Tempers Flare Over Gang Injunction

Tensions came to a head, as council members sparred with city staff over concerns that staff is apathetic to gang violence.

The councilmembers unanimously expressed discontent about the length and complexity of the report. Mayor Michael Sweeney complained that there was a lack of measurable standards that the city could work toward in the report.

“This report goes on for pages and pages and pages, and I don’t think it’s a good use of council’s time to have to straighten all this out,” Sweeney said.

The report the mayor is talking about is based on the council’s priorities for the coming years. The lack of results from the city’s gang program bothered Councilmember Marvin Peixoto in particular. The gang injunction program, developed in March 2011, would designate extra police attention to neighborhoods identified as gang hotspots.

Previously in January, Peixoto sparred with David on the subject of gangs, expressing he did not think the staff were fully behind the program. The issue rose again Tuesday night as Peixoto and David argued emotionally during the city’s weekly meeting.

“Can you understand how in our last meeting I said I don’t get the feeling that staff is really into this gang injunction program? I don’t think they bought into it, I don’t think they want to do it? Can you understand why I get that feeling?” Peixoto said emphatically.

David explained that there has not been an opportunity to apply the injunction because gang members are spread throughout the city and do not congregate in one area, and there was no data to report.

One concern about the program is the possible violation of civil rights. Another is cost; the gang injunction program in Oakland cost the city $650,000 to implement as of last year, California Lawyer reports.

Peixoto accused David of “watering down” the language of the injunction in the staff report. David reiterated that the city staff would do whatever the council tells them to do.

“It is up to council. If you want a gang injunction listed under your priorities we are more than happy to do that. It is your choice. Staff is only presenting some information to you to have a discussion. I don’t expect to have an argument over it. If you want it, we will put it,” David said pointedly.

“I want it. I want it,” Pexioto interjected.

The mayor intervened and backed Peixoto on his argument that city staff should have carried over the gang injunction program from last year to this year’s report.

Councilmembers Francisco Zermeno and Barbara Halliday thanked the city staff for the report. Councilmember Greg Jones did not think the issue was as complicated as needing a 40 page report, and shouldn’t have been presented to the council as part of the city’s weekly agenda. He proposed a less formal setting, “so that we can actually sit down and have a discussion, instead of being so regimented in a meeting like this,” Jones said.

The Mayor was concerned that the document at its current length would be unreadable when released to the public. Councilmember Salinas suggested that the report be one page long, and contain only a few specific bullet points.

Jim Drake, a resident of Hayward, asked the council to work on the gang injunction program earlier in the night before council discussed the report. “Hayward is getting a lot more shootings,” Drake said. “It’s happening on my street where I live, and it’s happening throughout Hayward.”

The council will meet again and finalize the priorities in June, David said.