Piedmont PD and Recent Tragic Events
Chief Rikki Goede
With the tragic and horrific events of the past two weeks, I have been asked by residents, council members, and committee members alike as to how our officers and I are doing. Inquiries have also been made regarding what our department has done to address the national issues concerning law enforcement. While I have had individual conversations and e-mail exchanges, I feel it is important to share my thoughts in an opinion piece for the benefit of others who may have the same questions and concerns.
What is happening in our society today with regard to our divisiveness around many issues, most notably race, far transcends the simple notion of a law enforcement versus people of color issue. It is a societal issue. The callous murders of police officers in Dallas and Baton Rouge are my and every other law enforcement officer's worst nightmare come true. I also believe they are every peaceful protester's worst nightmare come true, as well as the nightmare of every person in this nation who so passionately seeks change and wants our divisiveness to end. As I told my police department, evil seeks to divide us and turn us on each other, and we cannot let that happen.
I will tell you, we at PPD have received nothing but support from our community. People have gone out of their way to stop me and our officers on the street (in both Oakland and Piedmont) to thank us for our service and let us know they support us. We have received plants, gift cards, and letters and cards of support. It has been both heartwarming and uplifting to all of us, and we thank you. I believe it is reflective of all the good work our officers do for this community as well as how they do it, which is respectfully and professionally.
Our Department has worked hard to get better. PPD officers have been wearing body cameras since September, 2013. Every one of our officers has been through Biased Based Policing training to better understand the concepts of implicit and explicit bias. Every single officer and dispatcher has completed the week long Crisis Intervention Training to better understand and effectively deal with those individuals in personal crisis and/or suffering from mental illness. We have been, and will continue to, thread de-escalation principles throughout all of our firearms and use of force training. Our Department wholly recognizes the six pillars of policing as defined by President Obama's Task Force on 21st Century Policing: (1) Building Trust and Legitimacy; (2) Policy and Oversight; (3) Technology and Social Media; (4) Community Policing and Crime Reduction; (5) Training and Education; (6) Officer Wellness and Safety.
Additionally, we have strengthened our relationships within our own community by partnering with the Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee (PADC). Last Fall, PADC members and all of our police department employees partnered on a potluck barbeque and, over a shared meal, had an opportunity to discuss candidly the issues of which we are facing. In May, PADC sponsored and participated in the police and fire departments’ annual Battle of the Badges which raised over $2,000 for Special Olympics. And, last week one of the PADC co-chairs and I met for over two hours in a very personal and cathartic meeting in which we shared our united grief and frustration over recent events. None of us have the one answer that will solve everything, but we all feel the pain of what is happening and know these conversations and relationship building are a vital part of moving forward.
The last few years have brought challenges and opportunities for law enforcement to get better. We have heeded the call to change and made many strides toward understanding and improving those areas in which we had strayed from our core values. We have embraced this need to change and taken on the responsibility to lead. Do we still have issues--yes. Do we still have improvements to be made--yes. Do we still have work to do--yes. But, we are doing the work against the backdrop of media rhetoric, false narratives that proliferate through social media, and evil acts that constantly seek to divide law enforcement and their communities and erase all our gains. And, even with all that we have accomplished here in our community, I know that at any given moment one of my officers may be involved in a use of force or a shooting incident that could put Piedmont squarely in the cross hairs of public scrutiny. But, I also believe our work will have garnered the trust and support of our community, and we will stand together and use it to get better and stronger and, hopefully, change the narrative.
As President Obama stated during the memorial for the Dallas police officers, "...so much of the tensions between police departments and minority communities that they serve is because we ask the police to do too much, and we ask too little of ourselves…” The Dallas police chief, who portrayed amazing leadership, challenged his community to do more and encouraged protesters to fill out an application and become a police officer and actually be part of the change they wish to see.
There is so much truth in both of those sentiments. We cannot continue to put this burden solely on our police officers. Across the nation and in our individual communities, we all need to come together and look outside the realities and comfort of our own bubbles and acknowledge we all do not experience things in the same way. We must also be willing to acknowledge that there is pain, ostracism, torment, anger, and even hatred felt by many in our own city and across the country. It is real and cannot be ignored. I truly believe this is a watershed moment for our country. And, my 31 years of policing experience tell me there are countless more good people in this world than evil who truly want to see the current divisiveness bridged. The question can no longer be what is law enforcement doing to solve this societal issue, it must be what are we all doing.
Piedmont Police Department's Chief Goede penned a powerful editorial for the July 25 edition of the Piedmont Post. We're pleased to share it with you here.
For the first time, Piedmont's 4th of July Parade will include a Gay Pride contingent, organized by Piedmont City Council Member Tim Rood. LGBT individuals, families, neighbors and friends are invited to join the delegation. We at PADC encourage Piedmonters to seize this opportunity to show their support for community diversity and inclusion, especially in light of the horrible attack and killings in Orlando earlier this month. If you would like to participate, sign up for email instructions by clicking here.
PADC and the City of Piedmont are proud to support this exhibit exploring the diversity of people who live, work, and learn in our community. Congratulations to the team of Piedmont and Millennium High School students for producing 23 stunning portraits accompanied by written interviews
The exhibit opens to the public on June 1, 2016, in City Hall. You can preview the portraits on the website, WeArePiedmont.com. (A small, private reception for the artists, their families and other invited guests will be held May 31.)
Claire Altieri (Student Team Lead, PHS), Gigi Gleghorn (PHS), Andrew Hansen(PHS), Kathryn Savage(PHS), Mason Scoggins(MHS), Elka Sorensen(PHS), and Gillian Bailey (Project Advisor, not shown).
Earlier this year, during their annual Crab Feed, the Wildwood Dads’ Club showed a series of quirky, self-deprecating videos - including one depicting the community's lack of diversity - as part of the evening’s entertainment. Unfortunately, the video series ended with a bizarre clip of a black woman yelling something unintelligible. That portrait was also the only image of a black person in the series. To their credit, the club board recognizes how offensive this is, and issued a letter of apology (appended below). They have also expressed a willingness to engage the Wildwood community in thoughtful dialog on this subject going forward. PADC looks forward to working with and supporting the Wildwood Dads’ Club as we all tackle this vital topic head on.
February 12th, 2016
Last week, the MLK Day Celebration hosted by PADC and the City of Piedmont drew more than 300 people from Piedmont, Oakland and beyond. They heard talented student performers and our city and state leaders beautifully express themselves on the challenges of continuing the civil rights work of Dr. King. We at PADC are grateful to be part of a community that creates a space every year to celebrate and reflect upon the transformative work of Dr. King, reminding us that his work – and our work – is not yet done.
Unfortunately, an incident occurred at this event that made some of our invited guest feel very unwelcome in our community. A few minutes before the OSA Chamber Choir took the stage, Choir Director Cava Menzies and her students suffered a verbal assault from two audience members. (You can read more about this here on our website.) We at PADC know that many in the Piedmont community, like us, were mortified by this poor treatment of guests at our event, but what’s worse is that it’s not the first time visitors have felt unwelcome – even unwanted - in our city.
You may have read in in this newspaper about teenage students of color stopped and questioned because a resident thinks they looked “suspicious,” and the calls to the police from those feeling threatened by a gardener’s truck parked on their street. But you may not be aware of what PADC hears all too often: an African-American resident afraid to go running at night because of how his neighbors might react, or the black family celebrating their child’s birthday in one of our parks that elicits a call to the police. There is also the sentiment – even among visitors who don’t experience such treatment - that Piedmont is intolerant of “outsiders,” especially outsiders of color. Or the feeling voiced by colleagues in Oakland that "Piedmont definitely has diversity, race, and privilege issues."
We have work to do. We need to ask ourselves questions: Who lives and works in our community and how do they experience Piedmont? What causes people visiting our city to feel unwelcome? What are the qualities that drew us to Piedmont and are they extended to all? And how exactly how do we want to be perceived in the larger community (Oakland and beyond)?
There are many ways to address these questions. Community organizations from parent clubs to houses of worship can add such discussions to their agenda. School district leadership, teachers and parents can reflect on how and whether diversity and inclusion are taught in their classrooms and in their homes. Oakland is a source of diversity and leadership in social justice; we can make a conscious effort to build broader ties between cities and host joint events. Finally, we can ask ourselves how well we know those in our own community, and reach out to our neighbors.
PADC is committed to spurring our community as a whole to discuss and reflect upon questions that the MLK incident and many others like it have raised. We hope you will join the conversation.
Kobi Eshun and Alison Feldman
Co-Presidents, Piedmont Appreciating Diversity Committee
On Monday, January 18th, a few minutes before the OSA Chamber Choir filed onto stage to blow the roof off the Veterans Memorial Building, Cava Menzies suffered a shocking verbal assault from two audience members. She and her 32 students were packed into the catering galley area off to stage right. This area would normally have been reserved for staging, but had become makeshift overflow seating to accommodate the turnout.
First, one middle-aged white woman walked up to her to say that her students "were an embarrassment and need to learn some respect." Then a second woman jumped in saying, "you know, I'm a teacher too. You need to learn to control them. It's not that hard. Make them go outside." All this with her students and their parents watching. In Cava's own words, "It was unbelievable to experience that kind of condescension and entitlement only five minutes prior to us going on stage. I was shocked by the lack of compassion and respect for myself or my students from those particular guests."
Needless to say, this is a horrifying blight on our community. Such condescension and entitlement on a day of celebrating tolerance and humanity — the irony here is grimly poetic. And, of course, this was not just an assault on Cava, but also on the 32 students who had dedicated their day to serve our community by sharing music with us. Let us remember that these students commuted to us from East and West Oakland to participate in our event whose purpose was to promote and celebrate diversity. Is this the message we want to give our young people of color that come as visitors?
You may be tempted to downplay the racial overtones of this incident. Please don’t. What is not communicated in the summary of the encounter is tone of voice, body language, and overall demeanor of both women while speaking to Cava. Clearly, beyond just the language that was spoken, the way in which she was spoken to in front of her students was unacceptable. The specter of two privileged white women vying to put a successful black woman in her place, and to shame a talented group of student performers, most of whom are black, is blatant. The message, "You folks don’t belong inside here” is inescapable. We don’t know if these two women are racist or even if they are Piedmont residents. But the impact of their actions is undeniable. And, unfortunately, this behavior is not completely atypical in our community.
PADC is committed to spurring our community as a whole to discuss and reflect upon these questions. Will you join the conversation?
Congresswoman Barbara Lee is a forceful and progressive voice in Congress, dedicated to social and economic justice, international peace, and civil and human rights. First elected in 1998 to represent California’s then-9th Congressional District (now the 13th), the Democratic lawmaker has established a reputation for principled and independent stands, unafraid to take on the tough issues and speak her mind for her constituents, for a more just America, and for a safer world. As a social worker by profession, she has prioritized advocating for people dealing with the federal bureaucracy.
Assemblyman Tony Thurmond was elected to represent California’s 15th Assembly District in November 2014.
Cava Menzies, founding faculty member at the Oakland School of Arts, will direct The OSA Chamber Choir at our 2016 MLK Day Celebration. The group will perform a selection of powerful songs, opening with Glory from the movie Selma, by Common and John Legend.
Alex Bennett • Lauren Blakely • Jazz Broughton • Isabella Calderon • Genesis Chambers • Isaiah Chambers • Charlotte Cohen • Tatianna Cordoba • Daniel Fine-Salan • Sara Fitting • Satya Hawley • Julianne Horenstein • Anais Leal • Cerica Liam • Chelsea Loftus • Mia Matsuno • Florence Faith Matteson • Arianna Mittelbuscher • Shavon Moore • Michael Mueller • Lyla Neely • Brian Nervis II • Julissa Otenbriet • Divine Pongtorn • Ella Raffael • Caretha Richardson • Nava Rosenthal • Cataleya Sazo • Amy Schaffer • Lily Stevenson • Juliana Tucciarone • Zearah Tyson • Hedda Wikstrom • Asher Witkin • Cicoia Zelie
The Westlake Jazz Band, led by Piedmont resident Randy Porter, will be performing at our 2016 MLK Day Celebration. Members of Westlake's jazz ensemble and orchestra are working together to create music around this most relevant theme of social justice. The selections being played were performed last spring at Yoshi's, and we continually are able to reinforce the message that music is an obvious vehicle to learn about and to effect social change.
Leon Jones: voice, violin • Vernejah Walker: voice • Muwazu Maelianashantipuja Chisum-Misquitta: voice, tenor sax, clarinet • Daniel Martinez: trombone • Ariam Semere: guitar, viola • Peter Bawi: guitar • Jalen Chang: piano • Demi Oliva-Pacheco: bass, violin • Kennice Chen: viola • Miles Turk: drums
We are thrilled to welcome Together We Slam back to our MLK Day Celebration lineup. According to Head Coach John White, "These teens have something to say and they want to talk to you ..."
To promote and practice inclusiveness, foster an appreciation of differences, and raise global awareness within Piedmont and surrounding communities.