Police and prosecutors make a habit of publicly accusing people of crimes long before they’ve had their day in court. Sometimes, apparently, they slip into making public accusations before people have even been charged with crimes. It seems to be good public relations, but often enough it turns out they were wrong. Names have been named in a flurry of excitement after an arrest, but seldom does the press hail the news when the arrested person is acquitted or even exonerated.
This week, the Oakland Police Department kindly did not identify the 8 men it arrested through its “Operation Ceasefire” program, although it did accuse of committing unspecified violent crimes. However, there was a strange and sinister lack of specificity to their announcement.
According to the SFGate, the eight men pulled in by the “Operation Ceasefire” dragnet are all known members of criminal gangs or cliques. Being involved in a criminal gang can certainly get you in trouble in California, but what, exactly, constitutes a criminal clique?
The Oakland Police say these eight men are responsible for a recent violent crime wave in the city. “Operation Ceasefire” participants, described as “asking known suspects to cease criminal activity or face arrest,” apparently encountered eight refusals.
Perhaps the strangest thing about this story is that it’s unclear whether any of the men were currently wanted by the law. A police spokesperson said that a 14-year-old prostitute had been rescued, but otherwise any current crimes they might have been involved in remained unstated.
“Robbery, assault, pimping – we do know they have been involved in violent incidents,” the spokesperson said at a news conference on Thursday. “We know they have committed violent crimes and that they will continue to do so.”
That statement only asserts that they had previously been involved in criminal activity, not that there were active arrest warrants or pending criminal charges involving the men.
The interim director of Operation Ceasefire for the mayor’s office was able to add that the men had apparently been chosen for arrest because they had not been participating in the operation’s call-in meetings, which put them in touch with service providers. Were these probation violations?
It may sound cynical, but perhaps the city means to prevent crime by spreading fear of Operation Ceasefire itself.
“We wanted to tell them that so that when they go into the cells and they go into Santa Rita,” the mayor’s interim director explained, referring to the jail in Alameda County, “they talk to each other and that message spreads, that ‘I got locked up because of that Ceasefire thing.'”
Source: SFGate, “8 arrested in Oakland crime crackdown,” Will Kane, Aug. 15, 2013