tenants of an arts space in the Fruitvale District just blocks away from the Ghost Ship site, following a small fire there a month before.
Also, following a major scandal in the OPD last year, the department finally has their new chief getting sworn in Monday. Anne Kirkpatrick was hired away from a job in Chicago early in the new year, and she formerly served as chief of police in Spokane, WA. ABC 7 has swearing in footage below.
Arts advocates and those frustrated with skyrocketing rents in Oakland have been worried that a crackdown was imminent on the questionably legal though usually livable live-work dwellings that have proliferated around the city in the last two decades. And the new OPD order uses some tricky wording to try to allay those fears, though it sounds like the order could ultimately lead to evictions, at least in cases where parties draw the attention of cops.
The order requires officers, before the end of their shifts, to report any unauthorized event, its address, contact information of any manager present, and other details they observe to both their beat’s commanders as well as the department's special events unit. Downing's order also includes the vague phrase "[officers should] continue to report obvious hazardous conditions observed in the course of their duties."
As Mayor Libby Schaaf tells CBS 5, "This directive clarifies for officers who they are to contact and what types of dangerous situations they are supposed to be looking out for."
Under an earlier executive order from Schaaf, landlords of buildings where significant violations are found have 60 days to present a plan for coming into compliance with city codes.
Matt Hummel of the Oakland Warehouse Coalition tells CBS 5 of the new police directive, "It’s good the city is concerned. But we have to make sure the city isn’t using it as a way to crack down on the landlords."