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Thank you for joining us to again say #ThanksButNoTanks to OPD’s Bearcat on Thu Mar 25 6:30pm at the Oakland Police Commission

We still need your help, Oakland!

What’s next for OPD’s tiny tank?

Update from Thursday March 25

The Police Commission’s Ad Hoc Committee has a proposal to retire the BearCat in 2-3+ years - despite the Oakland Reimagining Public Safety Taskforce’s recommendation of an 8 month retirement!

Please join us at 6:30pm this Thursday March 25 to tell the Police Commission that you’d like the BearCat retired in 2021 and to amend their proposal to follow the timeline recommended by the Taskforce.

(1) You can still sign our petition to retire OPD’s Bearcat

(2) Join us again at 6:30PM on Thursday, March 25 on Zoom to tell the Police Commission “Thanks but no tanks please”.

Update from Friday February 12

Thank you for joining us in the fight against OPD’s militarization! Well over 300 of you signed the petition as individuals, and over two dozen organizations signed as well. About 40 of you lifted your voices in public comment at the Police Commission #oakmtg on Thursday February 11.

Thanks to you, the Police Commission has instructed its Ad Hoc committee on Militarized Equipment to explore giving guidance to retire the Bearcat.

You can read the exact motions and see which commissioners voted which way on the draft minutes under Item XI. The minutes are non-exhaustive and are available from the Police Commission’s meetings page).

This could not have happened without your help!!

From the bottoms of our hearts, thank you, thank you, thank you.

Update from Friday February 11

Hello neighbor!

Did you know Oakland has a small tank, called a BearCat?

Did you know Oakland Police used it as a shooting platform to murder a sleeping man?

The ensuing federal oversight included requiring a policy governing its (and other armored vehicles’) use.


On January 11, the (all-volunteer) Police Commission’s Ad Hoc committee held a public forum, where they heard unanimously from the public that no one wanted the OPD to have a BearCat at all. Some public speakers shared very personal experiences, including one teenager whose family experienced a raid featuring the BearCat (the raid was over supposed weed).

Despite the unanimous outpouring from all across the city calling for a decommission of OPD’s tank, the Ad Hoc committee will be recommending at Thursday evening’s Police Commission meeting to adopt a policy that allows broad continued use of the BearCat.

We need your help. Take action with us (from the comfort of your home) this Thursday!

(1) Sign our petition to retire OPD’s BearCat

(2) Join us at 6:30PM on Thursday, February 11 on Zoom to tell the Police Commission “Thanks but no tanks please”.

Public comment will begin shortly after 6:30pm and signup to speak often cuts off just before the first speaker begins:

Commenting is the most important thing you can do to help! Hearing from people who care enough to show up to a meeting can really change minds. Also, it can be fun! We will be on Twitter chatting on the #oakmtg and #ThanksButNoTanks hashtags before and during the meeting to share talking points and give advice on how to make your public comment count. Join us!

Guide for public comment on Thursday at ~6:30PM

There’s a closed session immediately before the public meeting, and it is possible that the closed session will run long. If you’re signed in to this Zoom link with your hand raised by 6:30 pm, you should be able to comment for one minute:

Here are some tips for making a public comment:

  • A minute is very short; practice before you speak.
  • When it’s your turn, unmute yourself. Identify yourself by name and include your district if you’d like.
  • A reminder: Police Commissioners are all volunteers! They spend so, so many hours on this work. It’s okay to tell them they’re wrong, just try to remember that they’re volunteers.
  • Example: “Hi I’m [name] and I live in District 1. I’m calling to comment on the armored vehicle use policy, because I think that the new Armored Vehicle policy in agenda item #11 doesn’t put enough restrictions on the BearCat.”
  • After introducing yourself, you have about 45 seconds remaining. Use your time wisely. Tell a story. Tie it to yourself, and to your lived experience. Maybe that lived experience was a sinister encounter at a protest. Maybe it was hearing how kids are traumatized by the OPD tank. Tell your story.
  • Use your “call a manager” voice. Express emotion, but don’t take it out on the manager. You want them to be sympathetic to your plight.

And that’s it! Congrats on making your first public comment!

Why we’re mad (YMMV)

At the #OakMtg (Appreciation) Club, we’re mainly focused on transparency and accountability in local government, and we don’t always take a specific stand on an issue besides advocating for better formal processes. We never want to tell you exactly what to say, but if you’re looking for some points to highlight while making your comment or writing to the Police Commissioners, here is what’s top of mind for us:

  • We’re mad because the Police Commission, who is supposed to represent the public while conducting police oversight, ignored the public. The Ad Hoc committee for this policy held a town hall where the public overwhelmingly asked them to draft a policy that would retire or restrict use of the BearCat. This policy ignores those voices and treats the BearCat and Armored Suburban (another armored vehicle that’s much less intimidating) as interchangeable. 

  • We’re mad because the Police Commission is treating this policy as a “rough draft” when really it’s life or death. The Police Commissioners on the Ad Hoc committee for this police have written a letter (you can read it in the agenda on page 10) explaining that this policy was written to meet a deadline set by Judge Orrick, the judge who oversees the federal Negotiated Settlement Agreement. The Commissioners argue that if the City Council passes the Controlled Equipment Ordinance–a completely separate piece of legislation–they will automatically have to revisit the BearCat policy. We think this is a bad argument because:

    • Someone already died because we didn’t have a good enough Armored Vehicle Policy. Judge Orrick is demanding this policy because OPD used the BearCat as a shooting platform when they killed Joshua Pawlik, who was armed and unconscious. The tremendous noise of the BearCat is what woke him.
    • The Police Commission is so backed up that it’s unclear when they’d have time to revisit this policy. As consistent watchers of the Police Commission, we know these volunteers have so much to do that it’s unclear when–if ever–they’ll have the time or will to revisit this policy in great depth.
    • We don’t know if we have the votes to pass the Controlled Equipment Ordinance. While we think this policy is great (and some of us are actively advocating for it!), we’re not sure if the current Council will pass it, so it doesn’t seem smart to rely on it to handle something as urgent as the BearCat.
    • We don’t know why we would trust the Police Commission to do the right thing in the future if they won’t do the right thing now. You should expect to hear Commissioners say that they’re compromising because of Judge Orrick’s deadline during the meeting; however, there will always be reasons to compromise. We have no reason to believe they’ll pass a better policy if the Controlled Equipment Ordinance passes if they won’t do it now. 
  • We’re mad because while this policy is an improvement, it still makes it possible for the BearCat to be involved in another incident like the one that killed Joshua Pawlik. Expect Police Commissioners to reassure the public that the policy is a marked improvement over past policies. In this case, better is not a big enough ask. We need a policy that will make it impossible to duplicate that tragic and fatal mistake.

  • We’re mad because the Police Commission had better options. OPD has two armored vehicles, and they use them interchangeably. The Armored Suburban can handle most incidents, and one option the Commission had was to restrict use of the BearCat unless there was credible intelligence of 50 caliber ammunition (that’s very big and very rare!). While we want the BearCat gone entirely, we think this is what a good compromise would look like. 

  •  We’re mad because OPD doesn’t need the BearCat. They currently have two armored vehicles, but they didn’t have any until 2008. Policing in Oakland without the BearCat is more than possible; it was the norm!

  • We’re mad because the BearCat leads to lazy policing, and lazy policing is dangerous policing. OPD loves the BearCat because it makes them feel safe. In truth, though, it’s an unreliable and complicated piece of equipment that’s constantly in the shop. We think relying on military-grade equipment without military-style discipline creates liabilities and leads to the type of adrenaline-fueled decision making that led to OPD killing Joshua Pawlik.

  • We’re mad because the BearCat is terrifying, and OPD already used it as a shooting platform to kill someone. We don’t think the Police Commission should be involved in authorizing its use when the Armored Suburban is a perfectly suitable alternative.

Those are the reasons why we’re mad, but we know there are more reasons; you’ve probably thought of several of your own while reading! Please feel free to use these and others when making your public comment around 6:30PM on Thursday, February 11.

“Officers did not use the armored vehicle as cover. They utilized it as a shooting platform.” - Compliance Director Robert Warshaw on the killing of Joshua Pawlik

More documents and background:

Police Commission Feb 11 agenda

The Armored Vehicle policy draft from the Police Commission’s Ad Hoc Committee on Militarized Equipment