A well known civil rights attorney and vocal critic against some policing practices and policies will be serving in an advisory capacity to Oakland Mayor Jean Quan. Although Dan Siegel insists he will not be representing the Mayor’s office in any fashion he believes he will be advising the Mayor in areas of “policing issues”. His title has yet to be determined.
Siegel has built good relations with local police, though he has opposed them on many instances. According to the San Francisco Gate, he has been particularly critical of area gang injunctions which are constitutionally questionable and doubtfully effective. He also spoke out against the police handling of protesters during the Johannes Mehserle trial and verdict.
On a positive note, he seems to have helped police build beneficial relationships between departments within the Housing Authority, the School District, and the Oakland PD, crucial in getting cross-departmental communication and collaboration together.
While some see the appointment of Siegel as a positive one, others like the local police unions have suspicions on any sort of progress the known activist can influence. Time will only tell what his role within the Mayoral administration is and what sort of effects it might have.
Too often, however, people like Siegel who speak out against policies that infringe on people’s basic rights are cast to the side as errant activists, as making waves without just cause. In fact, the system needs more people willing to get vocal and critical of policies and needs more city administrators willing to take them on in an advisory capacity.
A typical mayor, no doubt, takes advice from people like police chiefs and district attorneys when it comes to crafting community relations. Seldom are activists and those who speak up against these entities given anything more than a symbolic role. Quan’s use of Siegel as a potential advisor could show other communities that a well rounded administration considers all viewpoints, even those that might shake-up the status quo.
No one expects Mayor Quan to get all anti-police on us. But his inclusion of Siegel simply shows his openness to the points of view that may run contrary to the typical views of the powers that be. It shows that he isn’t intimidated by potential confrontation and that could be a very positive thing for the city and the people of Oakland.