We all enjoyed a loud, incredulous laugh when Janet Napolitano, Homeland Security Secretary, went on record as being proudly computer illiterate
. "Never use email," she said as part of statement delivered by teletype. Perhaps Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan should have chosen the Luddite Way, thus avoiding his current problems. Instead, he chose to perform the digital equivalent of plugging his ears and shouting nonsensical syllables at the top of his lungs
in order to actively ignore news he didn't want to hear (found via the essential Police Misconduct Reporting Project
People who've e-mailed Oakland Police Chief Howard Jordan over the past year about Occupy Oakland probably didn't get much of a response.
That's because he used a spam filter to dismiss messages sent to him with "Occupy Oakland" in the subject line, according to a federal court filing Monday. Same goes for the phrases "stop the excessive police force," "respect the press pass" or "police brutality." Instead of landing in his in-box, those messages went straight into his junk mail folder, which he apparently never looked at.
It's tough work being Chief. A steady stream of complaints about the police force under your "control" is sure to be disheartening. But, if you can't take the heat, reroute it out the nearest opening, am I right? And he would have gotten away with it, too, if it wasn't for that meddling federal court monitor.
Because of those filters, Jordan missed e-mails from other city officials and a federal court monitor, who oversees the department's compliance with court-ordered reforms stemming from a police abuse scandal.
Robert Warshaw, the monitor, had sent Jordan an e-mail with the subject line "Disciplinary Actions-Occupy Oakland." Jordan told the court on Oct. 18 that he never saw those e-mails, infuriating Thelton Henderson, the federal judge in San Francisco who appointed Warshaw.
Oops. Ignoring the persistent chatter of unhappy citizens is one thing. Ignoring a federal judge is quite another. While you can safely ignore some of the people all of the time, you can't really ignore all
of the people all
of the time. You can attempt
it, but then you end up in "unprecedented" territory, which is never a good place to be if you value your career.
Henderson will hear arguments in December about whether to place the Police Department into the hands of a federal receiver, which Oakland officials believe is unprecedented.
When you've mismanaged your post so badly that the police department ends up in receivership via a court order, you've probably done more than filter out anything resembling bad news. A year of unread email certainly didn't improve the ongoing compliance issue. The handling of "Occupy Oakland" didn't instill any confidence in the public that their law enforcement officials were there to serve and protect. Henderson's willful rerouting of email pertaining to allegations of excessive force and brutality shows a very ugly contempt for the citizens under his protection. Of course, now that the truth has come out, he has a few excuses.
He had been inundated with anonymous messages, he said in a declaration to the court.
Well, of course. Anonymity is a key ingredient in any protest. Being inundated with messages you don't like doesn't grant you the permission to revise the incoming narrative by dumping anything negative into the trash. The excuse continues:
But he forgot the e-mail filter was still in effect.
It's an easy thing to forget if you find painting a self-portrait on rose-tinted glass preferable to actually dealing with problems in the community and, indeed, within the ranks of your own force. The brain has many wonderful tricks its willing to play on you to provide you with the short term memory and justification needed to "forget" your determined pruning of incoming messages.
"It was never my intention to ignore the monitor," Jordan said in his declaration.
No. I'm sure it wasn't. You had no desire to piss off a federal judge. But it was
your intention to ignore the general public
, a fact that goes unacknowledged by this pitiful statement attempting to pass itself off as some sort of an apology. Turning your incoming mail into a "yes-man" approximation is just plain sad.