A trove of email messages among Oakland city officials reacting to Occupy campers in the city’s main plaza last October, obtained and posted online by the Alameda Newspaper Group, makes two interesting points.
One, excavating email sequences does provide an insight into government activity of a depth and candor never before possible—and it can document reasonable and responsible public administration as well as unacceptable performance. These emails are often concerned with maintaining police restraint yet police safety in the face of confrontational bravado by occasional knots of Occupy Oakland protesters. Contrast that with the hard line taken by UC Berkeley’s Chancellor signaling a relatively violent crackdown on Occupy Cal. The only Oakland police official who took a comparably uncompromising stance in these discussions was later demoted.
Two, Oakland’s email thread is this kind of crisis consultation that is the authentic purpose of the Brown Act closed session with law enforcement officials that was hijacked by the Los Angeles Board Supervisors last fall to camouflage a political come to Jesus meeting with the Governor. That closed session authority in Government Code Section 54957 (a) was added to the Act by a bill carried by an Oakland-based legislator in 1971, when the threats to the city’s public facilities were not from impromptu tent squatters but from bombers.