COMMUNITY GROUP EXPOSES WIDE LEVELS OF CORRUPTION IN THE OAKLAND UNIFIED SCHOOL DISTRICT POLICE DEPARTMENT
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: February 28, 2013
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(Oakland, CA) – Today, Against Hired Guns, released parts two and three of a six part series on police violence. Today’s release contains information from OUSD PD Commander Jonathan Bellusa that exposes questionable and unethical behavior by district personnel.
Bellusa has given sworn testimony against his own department as part of a civil legal action against himself and another OUSD officer (Barhin Bhatt) in the case of the killing of Raheim Brown, Jr.
In December 2012, Bellusa tried to tell his story to Judge Maria-Elena James – a federal judge who works in the San Francisco Federal Building. She refused to listen.
In his deposition, given on February 12, 2013, Bellusa called himself a “whistle-blower,” speaking about specifics in the killing of Raheim Brown, Jr. as well as widespread corruption within the police department in which he works.
- That he witnessed Officer Barhin Bhatt, the officer responsible for the shooting death of Raheim Brown Jr., pouring an alcoholic drink for himself while working. Although Bellusa reported this behavior, it was never followed up on and Bhatt continues to serve as a police officer in Oakland schools. In fact he is currently directs the OUSD Police Department’s Bureau of Field Operations
- That Officer Bhatt broke protocol in the shooting death of Raheim Brown, Jr. firing several additional shots into the victim even after he had been subdued by two previous shots and was sitting slumped in the passenger seat of his car.
- That he (Bellusa) was threatened by district personnel and his lawyers who were hired for him by OUSD if he told the truth about what happened that night or any of the other corrupt acts he witnessed.
- That there was an attempt by the district to cover up the scandal around former OUSD PD Chief Sarna when he publicly used racial slurs. Bellusa was the whistle blower in that situation as well and he faced severe retaliation from his chief and district personnel.
Police violence is nothing new to city of Oakland, nor are grassroots attempts to prevent it. This incident is just one, in a long series of offenses committed against the public by the police whose mission is to “protect and serve”.
The hypocrisy of OUSD PD is even more egregious as Oakland Unified touts itself as the nation’s model for restorative justice, when in fact its police department is just as violent and corrupt as many others around the country. Restorative Justice simply cannot function if brought by the same institutions that create and increase violence.
While we support shedding light on corrupt police departments, we remember that the very nature of the role of law enforcement in our society can do nothing else but lead to violence. We are reminded of this as often as people are harassed, contained, criminalized or killed by cops. It’s worth mentioning that a recent report by the Malcolm X Grassroots Movement revealed that every 36 Hours an African-American man, woman or child is murdered by the police, security guard or a vigilante.
It is better that Bellusa blow the whistle than not, but we do not forget that he is the one who set in motion the events that led to the killing of Raheim Brown, Jr. and he did it through actions that are justifiable by the legal system. It makes no sense to us to wholly support any individual or any system that perpetrates violence.
In response to this information, Against Hired Guns, will host a public town hall on Friday, March 8th at Uptown Studios (18th and Telegraph) from 6-8 pm to support sustained and strategic campaigns against policing in our communities. We hope that a myriad of people and organizations concerned with keeping our communities safe from the harms of policing will be there.
We also recognize work that has been and is being done to make our communities safer. There are too many examples to list, but we’d like to highlight one that is current and focuses on removing police from schools and supporting healthy and safe learning environments: The Youth Justice Coalition released a report earlier this month that was organized by a national coalition of youth. You can read the report at www.dignityinschools.org.