Council Recommends Safety Initiative, Pledge

Council Recommends Safety Initiative, Pledge

Alameda city staff recommended the City Council authorize two initiatives that would adjust Alameda Police Department’s (APD) use of force policies to improve public safety at a special Council meeting Wednesday, June 17.

The first initiative is former President Obama’s Mayor’s Pledge. On June 3, in a town hall event following the death of George Floyd, President Obama asked mayors, councilmembers, and others responsible for police oversight to take a pledge committing to introducing common-sense limits on police use of force. The pledge asks city officials to review police use of force policies; engage the community for input; report the findings of the review to the community and seek feedback; and reform use of force policies. 

City staff recommended to the Council to allow Mayor Marilyn Ezzy Ashcraft to sign the pledge. Numerous mayors around the country have already signed the pledge. 

The city staff also recommended Council authorize City Manager Eric Levitt, in partnership with APD Chief Paul Rolleri, to seek ways APD can implement the “8 Can’t Wait” initiative into APD policies. The “8 Can’t Wait” initiative was created by Campaign Zero, a political activist coalition that “creates data-informed comprehensive solutions to end police violence in America.” 

The eight “8 Can’t Wait” policies include banning chokeholds and strangleholds; requiring de-escalation; requiring verbal warnings before shooting firearms; exhausting all other means before shooting; stopping fellow officers from using excessive force; a ban on shooting moving vehicles; requiring a use of force continuum; and requiring comprehensive reporting when an officer uses excessive fore or threatens to. 

APD already implements some of these polices. According to APD’s policy manual, chokeholds and strangleholds have been banned by APD for years. However, the carotid restraint, where the inside of an individual’s elbow is around the other individual’s neck, was removed from APD’s policy manual on June 8. APD officers are required to make verbal warnings before discharging a firearm and intercede when witnessing a fellow officer use unreasonable force and report it to a supervisor.

APD does not require de-escalation for incidents that don’t involve suspects with perceived mental health issues. They also do not have a ban on shooting at moving vehicles, according to APD policy.

APD began evaluating their procedures after the arrest of Mali Watkins for dancing on the street on May 23 brought the attention of the Alameda community.

“In light of the current national discussions on police department policies, over the last several days, we have taken an introspective look at our policies, procedures, and training and their impact on the City of Alameda’s welfare,” wrote APD in a message on their Facebook page. “Currently, Alameda police officers routinely participate in a variety of mandated training, including, hate crimes, persons with developmental or mental disabilities, implicit bias/cultural diversity, and racial profiling, with de-escalation practices as a core element in the Department’s overall training, and we will continue to nurture these vital skillsets.”

APD might also be looking to change what types of incidents APD officers will respond to. Rolleri said in an interview last week with ABC7 that APD officers will not respond to mental health evaluations calls.

The proposed change stemmed from criticism the departmentreceived for arresting Watkins. APD officers arrived at the scene on 2000 block of Central Avenue after dispatch received a call about someone, Watkins, possibly experiencing mental health issues. 

“Obviously something is very wrong,” the caller told the dispatcher. “I am just worried, that’s all.”

Watkins, told an officer who asked him if everything was OK  that “I’m getting my exercise,”  according to one body-worn camera recording. “Is there a problem? This is where I live.”

The officer asked the man: “Do you feel like hurting yourself today?”

When Watkins told the officers to have a good day and indicated he wished to move on, one officer replied, “No. Listen, at this point, you’re detained.”

The Alameda Sun went to press before the special Council meeting.

To learn more about President Obama’s Mayor’s Pledge, visit To learn more about “8 Can’t Wait,” visit