LET’S GET SERIOUS ABOUT OAKLAND’S PAROLEES
Oakland’s violence problems transcend all the other issues facing that formerly promising, now beleaguered city. And its uniquely out-of-scale concentration of state prison parolees (and their home boys and camp followers) represents the seemingly intractable core of the larger problem.
I strongly believe – based on a professional lifetime of ‘crime’ – that getting serious about Oakland’s parolees will mark a dramatic turning point away from violence and thuggery towards peace and civility. Surely the cold blooded murders of Mark Dunakin, Ervin Romans, Daniel Sakai and John Hege were not in vain. Surely their sacrifice can be the political and moral fulcrum for a turnaround. Instead of a marker of Oakland’s slide into the abyss, the cowardly shooting of these four fine men can mark the beginning: twenty thousand mourners in the coliseum can become two hundred thousand angry citizens shouting ——– ENOUGH!
FOCUS ON THE MAIN OFFENDERS
What exactly would “getting serious” about parolees look like?
The problem of controlling Oakland’s parolees can be solved…provided there is a laser focus on the really effective things that can be done with existing resources and with coordinated, no BS leadership persistently engaged in supporting those measures and gathering even more resources.
Keeping a tight leash on Oakland’s parolees is not rocket science. Any attempt to ‘target’ the other crime prone individuals in the city might run into serious legal obstacles, but this should not be the case for parolees.
When a convicted felon is released from a California state prison on parole, he or she is released into a virtual prison. [By the way, it’s almost always he.]
State prison parolees are subject to greatly curtailed freedom of movement, reduced privacy and other special restrictions.
A SUMMARY OF THE TIGHT LEASH
General Parole Conditions Include
You may not have any firearm or object that might be a simulated firearm. You must submit to premises and body searches on the sole authority of your parole agent. You are subject to travel restrictions and you may not change your address without notification.
Special Parole Conditions Include
You may be required to have drug testing. You may be subject to stay-away orders. You will have other restrictions as appropriate.
Any sworn peace officer may be delegated by the (typically overworked) parole agent to apprehend, detain or search any parolee by exercising the same powers afforded the parole agent.
PROTECTING THE INNOCENT
Parolees, by definition, are not the ‘innocent’. We need to keep Oakland safe from its approximately 4,000 parolees, with particular emphasis on their comprehensive disarmament. Some implementing changes in state law will be helpful, but most of this proposal can be implemented administratively via the adoption of new interagency agreements and protocols.
THE PLAN IN OUTLINE
(1) The concerned citizens and sworn officers in Oakland are entitled to access to a parolee database. Who are they? Where are they now? What are the applicable restrictions? What were their prior crimes, juvenile and adult? This database needs to be made available on the web, updated hourly.
(2) Every sworn officer in Oakland, from sheriff’s deputy to police officer is delegated and empowered by every Oakland parole agent to help enforce all parole conditions applicable to every parolee. Peace officers are empowered by delegation and agreement to investigate, detain, arrest and search the parolee and his/her immediate surroundings 24/7/365 with the same authority and power enjoyed by the parole agent.
(3) A subset of violence-prone parolees is singled out for special attention: Any parolee who has a firearm of assault violation or has committed a crime that is inherently an assault (as in rape, robbery, carjacking). No violation is ignored because the offender was a juvenile or it was “a long time ago.” Remember- these are current state prison parolees. Don’t be surprised if this constitutes a large plurality of the 4,000. I would add to that subset any parolee who has “skipped”. The entire subset of parolees is brought in and issued GPS leg bracelets linked to a central computer monitoring system. Removal of the bracelet results in immediate arrest and a parole violation.
(4) We turn loose OPD and other local law enforcement agencies to track, monitor, search and detain individual parolees at their sole discretion, using citizen tips, GPS input, information from parole agents, informants and any other source that an investigating officer chooses to rely on.
(5) As the technology improves, the bracelets can be adapted to issue alerts under certain conditions other than their removal, such as proximity to other targeted parolees and certain weapons.
(6) A parolee citizen hot-line system is established, staffed and publicized.
(7) Among the implementing legislation: The sale, delivery or transfer of any firearm or other proscribed weapon to any sate prison or Youth Authority parolee, with knowledge of the parolee’s felony convict status, becomes a serious felony punishable by a mandatory state prison term of not less than 6 years.
(8) The punishment for any felony offense committed by a state prison parolee is tripled.
(9) Parolees who actively cooperate in turning in violent offenders (who themselves do not participate in the violence) are protected and rewarded.
Without a doubt, OPD needs another 400 sworn officers, and the number of parole agents ‘supervising’ Oakland parolee’s needs to be commensurately increased. But the implementation of these nine measures, when coordinated by state, federal and municipal law enforcement agencies and publicized by a cooperative media and a responsive public, can and will produce dramatic results even without substantial staffing increases. The key to success is community and administrative buy-in. The time is ripe. Where are the Oakland leaders?