Loitering Law Targeting Oakland Public Housing Residents is Repealed

News from LCCR and Ella Baker Center
November 1, 2018
Press Contacts: Matt Kovac, mkovac@lccr.com, 415-510-9601; Terence Long, terence@ellabakercenter.org, 510-936-0344
Loitering Law Targeting Oakland Public Housing Residents is Repealed
Advocates Say Harassment by the Oakland Housing Authority Police Remains an Issue
OAKLAND, Cal. – Facing a federal lawsuit filed by residents of Lockwood Gardens Apartments challenging the constitutionality of the Oakland Public Housing loitering ordinance, Oakland City Council voted unanimously to repeal the law Tuesday night.
The plaintiffs, along with a coalition of civil rights groups including the Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights of the San Francisco Bay Area, the ACLU Foundation of Northern California, East Bay Community Law Center, the Ella Baker Center for Human Rights, and King & Spalding LLP assert that the Oakland Housing Authority Police Department (OHAPD) has been using the loitering ordinance to harass and intimidate public housing residents.
“Repealing the Oakland Housing Authority loitering ordinance is a step in the right direction,” said Jude Pond, attorney at Lawyers’ Committee for Civil Rights. “We are pleased with this victory, and we will continue to fight to uphold the civil rights of all Oakland Housing Authority residents. The loitering ordinance is just one of the tools the OHAPD has used to intimidate residents over the years.”
One of the plaintiffs, Darren Mathieu, has been stopped more than 60 times by the OHAPD while standing outside his Lockwood Gardens apartment. Despite never receiving a citation for any actual wrongdoing, he has been handcuffed, asked to show ID, and several of these stops have been recorded by OHAPD in “incident reports” that were then reported to OHA as lease violations.
“It’s clear that OHA residents are being over-policed and harassed in their own homes, in their own neighborhoods,” said Zachary Norris, Executive Director of the Ella Baker Center. “Striking down the loitering law is the right thing to do, but OHA residents need community-driven strategies to create safe, healthy neighborhoods, not harassment by a supplemental police force.”
The OHAPD was created to supplement the efforts of the Oakland Police Department (OPD). However, OHAPD officers do not provide full-service policing to the residents of OHA property, and OPD remains the primary law enforcement agency in the City of Oakland. According to the OHAPD’s 2015 Annual Report, less than 25% of their work was in response to requests for help from the community, with the majority of time spent on “self-initiated” activities, such as enforcing non-criminal infractions, “lease violations”, and parking and traffic violations.
Many major cities – including Los Angeles – have eliminated their housing authority police.