Say NO to John Russo: Oakland city attorney’s gang injunction is wrong


Write to Judge Robert Freedman and attend the hearing on People v. Nortenos on Wednesday, Feb. 16, 2 p.m., at the Rene C. Davidson Courthouse, 1225 Fallon St., Dept. 20, Oakland

by Gabrielle Wilson

Oakland City Attorney John Russo’s proposed gang injunction is draconian and does not sufficiently address the root causes of crime, according to legal scholars. Barry Krisberg of the University of California, Berkeley, School of Law’s Center for Criminal Justice cites nationwide statistics that overwhelmingly prove gang injunctions are ineffective in all jurisdictions.

The following are but a few reasons cited by Krisberg and others in the legal community on why Russo’s proposed injunction should not be granted:

• At a time when California’s budget is in a record crisis, does Oakland have resources to waste on an injunction that costs hundreds of thousands of dollars to enforce yet will not bring about positive crime reduction results?

• The injunction would increase the distance between police and communities and does not focus on rehabilitation, the reasons why youth join gangs, or the jobs and education which youth so desperately need. Study after study has shown that rehabilitation is over 90 percent effective for this age group.

• A federal judge who is monitoring Oakland police reforms heavily criticized the police department at a hearing and threatened to take it over, the Oakland Tribune reported. Judge Thelton Henderson, who is monitoring the Oakland Police Department because of the Riders scandal, threatened to put the department in “receivership.” If that were to happen, the judge would appoint an overseer who would have power over Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts. The judge is upset that the OPD has still not instituted the police misconduct reforms that it agreed to several years ago. A legal settlement is a contract – breach of which by OPD opens the city up to even more money damages.

• In light of the above, if Russo has his way, the police will undeservedly regain power, usurping federal power, creating a “fiefdom” for Russo. A failed police department does not deserve to continue down a path of destruction. That is why the federal government stepped in to begin with. If the Rider’s settlement is not given effect, the entire trial was for naught – yet another waste of taxpayer dollars.

• The named defendants in the injunction are considered guilty until proven innocent. This turns the U.S. Constitution upside down. An injunction is simply not necessary because police need only a reasonable suspicion to stop and frisk a suspect – not the higher level of probable cause. Reasonable suspicion and closer ties to the community is what is needed to bring about crime reduction and community building. An injunction is lazy police work; overkill – unnecessary and counter-effective by tearing down the very community it is supposed to clean up.

• The injunction will not result in safer streets but creates unfettered power in John Russo’s office. Further, an injunction opens the communities up to profit mongers such as real estate developers like John Russo’s family business owners. At a time when Oaklanders are losing their homes to foreclosure at record numbers, their interests rather than big business’ should be put first.

Alex Katz, Russo’s communications director, said the City Attorney’s Office will release a report on Feb. 22 that will address specific questions posed by Oakland residents at a December public safety committee meeting, including estimating the cost of implementing the injunction and the effect it is having on young people. Included in that report will be the cost for outside counsel. Katz estimates the City Attorney’s Office has spent about $70,000 already on the services of additional lawyers.

Opponents of the injunction say this report will be released too late, since a court hearing that could result in the implementation of the injunction is scheduled for Feb. 16. “We could have an injunction in place before we understand the entire ramifications and financial impact of this injunction,” said Isaac Ontiveros, communications director for Critical Resistance. It would appear that taxpayer dollars are being spent without any real opportunity to make a difference.

Gabrielle Wilson is a legal affairs reporter and programmer at KPFA 94.1 FM, where she can be reached at (510) 848-6767, ext. 634, or


  1. American communities need to climb out of the rut. We act like the way Criminal 'Justice' is so quick on the trigger – to imprison someone at the drop of a hat – is the only way! America holds less thank 5% of the world's population, yet 24% of the world's prison population; and our prison population is growing 13 times faster than our general population! In California, three quarters of parolees return to prison…. Where a method is working, things improve…. Our current 'way' is obviously not working. This injunction is a perfect example of what is NOT working, and what IS contributing to that 13X prison increase.
    If we could honestly say that people come out of prison better off and more productive, then I'd say go for it. But that is not the case – in fact, they come out worse off; depressed and hopeless.
    Open your mind, Oakland, and find a different approach – one that works for the betterment of individuals, families and communities alike! Research Restorative Justice.

  2. No sense throwing good money after bad – we need better training for the cops we already have. Berkeley Police Department actually requires some college unlike most municipalities. Also, it would not hurt to go after Wall Street Bankers/profit mongers and Real Estate Developers who profit off prison and gentrification.

  3. I, for one, would like to voice my total support for John Russo, who is working hand-in-hand with Oakland Police Chief Anthony Batts to combat the sexual exploitation of women, the ruinous drug trade, and the cycle of gang violence that is killing Oakland's youth. GOD BLESS JOHN RUSSO.

  4. With all due respect, Russo is looking out for real estate developers not necessarily fighting the sexual exploitation of women. It is the hotel owners who are the real party in interest when it comes to his sudden interest in prostitution. Russo is merely clearing the way for more real estate development. Immigrant Indians who own hotels in Oakland are now his targets. Chief Batts is on his way out of a failing department which just paid out a couple of hundred thousand to a rapper last week. Chief Batts tried to leave OPD but was not hired by San Jose, a municipality not mired in scandal. If this injunction passes, it will be a great opportunity for the public to draw the line on the corrupt Russo and OPD. Honest Police officers should be encouraged to come public with how Russo fabricated evidence for their signatures on the affidavits. Come to the hearing next Tuesday, 2-22-11 Dept. 20 2 PM, 1220 Fallon St, Oakland, CA.

  5. Oh, and what have you done to fight the sexual exploitation of women? What has Quan done? Or Dellums? Or any of the whiney, tax-funded groups running interference for pimps, drug dealers, and thieves, while shaking down the public for millions wasted on multi-cultural indoctrination and other nonsense? Not much, is the answer. We need to protect women from sexual exploitation. We need to protect children. We need to make the streets safe for the elderly. And you and your paranoid conspiracy theories haven't helped anyone worth a damn.

  6. Multicultural indoctrination you are against? What a surprise! Maybe you are a developer who profits off gentrification. BTW, it is hard to get anything done when courts and other elected officials are in bed together with real estate developers. The hearing was moved: Come and protest this draconian policy today, Wed, 2-23-11 @ 2 pm, Dept. 20, 1221 Oak Street, Oakland, CA. [3 blocks from Lake Merritt BART Station]

    • Wow, those evil real estate developers! Actually, you know, building places where people can live and work! What fiends. No, I'm not a developer, I'm actually a Berkeley native. Had to leave town, of course. No jobs, or affordable housing for me in Berkeley. Also: it's not a safe place to raise kids, unless you can afford a place in the hills.

  7. Here's what Berkeley needs:

    *Vouchers worth $15,000 each so that parents can send their children to schools that are safe, orderly, and accountable to families;

    *Public safety: the number of cops walking the street should be increased, because beatings, rape, and muggings of women, children, and the elderly on city streets should not be tolerated;

    *Housing development: large swaths of valuable land is wasted by a number of inefficient state, local, and federal agencies. Most of it should be put in private hands and developed into housing suitable for families.

    *Slash taxes: sales and property taxes disproportionately affect middle-income people, they should be cut by 50%.. The city and school district staff outside of public safety should be cut by 2/3. Teachers in public schools should be encouraged to find jobs working for private schools that hold them accountable to families.

  8. Either you are the only conservative republican in town or you are not from Berkeley – more like Plainsville, USA! Your suggestions are so last century. Here's the deal:
    Russo has applied to the City of Alameda to become City Manager. The new city manager in Alameda would have to hire both a police and fire chief, positions currently being held down on an interim basis.
    A bit of recent history: Russo, was a contributor to Marie Gilmore’s mayoral campaign and also the city council campaign of Councilwoman Lena Tam, whose innocence he proclaimed at a fundraiser for Tam shortly after she was accused of leaking confidential information to then-Alameda Point developer SunCal and Alameda’s firefighters. He donated $1,750 in the last election to a new council majority of Gilmore and council members Lena Tam and Rob Bonta according to campaign finance records. These three could "select" him as City Manager. If he is so concerned about Oakland, why is he looking to the City of Alameda?

    Everyone concerned with community building and Russo's unfair attack against minority and immigrant communities in Oakland, come out and challenge the Gang Injunction on Wed. March 2, 9:30 a.m. Dept. 20 Hon. Robert Freedman, 1221 Fallon St, 2nd Floor, Oakland, CA. Challenging this draconian policy is exactly what we need for community building. Study after study has shown rehabilitation and Restorative Justice bring more positive results – not the old, outdated punitive model Russo subscribes to.

    • The only conservative Republican in town? No, you're not the one from Berkeley "Berkeley Native."

      Neo conservatives are scarce, but there are plenty of paleo-conservatives, libertarians, and reactionaries.

      That's because we've seen what progressive politics, multiculturalism, and free love are all about up close and realized they're little more than bureaucratic petty foggery, cheap identity politics, and sexual exploitation, respectively.

      You'll find more truly committed and educated members of the alternative right in Berkeley than you will in the rest of the Bay Area combined.

Leave a Reply