It’s a tense, dreary day in Oakland. Today’s the second anniversary of the Lovelle Mixon shooting, in which the 26-year-old parolee shot and killed four Oakland police officers before being gunned down in an East Oakland apartment building. It’s also the start of the highly publicized murder trial of journalist Chauncey Bailey, who was gunned down in 2007. A soap opera-like buildup preceded the case, capped by allegations that members of Oakland’s Police Department were involved in a messily planned cover-up. And depending on who you talk to, in the city’s post-Oscar Grant landscape, Mixon’s either a revered martyr or a cold-blooded murderer. Both cases prove that the city’s fraught relationship with its police department won’t be mended any time soon.
And the department’s not doing much to help make matters any better. After former BART officer Johannes Mehserle was sentenced for killing the unarmed Oscar Grant, Julianne Hing wrote that the big lesson was that justice is found in prevention. But unlike cities such as New Orleans, whose scandal-plagued department has since instituted at least symbolic institutional reforms, the Oakland Police Department is just inching its way toward change. The department recently missed a deadline to enact reforms ordered by a federal court nearly a decade ago, after four officers were found guilty of planting evidence and beating suspects. Independent monitors reported that while the department has met more than half of the 22 tasks stemming from a 2003 lawsuit, it still hasn’t made the grade on three key points: improving complaint procedures in the Internal Affairs Department, use of force reporting policies, and vehicle stop policies.