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Oakland police should be careful to respect suspects' rights

In recent weeks, several studies have been published demonstrating that the rate of crime in San Francisco and Oakland is approaching record highs. In fact, the rate of some crimes in Oakland, including robbery, is the highest in the country. It is no surprise, then, that police in Oakland are exploring options on how best to reduce the city’s crime rate. Though this is important work, police should be careful to remember that they must respect the rights of suspects and others in the community.

Since 2003, the Oakland police department has been under court orders to reform after an incident where officers not only planted evidence and falsified reports, but also used excessive force on suspects. A federal court recently appointed a compliance expert to ensure that the necessary changes to department policy are being made. 

One important part of running a successful program of this nature is for the police department to regain the trust of the public at large. In other departments, such as Los Angeles, officials have made videos of arrests available online to increase department transparency. Los Angeles also made basic procedural changes to better identify officers against whom complaints were made so that supervisors could address the issue.

Although other police departments may have greater resources and different problems than Oakland, the basic principle is important for law enforcement officials to keep in mind. Making sure that procedures are in place both to protect the rights of suspects and to increase transparency may play an important role in reducing crime. 

Source: Inside Bay Area, “Expert: Oakland police need to follow Constitution to lower crime, regain public trust,” David Boitano, June 27, 2013

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