Saturday, October 5, 2013
Justice for Raheim Brown, jr.
In the Oscar Grant Memorial March and Rally on the third anniversary of Oscar’s murder on New Year’s Day 2009 by BART police, supporters of Raheim Brown and all victims of law enforcement demanded justice. – Photo: Bradley Stuart, Indybay
Raheim Brown’s mother, Lori Davis, was one of the parents of young Black men killed by police who spoke out in passionate protest at a press conference held two days after San Francisco police murdered Kenneth Harding on the spot, at Third and Oakdale, where Kenny died on July 16, 2011, a few months after Raheim’s death. – Photo: Malaika Kambon
Barhin Bhatt, the Oakland School Police officer who killed Raheim Brown, keeps protesters out of Fremont High School on March 4, 2011, three months after the murder. In August of the same year, the appointment of Bhatt as chief of the Oakland School Police sparked outrage that led to his removal about two weeks later. Forty angry speakers testified to the Oakland School Board, including civil rights attorney Anne Butterfield Weills, who said that to “appoint the shooter of Raheim Brown Jr. to be the acting chief of OUSD ... what a role model for our young people, particularly for our Black and Brown young males and women who are in our schools.” – Photo: KALW
"$1 million deal in shooting by Oakland schools cop"
2013-10-05 by Henry K. Lee [http://www.sfgate.com/crime/article/1-million-deal-in-shooting-by-Oakland-schools-cop-4872706.php]:
The Oakland Unified School District has agreed to pay $995,000 to settle two lawsuits filed in connection with a fatal police shooting outside a school dance that was later questioned by one of the two officers present at the scene, officials said Friday.
Raheim Brown, 20, of Alameda was shot and killed Jan. 22, 2011, by Oakland schools police Sgt. Barhin Bhatt after he allegedly tried to stab another schools police sergeant, Jonathan Bellusa, with a screwdriver, authorities said.
The incident happened as Brown was sitting in the passenger seat of a Honda Accord parked on Joaquin Miller Road, not far from where Skyline High School was holding its winter ball at a nearby park.
Bhatt told investigators that he opened fire on Brown because Brown had tried to attack Bellusa. Bellusa, though, told authorities that Bhatt fired two shots at Brown's chest before his gun jammed and that by then, Brown was already incapacitated and no longer a threat.
Bellusa said Bhatt then fired five more shots, killing Brown. Bhatt told investigators he fired the second volley because Brown continued to move and was reaching for the gearshift.
Brown's parents, Lori Davis and Raheim Brown Sr., filed a lawsuit against the district, as did LaDonna Smith, the mother of Brown's then-unborn child. The parents and Smith will each receive $497,500.
John Burris, an attorney who represented the parents, said a deposition by Bellusa was crucial to the case.
"I have a lot of respect and admiration for him because he's one of the few officers in the course of this case that I thought was truthful about what happened," Burris said.
David Kelvin, Smith's attorney, said, "This young man was killed for nothing. I don't believe you can put a price on that loss."
Of the total $995,000 payout, the district will pay a $250,000 deductible, while the rest is covered by insurance, said district spokesman Troy Flint.
"We're pleased with this settlement," Flint said. "Obviously, we don't feel that the district is at fault in any way."
Flint said Bellusa was not a credible witness and that his testimony had no impact on the settlement, which was the "best possible resolution given the circumstances." He noted that a jury could have ordered much more in damages at trial.
Bellusa is suing the district, alleging that officials pressured him into "conforming his account" of the shooting to that of Bhatt, or else face perjury charges.
2013-05-04 "Superintendent implicated in cover-up of Oakland School Police killing of Raheim Brown"
by Laura Savage from "San Francisco Bayview" [http://sfbayview.com/2013/superintendent-implicated-in-cover-up-of-oakland-school-police-killing-of-raheim-brown/]:
Laura Savage is a graduating senior in journalism at San Francisco State University and is interning with the SF Bay View this semester. She can be reached at email@example.com.
Perhaps you’ve heard or read the name Raheim Brown Jr. He’s the 20-year-old Black man who was beaten then shot and killed by Oakland School Police Department Sgt. Bhatt.
In January 2011 Brown and a female companion were parked in a vehicle in the Oakland Hills when they were approached by officers Barhin Bhatt and Jonathan Bellusa, who were working as hired security guards for an Oakland School District dance being held at Skyline High School.
The officers reported that they first approached the vehicle, which was not parked at the school or on campus, because the hazard lights were flashing. Brown and his friend didn’t need help. As a justification for questioning them, the officers claimed they smelled marijuana coming from the vehicle after approaching it. Other reports have claimed the officers thought the car was stolen. The officers also reported Brown threatened to stab Barhin with a screwdriver that he had in the car.
As Brown and his companion sat, buckled-up, in the car, the officers began beating them both.
What exactly happened next, no one is certain because the requests for the full reports of the shooting by Lori Davis, mother of Raheim Brown, and her attorney, John Burris, have yet to be fulfilled by the Oakland Unified School District.
What is known is that Bellusa, who was outside the car on the passenger side where Brown was sitting, ordered a first round of shots. The shots were fired by Bhatt, who was outside the car on the driver side near the female driver. Bhatt fired at Brown across the driver multiple times, but Brown remained living at this time. Bhatt’s gun jammed. He cleared it, then a second round of shots was fired, killing Brown.
Davis filed a wrongful death suit against OUSD, which operates and employs the district police officers who shot and killed Brown.
Breaking ‘Code Blue’ -
This case is highly suspicious for many reasons: 1) A complete report containing all the details has yet to be made available to the public, Ms. Davis or her attorney; 2) there was definite mismanagement on the part of OUSD Superintendent Tony Smith directly following the shooting, as well as by OSPD Chief Williams; 3) an Oakland School Police Department officer is calling foul against his own department.
What has come as a “whistle-blowing” effort by Bellusa has also rocked the community and the department’s claims.
Bellusa filed a federal complaint against the OSPD claiming retaliation for his refusal to lie about the second round of shots that killed Brown. In his complaint, Bellusa claims that the second round of shots weren’t necessary because Brown was no longer a threat, after being shot with the first round.
According to Davis, who cited testimony by former Sgt. Bellusa of OSPD, Superintendent Tony Smith was accompanied by some Oakland School Board members at the crime scene – directly following the shooting.
“Based on Bellusa’s testimony in his deposition,” said Davis, “Tony Smith came down there and tried to get him to do witness tampering. He tried to get their (Bhatt and Bellusa’s) stories together.”
Bellusa, who is now on paid administrative leave is accusing the OSPD of a pattern of corruption.
For the Davis wrongful-death case, the Bellusa complaint and the federal investigation underway bring light to the issue of a cover-up by the OSPD.
“You don’t get one officer to lie for the other one,” said Davis.
Problems with guns -
Incidents like the Raheim Brown killing highlight a huge debate going on in America right now about the necessity of armed district staff in schools. This comes after the terrible December 2012 mass shooting in Newtown, Conn., where 20 children, six teachers, the shooter and his mother were shot and killed.
For people of color, the issue may be more of a concern regarding security officers being armed when working at schools with large numbers of students of color. Communities of color are extremely reluctant to put guns in the hands of those who terrorize Black children and youth the most: the police. To whites, police officers are there to protect civilians.
When asked whether OUSD needs a police department, Davis said; “They don’t need police – just regular security.”
The rate of officer involved shootings seems to be increasing.
In an update, posted July 16, 2012, to a report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement that was originally released April 6, 2012, MXGM wrote:
“Invasive policing is only one aspect of the U.S. states’ comprehensive containment strategies to exploit Black people and to smother resistance … The U.S. state maintains and reinforces these economic injustices with the militarized occupation of Black communities by the police and a web of racist legislation like the ‘war on drugs,’ discriminatory policies like ‘three strikes’ and ‘mandatory minimum’ sentencing. The result is a social system that mandates the prison warehousing of millions of Black people and extrajudicial killings where the killers act with impunity and more often than not are rewarded and promoted for murder.”
These views are backed by data tracking police killings, or “extrajudicial killings,” over many months. The latest data collected by MXGM shows that a Black person in the U.S. is killed every 28 hours by law enforcement.
The nearby Oakland Police Department is so plagued that it has been appointed a court monitor, former Baltimore commissioner Thomas Frazier, by U.S. District Court Judge Thelton Henderson to oversee mandated changes to the department.
What post-racial America?
What does this mean? It means that as the Black community and its organizers and leaders have justly claimed and proven, a post-racial society DOES NOT exist in America.
Blacks are still falling victim to racist law enforcement organizations intent on sending them to prison if not to the graveyard. Why is it that our Black youth must endure officers at their presumed “educational safe havens” or when they are merely enjoying some leisure?
What real justification can there be for officers – who were hired to secure a school dance on a school campus – to venture from their assigned duty posts and beat, shoot and kill innocent youth? Furthermore, what justification does Tony Smith have for not releasing the details of the incident as reported by his staff?
When Smith started as superintendent he was quoted in an Oakland North article as saying [http://oaklandnorth.net/2009/09/28/oaklands-new-schools-head-tony-smith-this-is-the-future-of-democracy/], “For me, you have to examine the effects of institutional racism, institutional classism, institutional bias, language bias and say, ‘At this point, the system that we have – even if we do it really, really well – isn’t going to close and transform that gap.’”
Apparently that was only talk and didn’t extend to his school police department. Not only has Smith championed school closures, he hasn’t brought in valuable resources such as librarians, music programs etc. In the same interview he said:
“I’m incredibly committed to thinking about new kinds of relationships with local communities. We have to become beacons and be able to infuse into those neighborhoods expectations and ways of being. That takes partnership and leadership and expectations and being honest about how hard it is.”
It is safe to say that the beacon light is out when it comes to Tony Smith and the Oakland Unified School District. His failure to demonstrate unwavering, transparent leadership has continued to damage Oakland schools and district departments – as evidenced with the OSPD.
Smith has only been in Oakland four years and he conveniently is moving to Chicago, just as a wrongful death suit surfaces and a federal investigation is taking place, with him as lead culprit.
In his letter to the Oakland School Board, he cited family illness as the reason for the move. That very well may be true.
What is also true is that, on Smith’s watch in Oakland, we have lost another young Black life.
2013-02-28 "Oakland school cop comes forward as a whistleblower"
by Rebecca Bowe from "San Francisco Bay Guardian" [http://www.sfbg.com/politics/2013/02/28/oakland-school-cop-comes-forward-whistleblower]:
Family and friends of Raheim Brown protested outside Oakland School Police Department headquarters last year. GUARDIAN FILE PHOTO BY YAEL CHANOFF
Two years after his involvement in a police shooting that took the life of a 20-year-old African American man, an Oakland School Police Department officer has come forward as a “whistleblower” in sworn testimony, making allegations of unethical behavior within a department that is already under the scrutiny of federal investigators.
In a deposition delivered earlier this month as part of a civil suit, police Sergeant Jonathan Bellusa gave a detailed account of what transpired just before his patrol partner, Sgt. Barhin Bhatt, fired several rounds and killed Raheim Brown as the youth was positioned in the passenger’s seat of a car outside a high school dance in January of 2011.
Bellusa gave testimony that in the months that followed, he came under retaliatory pressure from within the department and was “uncomfortable” with various aspects of how the investigation unfolded.
An unedited, uncertified transcript of Bellusa’s deposition, which contains some grammatical and punctuation errors because it was transcribed by an automated system, was made public Feb. 28 by a group of activists organized under a project called “Against Hired Guns.” The group sent a detailed summary and analysis of the deposition, as well as the unedited transcript, to reporters. The activists also posted the contents on a website, againsthiredguns.wordpress.com.
Asked who is behind Against Hired Guns, spokesperson Cat Brooks said they are Oakland activists “who have been doing this work either together on campaigns, or separately inside of our own groups, that see strength in numbers rather than apart. We in general are tired of having flashpoint reactions to police corruption or violence, and are interested in bringing as many people or groups together as possible to have a sustained campaign that is focused on eradicating police violence.”
Bellusa is currently on leave from employment at the Oakland school police department, and the Guardian was unable to reach him by phone on the number listed on the OUSD website. “He’s been gone for quite awhile,” OUSD spokesperson Troy Flint told the Guardian when reached by phone. Asked to comment on the myriad allegations raised in Bellusa’s testimony, Flint said, “We're going to refrain from comment until we've seen the actual suit.”
The deposition was conducted by Attorney Adante Pointer of the Law Offices of John Burris, in connection with a civil rights suit that is being filed against OUSD by Brown’s mother, Lori Davis. Reached by phone, Pointer confirmed that he had taken Bellusa’s deposition several weeks ago, and was surprised that its contents had been made public, since it “is not complete yet.” He added, “I’m thinking to myself, who put that out there?” As of press time, Pointer had not returned a follow up phone call.
Brooks declined to answer questions about how the activists obtained a copy of the uncertified transcript.
Allegations of retaliation for whistleblowing -
Roughly a month after the shooting incident, Bellusa said in his deposition, former OUSD Police Chief Pete Sarna let out “a boisterous yell with his [fist] up in the air” and seemed “excited” that “we as a department don't have to worry about anything.” According to Bellusa’s testimony, Sarna had just received word that his “friend” Pete Peterson had “agreed to do the investigation” of the fatal shooting of Brown.
Asked if he felt pressured by supervisors to make statements consistent with Bhatt’s account of the shooting incident, Bellusa stated, “I have felt that if I gave statements that went against the district that I would be thrown in jail for perjury.”
In the months after the shooting, Bellusa testified that he filed a formal complaint alleging that Sarna drunkenly made racist remarks to an African American sergeant in July of 2011. Sarna resigned the following month.
Bellusa also testified that on an August morning in 2011, after he’d filed the complaint against Sarna for allegedly making racial slurs, he overheard a conversation between OUSD General Counsel Jacqueline Minor and Superintendent Tony Smith. “I over heard Jackie Minor… say they were not going to let John get away with this,” he stated.
In another incident, Bellusa testified that a different OUSD officer informed him that “Chief Sarna’s assistant, Jenny Wong, told a bunch of officers something like: ‘Don't worry, Sarna is going to beat this case. He’s going to fire John [Bellusa].’”
After Sarna stepped down, Bhatt was briefly appointed interim police chief, unleashing an outcry from OUSD parents outraged that an officer would be promoted to the top post after shooting and killing Brown just months before. Alameda County prosecutors had since cleared Bhatt of any wrongdoing in the shooting that resulted in Brown’s death.
In response to the backlash, Bhatt was removed and replaced with Police Chief James Williams in September of 2011. The shooting of Brown, coupled with Sarna’s alleged use of racial slurs, prompted a federal grand jury investigation into the OUSD police force last year. Bellusa noted in his testimony that he had described his experience to federal investigators.
Taken as a whole, Bellusa’s testimony renders a disturbing internal portrait of the Oakland School Police Department, which consists of about a dozen officers and operates independently of the Oakland Police Department as a division of the school district.
The alarming account raises serious questions about internal operations of the department, particularly since it is an independent force operated by the school district at a time when funding cuts have placed the public school system under tremendous budgetary pressure, resulting in recent school closures.
Allegations of corruption -
A detailed summary of the transcript provided by Against Hired Guns highlights more disturbing allegations made by Bellusa in the course of his testimony. Among them:
* Bellusa asserted that he witnessed Bhatt pour Wild Turkey into a glass while he was on duty. He also said he felt concerned about Bhatt after observing him “clean his firearm for a long period of time.”
* Bellusa testified that he “found out” that Sarna and Lou Silva, a former OUSD officer and current district-wide Campus Security and Safety Manager, were “sending their personal cars down to a shop on 16th Avenue… [and] were overcharging the police cars,” apparently in order to have their personal cars repaired for free or at a deep discount.
* Bellusa testified, “I found out that he [Sarna] called another officer [and] told him [not to report] what had happened in front of the African American who is a witness to the … racial slurs.”
Officer-involved shooting -
Brown was shot and killed outside a dance at Oakland’s Skyline High School on Jan. 22, 2011. He was sitting in the passenger’s seat of a Honda with a friend, Tamisha Stewart, who was in the driver’s seat. Bellusa and Bhatt pulled up behind them in an unmarked patrol car after noticing the lights of the Honda were flashing. Bhatt made his way to the driver’s window, Bellusa testified, while he flanked the rear passenger’s side of the car.
As Bhatt began a verbal exchange with Stewart, Bellusa testified that he noticed Brown was “fidgety” rather than cooperative, which he interpreted as a “red flag.” He opened the passenger door, crouched into what he described as a “catcher’s stance,” and initiated a verbal exchange with Brown. Shortly after opening the door, Bellusa said he made observations that led him to conclude that the car had been stolen.
When Pointer asked him where his hands were at that point, Bellusa stated, “They were on his lap,” according to the transcript. “Were they holding anything?” Pointer asked. “No,” Bellusa responded. “And so did you ask him to step out of the car when you're having this conversation with him?” Pointer asked. “Not at that time,” Bellusa answered.
Bellusa said Brown then grabbed a screwdriver and stuck into the ignition of the vehicle, directing Stewart to drive. This prompted a struggle between Brown and Bellusa. According to a summary of the transcript written by the group of activists: “Bellusa lunged into the car, grabbing [Brown] from behind as Brown was leaned over toward the ignition. …Bellusa tried to hold Brown, and then grabbed him, pulling Brown’s shirt and ripping it. Bhatt, leaning in through the driver’s window, hit Brown with his flashlight. … Brown had not yet made any aggressive move toward anyone, according to Bellusa’s description of events.”
A struggle ensued, and Bellusa testified that at one point Brown bit Bellusa’s wrist, prompting Bellusa to pull his hand away and use his “hammer fist” to strike him. Brown then grabbed the screwdriver from the car’s ignition, and “I believe that the backside of the screwdriver [was what] he used at that point to strike me in the chest,” Bellusa testified.
“As the struggle ensued and neither fighter gave in,” activists wrote, “[Brown] turned the screwdriver around and tried to make contact with Bellusa.”
According to Bellusa’s sworn testimony, “I was afraid that I was going to get stabbed in the throat clear as day.” He told his partner to shoot Brown: “I just screamed shoot him, shoot him,” he testified.
The Against Hired Guns summary describes what happened next. "As Bellusa pulled himself out of the car, two shots were quickly fired through the driver’s open window ... by Bhatt before his gun jammed. Raheim Brown, Jr. had two bullets lodged in his body. It took Sergeant Bhatt five to ten seconds to clear the chamber of his gun, during which time he said loudly: 'Fuck! Fuck!' By this time, Bellusa was out of the car and at a safe distance, he said in his deposition. When asked whether he thought Brown was still a risk after the first two shots, Bellusa replied plainly: 'No,' and said that by this point, he had his own gun out. When asked why he didn’t pull his trigger, he replied: 'Just like I said my statement with OPD, I didn't see a threat.'
‘Tell me … about the gun’ -
Bellusa explained in his deposition that he’d noticed a gun sitting in the side pocket of the vehicle during the incident, but did not alert Bhatt that the gun was there until after the shooting had occurred. When Pointer asked, “And prior to you screaming ‘shoot him, shoot him’ you hadn’t said anything related to the gun?” Bellusa responded: “No.”
Shortly after the shooting, Bellusa testified he had an interaction with Sarna, then-OUSD chief, and Smith, the OUSD superintendent. According to details included in the deposition, this conversation took place at Oakland Police Department (OPD) headquarters, after Bhatt and Bellusa had been separated, prior to any formal interview with OPD regarding the shooting.
According to Bellusa’s testimony, Smith questioned him directly. “He said specifically ‘John, tell me where the gun was. Tell me everything you can remember about the gun and what it looked like.’”
Penetrating the Thin Blue Line -
An introductory statement from Against Hired Guns notes that Bellusa “will likely be considered a ‘good’ cop” for publicly airing these allegations and making an unusual break from the code of silence that typically binds police departments.
Yet the activists aren’t willing to let the sergeant off the hook so easily. Asked why they took steps to preempt release of this information, Brooks, the spokesperson for Against Hired Guns, told the Guardian, “We thought that it was important so that the debate could be framed as part of the larger context of police and violence in Oakland, as opposed to this cop has now done something good, which makes him a good cop. … He was still present the night Raheim was murdered.”
Against Hired Guns wrote in an analysis included in press materials, "It has now been over two years since Raheim’s family lost him to the violence of policing. They have relentlessly searched for justice and still do not know exactly what happened to him. At the very least, Bellusa or any of the people or agencies he spoke with, could have explained the context of Raheim’s killing to his family members, who continue to grieve and struggle with the loss of their son, father and lover."
The activists’ summary frames the issue in this way: “Sergeant Bellusa has now penetrated the ‘thin blue line’ that shields corrupt, abusive, violent police officers and departments. We are releasing this information as part of … a series that places the statements of Bellusa’s testimony in the larger overall context of policing in our society [and] the ‘thin blue line’ that protects officers from any consequences.”
2013-02-28 "Exclusive: Oakland School Cop Calls Shooting Investigation Compromised; Sergeant questions whether “second volley of shots” was necessary"
by Vicky Nguyen, Liz Wagner and Felipe Escamilla from "The Investigative Unit" at "NBC News Bay Area"
An Oakland school police sergeant has spoken exclusively to NBC Bay Area's Investigative Unit to expose what he calls a coverup in the district’s police force, two years after an officer-involved shooting that left a young man dead.
Eighteen-year police veteran Sgt. Jonathan Bellusa has come forward as a whistleblower because he believes the investigation into the Jan. 2011 shooting of 20-year-old Raheim Brown was contaminated from the start, and that when he tried to speak up, he says he faced coercion and retaliation.
When asked if he thought the investigation was handled properly, Bellusa replied, “I don’t think so. I can be honest—I don’t think it was.”
Bellusa is currently on paid administrative leave. Oakland Unified School District representatives said the district and Bhatt are refraining from comment until they see the claim. The district’s police force is currently the focus of a federal grand jury investigation into the shooting.
Bellusa and his partner, Sgt. Barhin Bhatt, approached Brown on the night of Jan. 22, 2011 near Skyline High School after they found him sitting in what was believed to be a stolen car. Bhatt fired seven shots at Brown after Brown allegedly stabbed Bellusa with a screwdriver.
Bellusa’s attorney, Dan Siegel, said police protocol is to separate the officers to allow investigators to interview them alone. Instead, he says school officials tried to pressure Bellusa into matching his memory of what happened with Bhatt’s account.
“I have never before heard of an incident where police are involved in a shooting or other acts where the head of an agency shows up to interfere with questioning of the police officer,” Siegel said. “It just really raises a lot of questions regarding the integrity of our public officials.”
Siegel is filing a federal lawsuit against the district claiming Oakland Unified School District officials “compromised the investigators’ ability to conduct complete and sterile interviews of the two sergeants” and that Bellusa was retaliated against for telling the truth—especially when it came to a second round of shots Bhatt fired at Brown.
According to a draft deposition given to the Investigative Unit by Siegel, when asked why Bellusa didn’t fire his own gun after the first two shots, Bellusa replied, “Just like I said in my statement with OPD, I didn’t see a threat.”
Bellusa claims the tainted shooting investigation is part of a pattern of corruption in OUSD. According to the complaint, Bellusa has reported that a sergeant “drank alcoholic beverages while on duty,” and that another officer “often stole drinks and food items from merchants in the Fruitvale area of East Oakland.”
When asked how he has been treated for coming forward as a whistleblower, he said, “with hell.”
2013-03-08 "Against Hired Guns: Town Hall to Support Strategic Organizing Against Police Violence"
Friday, 6:00pm until 8:00pm
Commander Jonathan Bellusa of the Oakland School Police Department has blown the whistle on his department. Against Hired Guns has published his legally sworn testimony which claims that protocols were not followed the night Raheim Brown, Jr. was killed, and exposes several other cover ups and unethical behavior in the department.
Check out the full write up and analysis, as well as context of policing in Oakland and organizing against it, at: [http://againsthiredguns.wordpress.com/]
Against Hired Guns is not interested in defining the character of public outcry, but we also want to support concrete wins. Because of this, we will be facilitating a public meeting on Friday, March 8th at Uptown Studios (1738 Telegraph Ave in Oakland) from 6-8pm to support sustained and strategic campaigns against policing in our communities. We hope that a myriad of people and organizations concerned with keeping our communities safe from the harms of policing will be there.
2012-07-06 "Justice 4 Raheim Brown Jr., Friday July 6, 2012, in OAKLAND. CA !"
Friday, 11:00 AM – 2:00 PM
March from OPD at 7th street and Broadway to School District Police Headquarters at 1011 Union Street!
Contact : Jeremy Miller [415.595.2894]
NO MORE SCHOOL COPS! SPEND MONEY TO KEEP SCHOOLS OPEN NOT PATROLLED!!!
JOIN US AS WE DEMAND JUSTICE FOR RAHEIM BROWN JR.–MURDERED BY OUSD SCHOOL POLICE JANUARY 22, 2011
–AND JUSTICE FOR ALL OF OUR CHILDREN THAT HAVE DIED AS A RESULT OF LIVING IN A SOCIETY THAT TARGETS BLACK AND BROWN YOUTH!
*JUSTICE FOR KERRY BAXTER JR!*
*JUSTICE FOR KENNETH HARDING JR!*
*JUSTICE FOR OSCAR GRANT!*
FRIDAY-JULY 6 11:00 a.m.: Justice for Raheim Brown Jr! No School Closures!
Oakland, California, July 3, 2012
Press Contact: Jeremy Miller 415.595.2894
Friday, July 6th, anti-police brutality advocates will march in solidarity with the family of Raheim Brown Jr, gunned down by Oakland School Police officers Bhatt and Bellusa January 22, 2011.
Unarmed Raheim was barely out of his teens when he was gunned down by school police on Joaquin Miller Rd. Officers Bhatt and Bellusa attempted to pull Raheim out of the vehicle he sat in with a female friend, then shot him seven times, twice in the head. They also brutalized the young woman.
Instead of counselors, the city of Oakland and its school board employs armed guards to patrol children as young as 11-years-old.
At a time when the school board is claiming to not even have enough money to keep schools like Marshall, Santa Fe, Lakeview, Lazear, and Maxwell open, they spend hundreds of thousands of dollars on school police.
Just last year, Cole Middle School in West Oakland was closed down and now functions as a school police station.
The fact that there is a separate police department to deal with our children is an insidious abuse of power perpetrated by the school board.
Friday, July 6th, 11am, we will convene at Oakland Police Department headquarters on Broadway and 7th Streets and march to the school police office located at 1011 Union Street to demand JUSTICE FOR RAHEIM BROWN JR. AND AN END TO POLICING OUR KIDS!
The People's Community Medics are proud endorsers and sponsors of this march and rally for Justice for Raheim Brown, Jr.
You can reach us at 510-239-7720 or PeoplesCommunityMedics@gmail.com. The People’s Community Medics are on the air every Saturday from 2 to 4 on Berkeley Liberation Radio, 104.1 fm or www.BerkeleyLiberationRadio.net.
2012-05-19 "FBI, U.S. grand jury probes Oakland schools police"
(05-19) 16:06 PDT OAKLAND -- The Oakland Unified School District police force is the focus of a federal grand jury investigation, the district's spokesman said Friday.
The district was notified in a letter Thursday that its Police Department is the subject of an investigation by the FBI, and the grand jury subpoenaed unspecified documents from school officials, said district spokesman Troy Flint.
Sources said the grand jury is investigating two high-profile incidents, a fatal officer-involved shooting and allegedly racist remarks made by former schools Police Chief Pete Sarna during a drunken outburst after a golf tournament.
"We will provide whatever information that the federal government requests," Flint said. "I think we've been open in confronting any perceived issues, and we have nothing to hide in this instance."
The district is the subject of two federal lawsuits in connection with the Jan. 22, 2011, fatal shooting of Raheim Brown, 20, by schools police Sgt. Barhin Bhatt, who opened fire after Brown allegedly tried to stab Sgt. Jonathan Bellusa with a screwdriver on Joaquin Miller Road in Oakland. Alameda County prosecutors have cleared Bhatt - who briefly served as interim chief, sparking an outcry - of any criminal wrongdoing.
Last August, Sarna resigned as chief and acknowledged a drinking problem after it was alleged that he had made racist comments to an African American sergeant and insulted the children of Bellusa, who is white. Bellusa filed a complaint against Sarna with the district.
Sarna's attorney, Alison Berry Wilkinson, said Friday that she was unaware of the grand jury investigation and could not comment.
2011-11-15 "Some Oakland parents question need for school police" by Rosa Ramirez
Police take an oath to protect and serve. But some parents and local residents say they don’t feel any safer having cops in schools.
Since the lethal shooting of 20-year-old Raheim Brown in January by an on-duty Oakland Unified School District police sergeant, some community activists and residents have questioned the role of the police on school grounds. Some parents are even calling for the dismantling of the district’s school police force.
“I don’t want police in my son’s school,” said Oakland resident Sheri Morer, during a recent board meeting. And she’s not alone.
College student Jabari Shaw, who has four children, including three boys who attend Oakland public schools, fears his children are at higher risk of being harassed by school police for fitting a specific profile: male, low-income, energetic and African American.
“Look at them, they fit the description,” said Shaw recently at the Oakland Unified School District building. “They have dreadlocks and they’re black. So, they’ll be targets eventually if we don’t get the police out of our schools.”
But Troy Flint, spokesman for the school district, said police are there to protect students, teachers and other school personnel from crime that happens on campus and the surrounding areas. And at a time when Oakland Police Department has downsized due to budget cuts, having school police on school grounds is even more critical.
A 2009 National Crime and Delinquency Council report showed that only about 40 percent of students in Oakland public schools reported feeling safe at school.
“The officers are assigned to specific schools and worry about those schools rather than the entire neighborhood,” he said. “They provide a greater level of security.”
In addition, the district has a number of intervention programs to help students resolve conflicts.
“I can guarantee you that we have more behavioral mediation programs” than other school districts, Flint said.
It has been a particularly tumultuous time for the Oakland school district’s police force.
Brown’s family and others had called for an independent investigation of the shooting. Instead the school district had an internal investigation, which concluded that no district policies, practices or regulations were violated. Later in August, then-school police chief Peter Sarna retired at 41 amid accusations that he made racial slurs against an African-American colleague. The district tapped into Sgt. Barhin Bhatt, the highest-ranking member of the school police department and the officer who shot Brown, to lead the 16-member police force.
“They sent a message that a black life doesn’t count. That you can do anything and nobody will say anything about it,” said Philip Byers, a community organizer with the Black Organizing Project, a program of the Center for Third World Organizing. “There’s no caring, no compassion for what happened to Raheim Brown and his mother. It was basically a slap in the face.”
“There’s a lack of transparency around the role of the police engagement with students,” said Jackie Byers, director of the Black Organizing Project. “A real kind of block around parents and students being able to find out how accountability happens even within the district and the school board.”
School police programs started in the United States in the mid-1950s, but didn’t gain prominence until the 1990s in response to highly publicized school shootings, such as those in Heath High School in West Paducah, Kentucky and Columbine High School in Colorado. Now, approximately 35 percent of elementary, middle and high schools in the country have school police officers.
The Oakland school district created a security division in 1957 made up of two officers to protect school property. The officers patrolled the buildings and responded to burglary alarms. The division began to grow and officers began to take more law enforcement responsibilities in the two decades following. In 1983, the California Commission on Peace Officer Standards and Training, the agency that trains law enforcement officers from school police to sheriff’s department, certified the division as a full-service police department.
Richard Reed, assistant director of administration at POST, said school police officers must have additional training to work with students in addition to basic training. All officers are required to have 24 hours of continuous training every two years, he said.
Reed said his agency conducts regular audits to ensure departments are meeting the standards. A 2009 POST audit showed that Oakland school police department was in good standing. A second audit is scheduled for 2012.
Little research has been done on the effectiveness of school resource officers, or school police, in providing a safe learning environment for students and educators. At least one researcher has identified a “school-to-prison pipeline” as a result of having police officers in schools, according to the article, “Police at School: A Brief History and Current Status of School Resource Officers.”
During a 2005 labor dispute with school police, the school district told the state’s Public Employment Relations Board that in the “few years of having an independent police force actually reduced and worsened services to school sites and reduced the safety of the students in general.”
Aside from 16 sworn officers, the district counts 79 security officers that report to the police chief, Flint said. Officers are assigned to specific schools and can respond quickly if there needs to be, for instance, a lockdown because of a problem happening in the school or vicinity.
“It’s important for Oakland schools to supplement crime prevention with our own special dedicated officers,” he said. “That’s particularly true since we need rapid and immediate response.”
Some are skeptical.
“Police will most likely arrest the students and that puts them in the system. There’s a chain reaction,” said Leslie Phillips, a long-time Oakland resident. “The high school students don’t feel comfortable having police on campus.”
Phillips said having police in schools makes students feel unsafe, and in certain situations, it becomes the first contact students have with the juvenile justice system for incidences that in the past would have merited a talk with the principal, a counselor, or a call home to parents.
The school district has had three police chiefs in two months. On Sept. 2, Lt. James Williams of the Oakland Housing Authority became third person to lead the small independent police unit.
During a special school board meeting on Sept. 7, Superintendent Tony Smith introduced Lt. Williams.
“We’re very happy to welcome him and very thankful to the Housing Authority for their partnership,” Smith said.
Jackie Byers of BOP said it’s going to take more than changing the leadership of the school police to mend the relationship with the students and parents.
“This had just come at the tail end of where there was a murder of a young black man by a high ranking police officer who was then named as the next in line,” she said. “Which tells us that as an institution the school district is not in a position to hold itself accountable in any kind of way. And it’s time for the community to play that role.”
2011-09-07 "Justice for Raheim Brown" rally at Oakland School Board Meeting