The Oakland Police Department has reportedly seized as many as 100 city-owned cellphones from officers in a new potential scandal that shows officers allegedly following and liking social media posts promoting racist and sexist jokes, and pro-Trump conspiracy theories.
It's the last thing the OPD needs, another scandal exposing racism and/or Trumpism among its rank-and-file, after several decades in which the department has been publicly exposed for wide-ranging misconduct and a host of internal problems. Previous scandals and civil rights abuses led to the department having a federal overseer assigned 18 years ago, and that oversight continues to this day.
In the latest scandal, Oakland officers have been called out for liking and commenting on Facebook posts by a former officer, Jurell Snyder, who participated in the pro-Trump protest and rioting that occurred in Washington last week, and who regularly amplifies conspiracy theories that glorify the president and extremist, anti-federal-law-enforcement Boogaloo ideology. As Oaklandside reports, Snyder hasn't worked for the department since 2015, and he was involved in two fatal officer-involved shooting incidents in 2007 and 2013, the latter one when Snyder was part of the department's Crime Reduction Team.
In addition to promoting the Boogaloo movement — two adherents of which are accused of fatally shooting a federal security officer in Oakland last May — Snyder took to Facebook last week to promote the idea that Antifa "set up" right-wing rioters to be blamed for storming the Capitol, to which one current Oakland officer commented "interesting."
After Snyder gave an interview to KPIX last week, the OPD issued a press statement condemning his participation in the riot and subsequent public comments. The department said that an "overhaul" of its screening and hiring procedure now "ensure[s] that these values do not represent our current department employees." The statement further said that if any current employee of the department expressed views similar to Snyder's, it "would be grounds for immediate initiation of a disciplinary investigation and could lead to termination."
But it doesn't end there. An Instagram account that appears to have come to the department's attention in the last few months has prompted an internal investigation, and it's believed that it was started by a current Oakland police officer. The now deleted account, @crimereductionteam, was observed by Oaklandside to have posted a number of sexist and racist memes, as well as inside jokes among officers making light of uses of excessive force — and the account posted and commented about events occurring in Oakland and at least one Oakland Police Commissioner.
Jokes on the account include sexist memes referring to female officers, with one suggesting they use sexual favors to get assignments they aren't qualified for, as well as jokes about internal investigations into excessive use of force, like those below.
Another meme mocked unconscious bias training for officers "without a racist bone in their bodies."
The account was created in September, and only five days later it was brought to the attention of Sgt. Kathryn Jones of OPD’s Intelligence Division, who sent an internal email warning officers not to follow the account or comment or react to its posts. As Oaklandside reports, the unidentified account owner subsequently referred to everyone who unfollowed after the email as "idiots."
Now, as KTVU reports, around 100 cellphones have been seized from officers in Oakland as part of the internal probe, which is apparently heating up.
"What [the officers liking the account are] basically saying is they're expressing support for insubordination of the subversion of a policy that's really core to policing today," says Oaklandside editor Darwin BondGraham, speaking to KTVU.
The department issued a statement Wednesday regarding the probe, saying, "We will not tolerate any form of hate speech, any expression that supports hate speech, or any acts of subversion, whether in person or on online platforms. There are clear policies and guidelines that govern this behavior, and OPD will root out this conduct anywhere within the department."
Meanwhile, a search is ongoing for a new chief of the department, after the abrupt firing of Chief Anne Kirkpatrick in February 2020, after just three years on the job, following a spat between her and the Police Commission. Interim Chief Susan Manheimer is overseeing this current investigation.
The scandal-prone department has a history of misconduct investigations, civil rights abuses, and officers charged in federal court going back to the 1970s. The biggest recent scandal was the "Riders" case from 2003 involving kidnapping and police brutality disgraces. But other scandals that made major headlines around the Bay Area and have contributed to the constant turnover among department leadership include a pattern of all-too-frequent officer-involved shootings, and that gross 2016 debacle in which a number of Oakland officers coerced sex from an underage sex worker known as Celeste Guap, who was also the daughter of a police dispatcher.
A March 2019 report from federal auditor Robert Warshaw found the department "backsliding" in its reform efforts under Kirkpatrick's tenure, and "deficient in several ways" over its handling of officer-involved shootings and in-custody deaths.