Legally Speaking With Pamela Price

Pamela Y. Price, Attorney at Law

Tag: Alameda County Board of Supervisors

Alameda County’s 51-50 Crisis

Reversing 51-50 Approaches in Alameda County with Jovanka Beckles, Mental Health Advocate

Alameda County’s 51-50 Crisis has exploded! Did you know that more people suffer from mental health crises in Alameda County than anywhere else in California? According to the State Dept. Of Health Services, Alameda County has the highest rate of involuntary psychiatric holds (51-50) in the entire state. And we are FAILING miserably to respond to people in crisis.

Instead of responding with care or concern, we are putting people in custody in conditions of confinement that violate the U.S. Constitution. Alameda County’s 51-50 crisis is real. The U.S. Dept. of Justice (DOJ) is ready to sue Alameda County to force it to improve its mental health care services. DOJ’s four-year study with a preliminary report in 2017 and follow-up in 2019 is a harsh indictment of our County’s mental health system.

A Mental Health Crisis Should Not Be A Death Sentence

Too often, in Alameda County, a mental health crisis becomes a death sentence. The DOJ found that fourteen (14) people killed themselves in Santa Rita County Jail between 2015 and 2019. That is at a rate twice the national average. Jail staff estimate that about 40% of the people in Santa Rita need mental health treatment. Mental health staff are only allowed to treat people for two (2) hours a day. And the time allotted for each person is limited to 10-15 minutes. Plus, these “confidential” conversations take place where they can be overheard by other prisoners and the jail officers.

The DOJ found that Santa Rita regularly releases mentally ill people without a treatment plan or adequate medication. People leaving Santa Rita “often receive little more than a sheet of paper that lists programs in the community.” Not surprisingly, many of them show up at the John George Psychiatric Pavilion or become homeless. Between 2012-2017, 4,200 people released from Santa Rita ended up at John George within 30 days.

Between 2017-2019, the DOJ found almost 1,600 people were admitted to John George four or more times. Eleven percent (11%) of people discharged from the inpatient unit were readmitted within two weeks. DOJ investigators found many people occupying inpatient beds at John George had been cleared for discharge but had nowhere to go. In 2019, 39% of our unhoused community members reported having a mental health issue.

In 2020, Disability Rights Advocates sued Alameda County for the unnecessary segregation of people with mental health disabilities – especially Black people – in psychiatric institutions and failure to provide services to people with disabilities. Their investigation found that 55% of the people Alameda County psychiatrically institutionalized ten (10) or more times since 2018 are Black. Black men are 30% more likely to end up psychiatrically institutionalized when there is an emergency mental health crisis call compared to others.

A Death Sentence for Christian Madrigal

In the summer of 2019, Jose Jaime and Gabriela Covarrubias called 911 to request a 5150 transfer to a psychiatric facility to help their son Christian Madrigal. They called 911 as instructed by a Santa Clara Psychiatric clinic. Christian was only 20 years old and appeared to be having a psychotic break. The Fremont police were supposed to escort Christian back to the clinic. Instead, Christian was put into a WRAP device (a binding that covers the legs and torso) and taken to Santa Rita. There, Christian was chained to a door in his cell and left alone. As the deputies joked about his mental crisis, Christian used the chains provided to him by the deputies to hang himself. 

Christian’s family had to wait almost a year before the Sheriff’s office took any action against the supervisor. Instead of firing the supervisor, the he was able to retire with a full pension. In October 2020, the County agreed to pay Jose and Gabriela $5 million for the death of their son. Alameda District Attorney O’Malley did not investigate Christian’s death or file any charges. Jose and Gabriela just wanted answers. They were left in the dark for so long as to what really happened. O’Malley has not responded to their requests for information. Jose and Gabriela have endorsed me in the race for Alameda County District Attorney.

The Circle of the Crisis

Alameda County’s 51-50 crisis often starts and ends on the street. Even before the involuntary psychiatric hold (51-50) starts, police officers are forced to respond. They are ill-equipped to respond, resulting in the unnecessary use of force with tragic consequences. Across the County, heartbreaking stories of the death of a loved one cry out for change in our criminal justice system.

In July 2013, Hernan Jaramillo was having a mental health crisis and begged Oakland police officers for his life. Video footage was not released by police until 2 years after his death. It shows Mr. Jaramillo pinned to the ground by OPD officers who ignored his cries of “I can’t breathe.” That same cry was heard around the world on May 25, 2020, and the murder of George Floyd under similar circumstances galvanized the fight for racial justice. DA O’Malley’s office reviewed OPD’s investigation and concluded that no officer should be charged with anything.

In August 2018, Jacob Bauer was having a mental health crisis. His parents had contacted the Pleasanton police multiple times before the incident to warn them of Jacob’s mental illness and plead for care and mercy if police encountered him. As many as eight (8) police officers violently restrained Jacob. They tasered him and pinned him to the ground by kneeling on his body while he cried out in pain, saying “I can’t breathe.” Within minutes Jacob lay unconscious as an officer struck him in the legs with his baton and then stomped on Jacob’s chest three times. Paramedics who arrived on scene were at first denied access to the unconscious Jacob by Pleasanton police officers. DA O’Malley cleared all of the officers of any wrongdoing. Jacob Bauer’s parents have also endorsed me in the race for Alameda County District Attorney.

In April 2020, San Leandro police shot and killed Steven Taylor in a Walmart store on a Saturday afternoon. Steven Taylor was allegedly mentally ill, with a diagnosis of schizophrenia and bipolar disorder. He appears to be in a mental health crisis when 2 San Leandro police officers approach him. He refused to put down a bat and pulled away as the officers tased him. They then shot and killed him in front of dozens of shoppers. The video shows that an officer actually tased Steven Taylor as he lay on the floor bleeding to death. Only one officer has been charged by DA O’Malley, her first ever prosecution of a police officer for an in-custody death.

Reversing Approaches to Alameda County’s 51-50 Crisis

In May 2020, I introduced a resolution at the Alameda County Democratic Party Central Committee to call for an independent investigation into Steven Taylor’s murder. The resolution called upon the California Attorney General to “investigate, manage, prosecute or inquire about any incidents of use of deadly force by law enforcement officers to ensure that the laws of the State are being adequately enforced and in particular, to ensure compliance with AB392 codified as Penal Code Section 835a.” It passed unanimously, but then-Attorney General Xavier Becerra denied the request.

AB392, however, changes the standard for the use of force by police in California. Now, when we talk about “a reasonable police officer” we get to question that force is the first policeman’s first response to every situation. Additionally, AB1506, California’s Deadly Force Accountability Act, now requires the Attorney General to investigate all police shootings that result in the death of an unarmed civilian and issue a public report of the investigation. The law also requires the Attorney General to establish a unit by 2023 that will review police departments’ use of force policies upon request.

As the next Alameda County District Attorney, my job will include holding every police department in the County accountable under the new standards of conduct. I will also work to ensure that every police department, including the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office, is committed to care and concern for those suffering from mental illness and/or addiction. I commit to advocate for the expansion of community-based mental health services with the Board of Supervisors and every decision-maker in our criminal justice system. Our County deserves nothing less and nothing else.

To join the conversation for new approaches to solve Alameda County’s 51-50 Crisis, join me and Hon. Jovanka Beckles on Saturday, May 15th from 3-5 pm. RSVP at https://www.pamelaprice4da.com/mental_health.

Oath Keepers In Alameda County

Oath Keepers Booth at Urban Shield Event in Castro Valley, 2017
Oath Keepers Booth at 2017 Urban Shield event- Credits: Courtesy of CBS SF Bay Area

On January 6, 2021, everyday white citizens tried to overthrow the government. They were led by white supremacist organizations well-known to our government. One of those groups is the Oath Keepers, a right-wing extremist group that operates in Alameda County.

In Alameda County there are rumors that our Sheriff Greg Ahern is a member of the Oath Keepers. Suspicions are that, even if Sheriff Ahern is not a member, he embraces their beliefs. In 2017, the Oath Keepers had a booth at the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office’s Urban Shield training program. The booth shown above was at a church in Castro Valley. The Sheriff’s Department is the only law enforcement agency for Castro Valley.

The Oath Keepers have long claimed to be composed of current and former police, military and first-responders. As the national news has reported all week, the group targets law enforcement for recruitment. The group was formed in 2009 in direct response to the election of America’s first Black president. They are largely responsible for the violent attack on the Capitol building on January 6, 2021.

The NAACP and Mississippi Congressman Bennie Thompson have sued the Oath Keepers for the January 6th insurrection pointing out that “the coup attempt was a coordinated, months-long attempt to destroy democracy, to block the results of a fair and democratic election, and to disenfranchise millions of ballots that were legally cast by African-American voters.”

The Southern Poverty Law Center has long classified the Oath Keepers as an extremist anti-government group. The group is well known for attending Black Lives Matter protests heavily armed. They became famous when they showed up in Ferguson Missouri to intimidate protestors following Michael Brown’s murder.

The Santa Rita Jail

Given the Oath Keepers’ unholy infiltration of local law enforcement, it is not surprising that Alameda County has problems in Santa Rita Jail. Sheriff Greg Ahern runs the jail. Our jail is located in Dublin, the home of Alameda County Supervisor David Haubert, a known supporter of the Oath Keepers. The jail is known nationally for human rights abuses and racism.

Black and Brown people are the overwhelming majority of people held at the jail. In 2018, Black people were incarcerated in Santa Rita at a rate of 946 per 100,000 residents compared to 115 per 100,000 residents for whites. In 2018, more than 83% of the people incarcerated at Santa Rita had not been sentenced for a crime.

Since 2014, an estimated 42 people have died at the hands of police at Santa Rita jail. In 2017, a woman gave birth in an isolation cell without any medical assistance or help. Sheriffs deputies reportedly ignored her screams. When addicts are arrested, the jail does not always provide medical treatment or services. Instead, the deputies leave addicts to suffer with withdrawal symptoms by themselves. In 2019, inmates staged a hunger strike to protest their inhumane conditions at the jail.

Still, Sheriff Ahern, a Republican, continues to enjoy the support of the all-Democratic elected Board of Supervisors.

JoAnn Walker Is The Change

In 2022, for the first time since 1986, Alameda County will have a choice of who to elect to be the Sheriff. In January 2021, I joined JoAnn Walker who is a candidate for Alameda County Sheriff on our criminal justice reform slate.

JoAnn Walker is a 25-year police officer, an educator, a graduate of CalState Hayward and a Master Post-certified Instructor. Walker is well versed in issues of mental and emotional health, suicide and domestic violence. Because Walker is a Black female resident of Alameda County for more than 40 years, she is sensitive to the issues of race and gender discrimination that have characterized the Alameda County justice system.

JoAnn Walker knows that jails should not be used to fill the need for drug rehabilitation services, housing and mental health services. JoAnn Walker believes that we cannot continue to have a “double standard” for residents and law enforcement officers. I believe that JoAnn Walker will bring leadership with integrity to the Alameda County Sheriff’s Department.

Let’s hope we take our best shot in June 2022. Please check out walker4sheriff.com. And then act accordingly.

Meet David Haubert

Former Dublin Mayor David Haubert  sits now on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors
Former Dublin Mayor David Haubert sits now on the Alameda County Board of Supervisors

If you live in Alameda County, meet David Haubert. He was elected to the Alameda County Board of Supervisors in 2020.

In what claims to be one of the most “woke” counties in America, we just elected a right-wing Republican to make consequential decisions about our lives. While we pride ourselves on our diversity, David Haubert believes that “Dreamers” should be deported.

In the County where the Black Lives Matter movement was birthed, David Haubert has embraced, and been embraced by the Oath Keepers, a gun-carrying fiercely anti-government, right-wing, militaristic group. The Oath Keepers are a far-right militia like the Proud Boys. These are “his people.”

Just like Donald Trump, David Haubert says he didn’t know who the Oath Keepers were when he attended their meeting as the guest speaker. I’m sure he thought they were “very fine people.” The white supremacist group was formed in 2009 in direct response to the election of the nation’s first Black president. 

In a County where women show up in droves at the annual Women’s March, Haubert is opposed to abortion. More importantly, he has pledged that as County Supervisor, he would seek to limit abortion-related county programs.

Democrats Elected Haubert

This right-wing Republican was elected to our Board of Supervisors with the support of many popularly-elected “democrats” in name only. Our County Central Committee fumbled the ball and then straight dropped it. We endorsed Vinnie Bacon, the progressive Clean Money candidate, and then did little to help out.

Haubert outspent and out-smeared Vinnie. His campaign was funded by major developers, contractors, landlords, property managers, oil industry sources and the Deputy Sheriffs Association of Alameda County. Fellow Supervisor Nate Miley campaigned hard for Haubert against the Democratic Party’s endorsed candidate. Our Democratic Party Central Committee ignored Vinnie’s campaign’s pleas for assistance and simply watched him be defeated. This race was the most consequential race for Alameda County in 2020.

David Haubert is relatively young and our Board of Supervisors does not have any term limits. David Haubert could be with us for a very long time.

Stop The Violence Now

A Department of Violence Prevention in Oakland

On Tuesday, May 16, 2017, starting at 5:30 p.m. the Oakland City Council will decide a question of urgent priority. The question is whether to establish a Department of Violence Prevention (DVP).

Or whether to accept Mayor Libby Schaaf‘s goal to reduce violent crime by a mere 10% using the same old failed methods. A coalition of community groups along with Councilmembers Lynette McElhaney, Larry Reid and Rebecca Kaplan are calling for people to show up at the Oakland City Council meeting. If you cannot make the meeting, you should contact Councilmembers Dan Kalb, Abel Guillen, Annie Campbell, Noel Gallo and Desley Brooks.

Why This, Why Now?

It’s 1999.  I’m standing in front of City Hall with my two young grandsons. Both of them are still in elementary school. We are part of the Acts Full Gospel Church‘s weekly rallies against gun violence in Oakland. The faith community wants the killings in Oakland to stop. We want City Hall to take action to stop the violence in Oakland.

In 2001-2002, there is a rash of killings of young Black men in a part of Oakland known as “Ghost Town.” I sue the City on behalf of the family of 21-year-old Chance Grundy. A man murdered Chance because Chance witnessed a murder and cooperated with the police. The police let it be known that Chance was a cooperating witness. The murderer let it be known that he wanted Chance to “sleep with the fishes.” We lose the case. It turns out that (in real life, not like in the movies) the police have no duty to protect witnesses even when they know the witness is in danger.

Fast forward to January 11, 2013.  My friend Brenda Harbin‘s beloved grandson, Ken Harbin, Jr. is shot and killed. Four people are killed that day in Oakland. In the wake of Ken’s murder, we stand on street corners with Soldiers Against Violence Everywhere (S.A.V.E.). Once again, we ask the City to take action to stop the violence in Oakland.

Every grandmother and mother’s nightmare, the loss of a beloved child.  A dream struck down and unfulfilled by a senseless act of violence.

America’s Gun Violence Problem

America’s “gun culture” is totally unique. We own way more guns privately than other countries, and we have the highest gun ownership per capita rate in the world. Gun violence has long been deemed a public health crisis. A March 2016 study in the American Journal of Medicine found that 90% of all women, 91% of children under 14 , 92% of youth aged 15 to 24 years, and 82% of all people killed by firearms in the world were from the United States.

In 2010, the number of homicides by guns in the U.S. was at least 9,960. The Centers for Disease Control reported 11,078 firearm-related homicides that year. By comparison, there were only 173 gun homicides in Canada, 155 in the United Kingdom, 158 in Germany and 142 in France. Sweden had only 30 homicides by gun. Japan had only 11 people killed with guns.

Credit: Ma’ayan Rosenzweig/ABC News

Currently, the U.S. is ranked 4th out of 34 developed nations for the incidence of homicides committed with a firearm.  A young man here aged 15–24 is 70 times more likely to be killed with a gun than his counterpart in the eight largest industrialized nations in the world. These include the United Kingdom, France, Germany, Japan, Canada, Italy and Russia.

In 2015, there were 372 mass shootings and 33,636 deaths due to firearms in the U.S. That same year, guns were used to kill only about 50 people in the U.K. More people are killed with guns in the U.S. in a day (about 85) than in the U.K. in a year.

The Race-Based Rationale for Guns

Efforts to control guns in America have stumbled on the “right to bear arms” clause in the Second Amendment to the Constitution. What is often overlooked is the history of the Second Amendment. It was added as a compromise to protect the slave patrols in the South. The Founders knew the militias were necessary to keep the slaves under control. The Supreme Court has interpreted and protected the Second Amendment regardless of the consequences.

In 2002, Michael Moore wrote, produced, directed and narrated Bowling for Columbine.  The film highlighted the racist underpinnings of the Second Amendment. However, the Film’s main point, that our violent crime rate is substantially higher than other nations, seems to have been lost over time.

Support the Department of Violence Prevention

Gun violence in Oakland has remained steady.  In 1999, the County Board of Supervisors passed a strong gun control law. The Board reacted to a “rash of gun-related violence” in Alameda County. The Board found that “gunshot fatalities are of epidemic proportions in Alameda County.” That law was immediately attacked based on Supreme Court decisions. While the case was pending, the County retreated and announced that gun shows would be allowed on County property.

Our Mayor opposes the proposal to create a Department of Violence Prevention (DVP). We need to support the goal to reduce homicides by 80% and achieve an 80% clearance rate within 3 years. The Mayor wants to increase funding for law enforcement,  but “budgets are statements of priorities.” Our priority has to be to reduce gun violence, domestic violence and commercial sexual exploitation of our children.

We need the DVP. Let’s make 2017 the year that we cure the disease of preventable violence and death in Oakland. We cannot expect different results by doing the same thing over and over again.

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