September 24, 2022

By David Rowe, Associate Editor

A full year after discussions were initiated with local police departments regarding memorandums of understanding (MOU) with the Peralta Community College District (PCCD), some forward progress appears to have been made with the Oakland Police Department (OPD). 

In an Aug. 22 email to The Citizen, Officer Kim Armstead, Public Information Officer for OPD, said the draft of a proposed MOU is “being reviewed by Peralta Community College District’s legal unit.”  

The Citizen contacted Mark Johnson, Peralta’s Executive Director of Marketing, Communications & Public Relations, and Royl Roberts, recently appointed General Counsel (GC) for the district.  In his email response, Johnson said he could not comment on the “negotiations that are ongoing with OPD.” 

Roberts was more forthcoming and confirmed “the MOUs are currently with our outside Counsel for final review” in a September 23 email to The Citizen.  Roberts further stated he did not “have specifics at this time due to my recent transition to GC” however he “hoped to be briefed soon.”

While Roberts’ email refers to multiple MOUs, Officer Byron White of the Berkeley Police Department, and Maria Sanchez, Assistant to the Alameda police chief, reported no progress on MOU discussions with their agencies when contacted by The Citizen

Paul Llanez, former Interim Director of Public Safety for PCCD, in an August 2021 interview with The Citizen, explained that an MOU would define exact policies and procedures between the district and police and identify the types of incidents for which police would be called, such as an armed and dangerous person on campus.  Llanez identified the negotiation of an MOU as a top priority in that interview and said he planned to meet with OPD to discuss it. 

Tim Thomas, who replaced Llanez in November 2021 and became PCCD’s permanent Director of Safety, continued working towards attaining an MOU. Thomas held introductory meetings with local police departments in January and February. Peralta’s Interim Chancellor Jannett Jackson told the Board of Trustees on Feb. 22 2022 that the district was “very close” to finalizing MOUs with OPD and the police departments of Berkeley and Alameda.

In past statements to The Citizen, OPD has insisted that any MOU with PCCD must include a “financial arrangement.” In March 2022, for example, Armstead wrote in an email to The Citizen that “an MOU would only be signed if direct services were being provided” and that OPD “does not have available resources to provide dedicated support without a financial arrangement.” The cost of such an arrangement would be “dependent on the number of officers provided.” 

Armstead did not disclose whether the current draft MOU includes compensation from PCCD or the amount of compensation being proposed. The district paid the Alameda County Sheriff’s Office (ACSO) approximately $4.2 million a year for protective services before that contract ended in December of 2020. Marina Security Services currently provides unarmed security guards for the four Peralta Colleges and the district offices at a cost of $5.4 million per year. 

The Citizen contacted Professors Kimberly King and Chris Weidenbach, founders of Black Minds Matter at Laney College, for their reaction to a possible MOU with OPD that would include compensation. In 2020, Black Minds Matter drafted an Action Plan for Holistic Safety and Wellness that was used as a blueprint by the district in its security and safety planning and was instrumental in the Board of Trustee’s decision to terminate the ACSO contract and replace them with unarmed security guards. 

In an email response to The Citizen, King wrote “Laney College is located in Oakland, so I don’t know why OPD would require to be [sic] paid extra to serve and protect us if needed (e.g., an armed and dangerous person).”  

Weidenbach concurred with King and added “as part of the full emergency response protocol at Laney and in the City of Oakland, we are not ‘separate’, especially now that we don’t have two different armed law-enforcement agencies with potential conflict over their ‘jurisdictions’.”

Until the MOU is finalized, the Peralta district and the unarmed Marina security guards need to call 911 like everyone else when facing a situation they are unable to handle. This could result in longer response times since, according to KRON 4, OPD receives up to 2,000 calls for service each day. KRON also reported that the department lost 44 officers through May of this year due to attrition, and is still trying to replace them.