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BrattonAmong other noteworthy details surrounding William J. Bratton’s new advisory contract with Oakland to beef up the city’s police department are Bratton’s ties to Motorola Solutions.

Motorola Solutions is already one of Oakland’s biggest vendors. The company has sold Oakland millions of dollars in equipment over the past ten years, mostly for use by the police. This year alone Motorola will probably bill the city for several million in goods and service.

William J. Bratton is currently a board member of Motorola Solutions, as well as a shareholder in the company. While Bratton’s position at Motorola is relatively new, his advocacy of expensive, hi-tech weaponry and systems for cops isn’t. In fact just three years before he joined Motorola, while he was chief of police in Los Angeles, Bratton oversaw approval of multi-million dollar contracts between Motorola Solutions and his police force.

As he has shuttled in and out of government posts and private corporations over the years, Bratton has grown into the classic revolving door figure, using his connections and prestige to link corporations with public agencies, playing matchmaker and facilitating lucrative contracts. This is in fact why Motorola tapped Bratton in join their board in 2010. According to a Motorola company filing, “Mr. Bratton’s significant experience in law enforcement both in the U.S. and abroad and his insight in criminal justice system operations,” have qualified him to occupy a seat on the board as an independent director. In 2011 Motorola Solutions paid Bratton $100,000 in fees, and another $160,033 in stock awards.

Like a lot of police departments, the OPD already does business with Motorola Solutions, a lot of it.

One of Oakland’s single largest contracts is an $8.45 million deal with Motorola for a suite of computer and mobile communications gadgets known as the Integrated Public Safety Services System, or IPSS. According to City Council reports from 2002 in addition to the $8.45 million to purchase the IPSS, the city also approved spending an additional $5.25 million on a five year maintenance contract also with Motorola, and another $3 million for “non-recurring costs for products and services,” related to the IPSS.

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A screenshot from Motorola Solutions’ web site. The company is one of the largest vendors of communications and surveillance equipment to police forces in the United States.

A little background on how Motorola got the Oakland contract can help to shed some light on the big business that is police technology. In 1998 Oakland was awarded a $6.18 million federal grant, aptly named “COPS MORE”, to equip the force with state of the art communications and computing tools. By 2001 the city was preparing to put contracts out to bid for technology companies to develop a Computer Aided Dispatch (CAD) system, Records Management System (RMS), Automated (Field) Reporting System (FRS) and a Jail Management System (JMS) for Oakland’s police.

In 2002 Motorola, being a big cash-flush company, bought up one of the vendors Oakland was in talks with to potentially develop their new police technologies. Motorola, which was already expanding aggressively into the field of police technology —local “security” being a rapidly growing market after 9-11— lobbied Oakland’s administrator and staff to choose the company for one single contract, instead of the planned multiple contracts with multiple vendors. (Motorola registered as a lobbyist with the city of Oakland in 2003) Motorola’s salespeople visited Oakland and did their best to convince the police and city administrator to consolidate the work into one big order. Then they invited Oakland staff to Los Angeles for a meeting. Then, as the city administrator described it in a 2002 report:

“One week after the OIT [Oakland’s Office of Information Technology] Director’s visit with Motorola [in Los Angeles], members of the OIT/OPD/OFD [Oakland’s tech, police, and fire] staff attended the Motorola/Printrak Users Group Conference. Motorola presented its new direction to the conference attendees from across the USA and other countries around the world.  After considering the new direction as presented by Motorola and assessing the fact finding discussions held with the local government users at the Motorola/Printrak users group conference, OIT/OPD/OFD decided to change the course of the project as previously planned.  Rather than proceeding with a multi-vendor solution, staff believes that it is now possible to proceed with a single vendor solution (i.e. Motorola/Printrak).” (Office of Information Technology to Office of the City Manager, “A Status Report From the Office of Information Technology (OIT) On the Acquisition and Implementation of the Integrated Police/Fire Public Safety System and the COPSMORE Grant,” memorandum, City of Oakland, May 14, 2002)

This more or less worked out well for Motorola, and the company has made millions from the contract. The city ended up reporting some problems with the IPSS system, problems that were messing with OPD’s compliance with the federal consent decree. In 2005 the Independent Monitoring Team found that OPD’s “monitoring of MDT [mobile data terminal] traffic is impeded by computer software limitations, and that “there have been difficulties in implementing the original Mobile Module Motorola provided.” (OPD, “Negotiated Settlement Agreement, Fourth Semi-Annual Report,” May, 25, 2005)

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A screenshot from Motorola Solutions’ web site. The company is one of the largest vendors of communications and surveillance equipment to police forces in the United States.

In 2010 and 2011, the last years for which information is available, Oakland spent $2.88 million on the IPSS maintenance, a cost that will likely continue so long as Motorola’s system provides the city with its data and communications integration for the police department (“2009-11 Proposed Policy Budget” City of Oakland, p. Y-79).

Another business deal with Motorola went completely haywire and was a small setback in OPD’s efforts to comply with the federal consent decree. In 2007 Oakland spent at least $65,000 on a software program called Evalis from a company named CRISNet. The purchase was meant to provide another technological solution to the department’s continuing inability to comply with the federal consent decree stemming from officer abuses and departmental incompetence. Evalis was a database that was to be used to identify “at-risk behavior activities” of officers, meaning it was a way for OPD to pinpoint bad cops with particularly egregious records of brutality, civil rights violations, and other criminal tendencies.

Just like with the IPSS system that was being developed by a small independent company, Motorola swooped in late in the game and bought out CRISNet, making that company’s contract with Oakland now Motorola’s. Then Motorola Solutions turned around and demanded more money from Oakland than was agreed to previously with CRISNet. Motorola claimed the Evalis system would be expensive to integrate into the company’s own product suites. Oakland balked and cancelled the contract, choosing to develop a system based on the existing Evalis software in place, using the city’s own technical staff.

The City Auditor’s Office, which analyzed the Evalis fiasco in a report last year, was not amused; “Regardless, the result is that OPD lost at least $65,000 on the Evalis system.” OPD claimed, however, that it was Motorola’s fault, and the cops had a point. In a press release responding to the City Auditor OPD stated, “the system was not used because Motorola bought Evalis after our purchase and its support of Evalis was cost prohibitive.” In other words, Motorola Solutions was trying to squeeze more money from Oakland.

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Motorola Solutions sells the “connected law enforcement officer,” from a screenshot of the company’s web site.

Motorola has other business with the city, more police gadgets and software, all of which is supposed to bring OPD into the 21st Century and help the department comply with the federal court’s orders.

Between 2005-2007 Oakland also paid Motorola $40,000 to provide technical support for the police radio system. Motorola also sold Oakland 63 hand held Jaguar radios and in-vehicle equipment used with these radios for a total price of $140,000 (“Proposed Policy Budget FY2005-07,” City of Oakland, pp. D-191 and D-193).

Bratton, a supposed “super-cop” who is widely perceived as having modernized and professionalized the LAPD and NYPD, has over the last decade emerged as a proponent of various hi-tech police gadgets and systems.This is partly why Motorola Solutions has given him a board position and stock in the company.

Having built a reputation as a police disciplinarian during the mid-1990s when he ran the NYPD, Bratton began selling his expertise to any police agency willing to pay for it. Bratton created his own consultancy in 2000, the Bratton Group, LLC, and contracted with police forces in the US and “four continents,” according to his official biography. Shortly into his lucrative career as a private consultant Bratton joined Kroll Inc.’s Public Services Safety Group and Crisis and Consulting Management Group, eventually becoming Chairman of Kroll until it was purchased by Altegrity. In a way Kroll got Bratton his job with the LAPD. Bratton was part of the Independent Monitor’s team overseeing that city’s consent decree.

In 2007 Bratton sounded like the Motorola Solutions salesman he would later become when he and LA Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa held a press event to celebrate a panoptic wireless surveillance system the LAPD had installed in a public housing development. “Motorola’s wireless broadband network allows our officers to have information when they need it most to manage an incident, to inform first responders as they arrive at a scene aware of what they will face, and to use video to size up an uncertain situation,” beamed Chief Bratton. “Since the cameras were installed, major crime has dropped 32 percent in Jordan Downs in the last two months, compared to the same period last year.”

Motorola also sells a lot of goods to Bratton’s other former police employer, the NYPD. In fact Motorola employs no less than twelve lobbyists to influence how New York’s officials spend their billions of taxpayer dollars on radios, computers, cameras, and other police technology.

Just to give you a sense of how big a can of worms Motorola has become, Bratton is hardly the most politically connected ex-government figure on the board. Fellow board member Michael Hayden ran the CIA from 2006 to 2009, and prior to being head spook of the USA he ran the National Security Agency, all after spending a career in the Air Force. Needless to say, Motorola Solutions isn’t just tapping police departments through Bratton’s prestige and connections for future business, they’re also selling a lot of widgets to the military and federal spy agencies. But this is all another story….

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OPD “mug shots” displayed during a department reunion held in Reno, Nevada in 2005. Many of the shots are of officers employed in the 1970s and 1980s, hired before the PFRS pension system was closed to new members. OPD’s cops from that era were mostly white men.

I’ve been working on an article over the last two weeks about Oakland’s much talked about, but little understood Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS).

Fiscal conservatives constantly cry that the sky is falling, that the PFRS obligation to Oakland’s retired public safety employees will bankrupt the city, especially because of the massive issuance of pension obligation bonds used by Oakland to finance legally required contributions since 1997. These conservative commentators are mistaken, I think. The underfunding of the PFRS is certainly a problem, but not for the reasons they say.

I’m interested in re-framing the discussion about PFRS, away from the anti-tax, anti-government rhetoric that has so far monopolized things, and toward what I see as the real problem with PFRS: Oakland has a billion dollar obligation to 1,000 retired cops and fire employees who served between 1951-1976, virtually all of whom are white and elderly. Oakland’s police department (and fire dept.) was characterized by overt racist exclusion of non-whites from employment during this era, thus the lucrative benefits of the PFRS pension were made accessible to white city employees. This select club of men (and yes a few women and a handful of Black, Latino, and Asian members) now predominantly live in retirement enclaves outside the city of Oakland. These communities have much different demographics than Oakland, being much whiter, more affluent, suburban and rural, but they benefit from the pension payments that go to the PFRS members who live and shop within their jurisdictions and tax districts.

The PFRS obligation therefore amounts to a $1 billion obligation of Oakland, which today is 2/3 non-white and half below the age of 36. To meet these obligations Oakland’s leaders have put the city into serious debt, and in some prior years even paid millions out of its general fund budget, dollars that could have been spent on services for the city’s residents, or salaries of current employees. This legacy municipal pension obligation is therefore a massive inter-racial and inter-generational transfer of wealth. Here’s the abstract of the article. I’ll post a full draft version with references soon.

In 1976 the city of Oakland, California closed its existing municipal pension funds to new members. New city employers were thereafter covered by the rapidly growing California Public Employees Retirement System. The Police and Fire Retirement System (PFRS), by far Oakland’s largest pension, remained an obligation of the city, however. It’s thousands of vested members retired over the next several decades drawing benefits tied to the salaries of current members of the police and fire departments.

Between roughly 1950 and the present, de-industrialization, white flight, and the tax rebellion decimated Oakland’s fiscal capacity, causing the city’s services to decline dramatically in quality and availability. Beginning in the 1970s the PFRS endowment began to fall short of accrued actuarial liabilities. To meet its legally imposed debt to the pension, the city was forced to pay into the retirement fund out of its general budget, further harming current city residents by imposing austere budgets and cuts during economic downturns.

In 1985 Oakland issued the first ever pension obligation bonds (POBs) to forward-fund the system through a complicated tax arbitrage strategy. The federal government quickly closed this loophole, but POBs remained a favored strategy for the city to finance its legacy pension obligations because they provided contributions “holidays” and were supposed to reduce the overall financial burden on the city caused by its retired cops and firefighters. Subsequent recessions in equities markets further eroded the value of the PFRS system in relation to its growing obligations to retired police and fire employees. By the 2000s a significant chunk of Oakland’s tax-override funds were used to pay retired police and fire benefits, even while the city was forced further to cut much needed services, social welfare spending, and economic development programs.

Because of institutionally racist policies, and demographic shifts after World War II, the majority of the retired city employees benefitting from the PFRS fund are elderly white men who live outside of Oakland, while Oakland’s population has become majority non-white, young, and low-income. The PFRS obligation of Oakland now amounts to a large racial and inter-generational transfer of wealth from the city’s current residents to a very small suburban and rural group of former employees.

“Keep out of our fucking way, liberal pussies” – A flyer posted in OPD’s headquarters building.

It’s been almost ten years since a federal judge ordered the Oakland Police Department to make sweeping changes intended to address the department’s many failings, including a pattern and practice of violating the civil rights of Oakland residents. For every step forward that OPD has taken, it seems they have taken two steps back. What’s the deal?

Intent on understanding why OPD seems immune to reform, Ali Winston and I have begun researching a series of articles to delve into the deeply ingrained institutional and structural issues at the root of Oakland’s police problem. (You can read a piece about OPD’s costly legal settlements here, and our latest piece addressing OPD recruitment and residency patterns here). Talking with community members as well as policy experts, one of the most striking problems with OPD we’ve identified concerns the composition of the department’s street cops. It’s a well known fact among Oaklanders that the city’s police mostly don’t live in the city. Using this as a point of departure to analyze police-community relations we have gathered some data that deserves a wider analysis than our own. We’re inviting comments on this blog.

What follows here is a presentation of some data that we hope leads to a broader discussion about the political-economy of police and law enforcement in the Bay Area.

What do we mean by a political-economy of police and law enforcement? Over the last decade there have been numerous excellent studies of the prison-industrial complex, especially here in California where prisons have rapidly grown in their budgets, employment, and numbers of persons incarcerated. With the growth of prisons into a major branch of the state, an entire industry of small and large corporations that profit from contracting with prisons has been created, replete with trade associations, lobbyists, and powerful employee unions. Finally, a pro-prisons political constituency comprised of the local, mostly rural, cities and counties where carceral facilities have become major employers, and local tax revenue generators, has completed the complex. It’s a powerful political machine, now a significant sector of California’s economy that through its redistribution of resources to lock up hundreds of thousands of mostly men of color produces obvious winners and losers.

Surprisingly, police departments have been subject to much less study along these lines, even though  policing consumes more public revenues than prisons, and in spite of the ubiquitous presence of police in every city.

Oakland’s position within the Bay Area’s police and law enforcement economy is characterized by extraction. Because of decades of white flight, capital flight, and the devastating impact of state tax cuts and disinvestment in public schools, Oakland today is wracked by unemployment, poverty, and suffers from a lack of meaningful social and economic mobility for its flatlands residents, conditions that are synonymous with crime within these same communities.

Due to Oakland’s unique history and current political dynamics, harsh law-and-order approaches are most often advocated as the solution to the city’s crime problem. Parsing out the different constituencies that advocate the ‘more cops’ approach is a task that awaits much further study, but we can generally sketch out a picture of who wins and who loses because of Oakland’s unusually large allocation of city tax dollars to policing.

The short answer is that the surrounding majority white and middle class suburban cities of the East Bay benefit from Oakland’s massive spending on cops via the redistribution of tax dollars from Oakland to other municipalities.

Oakland spends roughly 40 percent of its general fund budget on cops. Police services is the single largest expenditure for the city. Compared to other cities of similar size in California, Oakland’s spending on police is much, much higher. For example, Sacramento spent about 23% of its general fund on cops in the 2011-2012 Fiscal year, this in spite of the fact that Sacramento and Oakland actually have comparable crime rates (Oakland has outpaced Sacramento in violent crime, while Sacramento has had more property crimes than Oakland in recent years, according to the most recent FBI crime statistics).

Oakland’s FY 2012-2013 budget appropriates 40% of the general fund for police services, far and away the largest focus of city government. Few other cities, even those with comparable rates of crime, spend proportionally as much on their police. (Source: “Oakland FY2011-13 Adopted Policy Budget”, p. vii.)

What Oakland obtains from its large commitment of tax dollars to policing is debatable. As the department’s budget has fluctuated over the years crime rates have also fluctuated, but not necessarily in a pattern suggesting a causal link. Oakland does, however, lose considerable tax dollars to surrounding suburban cities in the form of officer salaries. Most of Oakland’s cops don’t live in the city, meaning that their salaries and other compensation are spent on mortgages, consumer purchases, healthcare, and other forms of taxed consumption where they live. Thus, by our rough calculations, based on data provided by OPD and assembled from a database of public employee pay for 2010, at least $126 million left the city in 2010 in the form of officer compensation.

OPD’s highest paid staff, nearly all sworn officers, live outside the city, while the department’s lowest paid staff, including administrative workers, are far more likely to live in Oakland. None of OPD’s command staff live in Oakland. In a sense this means that the local jobs sustained by OPD, which recycle Oakland tax dollars into the city’s economy, are the lowest paid positions, giving the city very little bang for its police bucks.

Most of OPD’s sworn officers live outside the city of Oakland. Civilian staff, whose average pay is much lower, are more evenly split, with about 46 percent residing in Oakland.

We’ve mapped the zip codes and salary figures for Oakland’s current officers so you can browse this geography of extraction – http://batchgeo.com/map/d8366c37bee1c93a831bde353442eca1

Oakland’s retired police officers covered under the Police and Fire Retirement System are another means by which the wealth of the city is extracted to surrounding suburban cities, and distant retirement communities. Last year the PFRS pension paid out about $64 million to its 1,085 beneficiaries. Because only 7 percent of these retired city employees live in Oakland, the city exported almost $60 million in funds originated in property taxes or employee compensation.

The PFRS system is especially important in any analysis of how the Bay Area’s political economy of policing affects Oakland’s communities of color because of its history. PFRS was closed to new employees in 1976. The hiring policies of the Oakland Police Department (and Fire Department) in the two previous decades were explicitly racist, excluding non-whites, a fact that produced a pool of PFRS-eligible retirees who are virtually all white men or their spouses. Oakland’s current residents, who have been indebted by expensive pension obligations bonds used to keep the PFRS pension funded, are mostly non-white, relatively young, and majority women. Most PFRS beneficiaries live in majority white and middle class suburbs of the East Bay, but some live as far away as Arizona and Hawaii. Thus not only is PFRS a transfer of wealth between different municipalities, it is also literally a transfer of wealth along racial and generational lines.

OPD procures goods from a national set of vendors including small businesses and large corporations.

There is also the issue of purchasing. The Oakland Police buy millions of dollars worth of goods and services each year, everything from weapons and gear to computer systems and consultants. Policing Oakland’s communities is a big business for a small pool of specialized vendors. About three-quarters of OPD’s procurement is through companies located outside of Oakland. This means that most of OPD’s purchases generate sales tax revenues in other cities and states. While the single largest share of OPD spending is done with companies located in Oakland, the big non-Oakland winners are Berkeley, New York, San Francisco, Dover (New Hampshire), Hayward, Santa Clara, Culver City, and Pleasant Hill. Click here to view a map of where OPD purchased goods and services in the 2010-2011 fiscal year.

We’ll be writing more about OPD procurement in the near future, among other topics.