I congratulate the professional response to the July 4th fireworks activity that most know about. In Oakley, the Oakley police officers forfeited the 4th evening with their families to curtail the use of fireworks in the city. The night of the 4th, city residents heard fireworks in our town, nothing new. The illegal use of fireworks on the 4th of July has occurred over multiple decades in communities nationwide. However, my perception is that compared with past unlawful activity, there has been a drastic reduction in the volatility of fireworks on the 4th of July in Oakley.
On July 11, 2023, Oakley Police Chief Paul Beard presented a summary of the enforcement efforts to the Oakley City Council. He noted that in 2021, fireworks exploded from April through October of that year. That situation did not occur this year thanks to the efforts of the Oakley police department. The Chief reported that, in his professional opinion, the illegal use of fireworks declined significantly this year. I agree with him. Unfortunately, Councilmembers Shaw and Williams disagreed with him, in my perspective.
Both indicated that fireworks had been to them personally and were upset that it occurred near their homes. Councilmember Shaw began micromanaging the Chief, saying the department should deploy drones to hunt down violators and cite. Councilmember Shaw called for more officers assigned to firework enforcement, taking them away from other criminal suppression efforts.
I was particularly vexed when Councilmember Shaw directed the Chief to “escalate” the enforcement of illegal fireworks ordinances until all fireworks disappeared from Oakley. Politicians telling chiefs of police to escalate enforcement towards certain groups is a danger in my mind. BIPOC communities continually remind us some communities expect their police to “keep those people in line.” BIPOC communities are not the only groups affected by directions from a dais to escalate enforcement against certain groups. Migrants from Oklahoma during the depression felt the sting, as have people living “on the wrong side of the tracks.”
Fortunately, Oakley has a professional police chief. He stated he will continue to work towards curtailing fireworks in the City and has over eleven months to plan for the next July 4. In the process, he will continue to provide sound law enforcement in the City, with diversity, equity, and inclusion of all members of our City.
In the interim, I would like to ask that residents in the City forward an email for the next council meeting, set for August 8, letting the city council members on the dais know that they support and appreciate the Oakley Police Department and their Chief. Better yet, it would be nice for people to come to the meeting at 6:30 pm and thank them in person from the podium. A link to the video of the council discussion is below. It is approximately 25 minutes in length.
George Fuller, Ed.D.
City Councilmember, City of Oakley, CA