Over the last three days, we’ve had two shootings of women driving allegedly stolen cars by San Leandro Police Department officers. One of them is in critical condition. Police missed the other, a 16 year-old girl, though one bullet wheezed past a bystander and another hit a parked car a block away. Fortunately, nobody was reportedly injured in that incident. Shooting at a fleeing subject who is not a threat to the life of others is against the law.
While there are surely police officers who are itching to shoot someone, I believe most of them follow the protocols established by their chiefs of police. It would seem that SLPD’s protocols condone the shooting of fleeing vehicles. The buck must thus stop with Chief of Police Sandra Spagnoli, who created such protocols. But Spagnoli could only establish these protocols because City Manager Chris Zapata has disavowed any oversight of the police. When I met with him a couple of months ago to discuss police misconduct, Zapata stated that the only time he has ever denied a request by the Police Chief was when she proposed that the City spend $60 million to build a new police department. Zapata determined the City could not afford it.
Zapata did state that, contrary to the wishes of the Police Chief, he would disable the hidden microphones present in the surveillance cameras that were to be installed at City Hall. But he admitted that he took that position after consulting with the City Attorney and learning that secret audio recording of private conversations, even in a public space, violates California’s wiretapping law. Zapata stopped short of creating any audit requirements to ascertain that the microphones were, indeed, disabled.
Beyond these two situations, Zapata has given Spagnoli free reign. The only “oversight” of the Chief there is, are weekly meetings with Assistant City manager Lianne Marshall, where, according to Marshall, the Chief informs her of the needs of the police department.
Mayor Pauline Cutter and the City Council have no direct oversight of the Chief, but they do of the City Manager. It’s time they demand accountability from him.
The City Council will hold their annual work session on the Police Department TONIGHT, Dec. 8, 2014, at 8 PM – after the swearing in of the new Mayor and City Council members.
On Thursday, Dec. 11th, the Police Department will hold an informational meeting on the police shootings. It will take place at the Senior Center (13909 E. 14th St.), from 5:30 to 6:30 PM.